Revisiting the Theoretical Foundations of Propaganda

Aaron Hyzen


This article revisits the theoretical–philosophical foundations of propaganda to better position it in contemporary conceptual discussions about (computational) dis/mis/malinformation. It discusses propaganda as a tangible expression of ideology in communication—its principal purpose to enforce ideological goals, manage opinion, and consolidate loyalties. Starting from the notion of propaganda as a technique to further ideological interests that naturally hail from it, propaganda is discussed in relation to communication and information and how it relates to ideology and power, referring to ideas from key authors including Marx, Althusser, Gramsci, and Lukes. Taking inspiration from Gramsci, it discusses the role in propaganda communication of intellectuals, operating at the behest of elite power, but increasingly for the intellectuals’ own interests. Finally, propaganda, as communication, effecting values + beliefs, and therefore opinion, is analyzed as a central component in creating, influencing, and justifying Searle’s notion of status functions in society.


propaganda, ideology, power, misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, computational propaganda

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