How Propaganda Works

Princeton University Press
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Our democracy today is fraught with political campaigns, lobbyists, liberal media, and Fox News commentators, all using language to influence the way we think and reason about public issues. Even so, many of us believe that propaganda and manipulation aren't problems for us—not in the way they were for the totalitarian societies of the mid-twentieth century. In How Propaganda Works, Jason Stanley demonstrates that more attention needs to be paid. He examines how propaganda operates subtly, how it undermines democracy—particularly the ideals of democratic deliberation and equality—and how it has damaged democracies of the past.

Focusing on the shortcomings of liberal democratic states, Stanley provides a historically grounded introduction to democratic political theory as a window into the misuse of democratic vocabulary for propaganda's selfish purposes. He lays out historical examples, such as the restructuring of the US public school system at the turn of the twentieth century, to explore how the language of democracy is sometimes used to mask an undemocratic reality. Drawing from a range of sources, including feminist theory, critical race theory, epistemology, formal semantics, educational theory, and social and cognitive psychology, he explains how the manipulative and hypocritical declaration of flawed beliefs and ideologies arises from and perpetuates inequalities in society, such as the racial injustices that commonly occur in the United States.

How Propaganda Works shows that an understanding of propaganda and its mechanisms is essential for the preservation and protection of liberal democracies everywhere.

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About the author

Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. He is the author of Knowledge and Practical Interests, Language in Context, and Know How.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
May 26, 2015
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Pages
376
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ISBN
9781400865802
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / Political
Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / Propaganda
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A Yale philosopher identifies the ten pillars of fascist politics, and charts their horrifying rise and deep history in the United States and around the world, to conclude that fascism is alive in America today.

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Nations don't have to be fascist to suffer from fascist politics.

A Yale philosopher identifies the ten pillars of fascist politics, and charts their horrifying rise and deep history in the United States and around the world, to conclude that fascism is alive in America today.

Fascism means dividing a population to achieve power. Jason Stanley understood this as a scholar of philosophy and propaganda and as the child of refugees of WWII Europe, but even he was surprised by its prevalence at home. First with the rise of the birther movement and later the ascent of Donald Trump, he observed that not only is the rise of fascist politics possible in the United States, but its roots have been here for more than a century. Drawing on history, philosophy, sociology, critical race theory, and examples from around the world from 19th-century America to 20th-century Germany (where Hitler was inspired by the Confederacy and Jim Crow South) to 21st-century India--Stanley identifies the ten pillars of fascist politics that leaders use to hold onto power by dividing populations into an us and a them: the mythic past, propaganda, anti-intellectualism, unreality, hierarchy, victimhood, law and order, sexual anxiety, appeals to the heartland, and a dismantling of public welfare and unity. He uncovers urgent patterns that are as prevalent today as ever and pins down a creeping sense that fascist tendencies are on the rise. By recognizing them, he argues, readers might begin to resist their most harmful effects.
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