Jacques Ellul

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Jacques Ellul (1912 -- 1994) was a French thinker/writer. His biography can be found here.

Importance to propaganda studies

Jacques Ellul's view of propaganda and his approach to the study of propaganda are new. The principal difference between his thought edifice and most other literature on propaganda is that Ellul regards propaganda as a sociological phenomenon rather than as something made by certain people for certain purposes. Propaganda exists and thrives; it is the Siamese twin of our technological society. Only in the technological society can there be anything of the type and order of magniture of modern propaganda, which is with us forever; and only with the all-pervading effects that flow from propagada can technological society hold itself together.
Most people are easy prey for propaganda, Ellul says, because of their firm but entirely erroneous conviction that it is composed only of lies and "tall stories" and that, conversely, what is true cannot be propaganda. But modern propaganda has long disdained the ridiculous lies of past and outmoded forms of propaganda. it operates instead with many different kinds of truth -- half truth, limited truth, truth out of context. Even Goebbels always insisted that the Wehrmacht communiques be as accurate as possible.
A second basic misconception that makes people vulnerable to propaganda is the notion that it serves only to change opinions. That is one of its aims, but a limited, subordinate one. Much more importantly, it aims to intensify existing trends, to sharpen and focus them, and, above all, to lead men to action (or, when it is directed at immovable opponents, to non-action through terror or discouragement, to prevent them from interfering). Therefore Ellul distinguishes various forms of propaganda and calls his book Propagandes -- that plural is one of the keys to his concept. The most trenchant distinction made by Ellul is between agitation propaganda and integration propaganda. The former leads men from mere restatement to rebellion; the latter aims at making them adjust themselves to desired patterns. The two types rely on entirely different means. Both exist all over the world. Integration propaganda is needed especially for the technological society to flourish, and its technological means -- mass media among them -- in turn make such integration propaganda possible.
--Konrad Kellen, Introduction to Propaganda, 1965

Resources and articles


A complete bibliography can be found here These books are the most important ones relating to propaganda and ideology:

  • Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, Vintage Books, 1965
  • The Technological Bluff, W.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1990
  • The Technological Society, Knopf 1965

External articles