What La Generalista has to say:

Ellul’s work, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, is often referred to as a classic. As such, it is a must read for any serious student of propaganda or strategic communications.

Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes is very much philosophical, but draws from considerable research in the field, as well as the thinking and experiences of famous – but generally notorious – propagandists such as Goebbels, Mao and others. Ellul’s work is a sweeping look at propaganda – its various types, how we all participate in it, the role of mass media, and the challenges of measuring its effectiveness.

Perhaps most striking about Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes is the book’s endurance; more than 50 years after its publication, Ellul’s work rings true even in a Digital Age.

From The Book:

“He is filled with it; he no longer expresses his ideas, but those of his group, and with great fervour at that – it is a propaganda prerequisite that he should assert them with firmness and conviction. He absorbs the collective judgments, the creatures of propaganda; he absorbs them like nourishment which they have, in fact, become. He expounds them as his own. He takes a vigorous stand, begins to oppose others. He asserts himself at the very moment that he denies his own self without realizing it. When he recites his propaganda lesson and says that he is thinking for himself, when his eyes see nothing and his mouth only produces sounds previously stencilled into his brain, when he says that he is indeed expressing his judgment – then he really demonstrates that he no longer thinks at all, ever, and that he does not exist as a person.”- Jacques Ellul

Be warned, though, that this is not an easy book to read and should not be pursued for a casual look at propaganda or strategic communications. (For lighter forays into the world of propaganda try Spinfluence or Propaganda: Power & Persuasion.)

Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes is available for purchase at Amazon.

About Author

La Generalista is the online identity of Alicia Wanless – a researcher and practitioner of strategic communications for social change in a Digital Age. Alicia is the director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. With a growing international multi-stakeholder community, the Partnership aims to foster evidence-based policymaking to counter threats within the information environment. Wanless is currently a PhD Researcher at King’s College London exploring how the information environment can be studied in similar ways to the physical environment. She is also a pre-doctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and was a tech advisor to Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. Her work has been featured in Lawfare, The National Interest, Foreign Policy, and CBC.