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Interview

Propaganda’s Role in Liberal Democratic Societies

Jason Stanley and John B. Min

Stanley and Min discuss how propaganda works in liberal democratic societies. Stanley observes that the inability to address the crisis of liberal democracies can be partially explained by contemporary political philosophy’s penchant for idealized theorizing about norms of justice over transitions from injustice to justice. Whereas ancient and modern political philosophers took seriously propaganda and demagoguery of the elites and populists, contemporary political philosophers have tended to theorize about the idealized structures of justice. This leads to a lack of theoretical constructs and explanatory tools by which we can theorize about real-life political problems, such as mass incarceration. Starting with this premise, Stanley provides an explanation of how propaganda works and the mechanisms that enable propaganda. Stanley further theorizes the pernicious effects that elitism, populism, authoritarianism, and “post-truth” have on democratic politics.

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A Concept in Application

How the Scientific Reflex Came to be Employed against Nazi Propaganda

Margarete Vöhringer

The article analyzes Sergej Chakhotin’s transfer of the concept of reflex from Russian physiology to German propaganda. Chakhotin had been working at Ivan Pavlov’s laboratory in St. Petersburg in the 1910s. The experiences he had there with reflex conditioning, the boom of psychotechnics, and the application of psychological practices for aesthetic purposes were his basis for the invention of a socialist propaganda program against the Nazi regime. It is shown how the concept of reflex changed as it meandered through different disciplines.

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Femininity (Con)scripted

Female Images in Soviet Wartime Poster Propaganda, 1941–1945

Susan Corbesero

During the Second World War, legions of Soviet women behind the lines participated in war-time production in both industry and agriculture. Soviet propaganda, despite the overwhelming numbers, contributions and sacrifices of women, graphically portrayed them in ways that both re-established the pre-war patriarchal gender relations of the Stalinist era and circumscribed women’s wartime experiences. This article examines how, during the initial and la er years of the conflict, and in the important and under- studied source of Soviet poster propaganda, the symbolic configuration and recon- figuration of femininity and the female image was transmitted through shifting official policies and attitudes on the role of women. While early posters portrayed women’s wartime participation as atypical, temporary and unwomanly, propaganda by the end of the war featured hyper-feminised representations of women while the Soviet state moved to reassert political controls and institutionalise conservative gender policies to serve the needs of war and reconstruction.

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Carlo Marletti

An electoral campaign is a complex process in which political

actors interact with the mass media in order to orient the voting

preferences and choices of the electorate. It is presumed – but cannot

be taken for granted – that the election campaign is the period

in which the use of propaganda and various forms of political

communication is at its peak. In fact, the interaction between

media and politics has long since become a structural given of contemporary

democracies,1 and periods in which significant political

communication campaigns are developed form part of a cycle that

has become independent of electoral deadlines. It can even be

hypothesised that election campaigns are becoming an ‘internal

moment’ of these larger cycles during which the climate of opinion

that is asserted compromises the election result, sometimes

anticipating the election outcome by even several months.

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The Body in Motion

Communism and Epistemology in Iva Pekárková's Novel Truck Stop Rainbows

Simona Fojtová

Drawing on feminist conceptualisations of the body, this essay analyses Iva Pekárková’s novel, Truck Stop Rainbows (published as Péra a Perutě [Feathers and wings] in 1989, translated into English in 1992), to show how this contemporary Czech writer challenges the metaphor of the female body as a container through which communist propaganda in Czechoslovakia offi cially sanctioned and established a normative female identity in maternal, economic and civic functions. I seek to demonstrate how Fialka, the female protagonist who lives under the Czechoslovak communist regime of the 1980s, critiques discursive and epistemic formations that conceptualised the female body as a vessel for reproduction and labour and denied the female body the authority to function as a source of knowledge. Striving to spotlight the body in its cognitive role, I argue for an understanding of the body not as an instrument of knowledge or a neutral medium that enables knowledge production but, rather, as a condition of the possibility of knowing.

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Renata Jambrešić Kirin and Reana Senjković

This article shows how the model of the ideal patriotic woman, established through propaganda activities between two competitive ideologies in Croatia during the Second World War, have been transformed and adapted to accommodate diverse genres of memory culture from 1945 until the present day. In order to indicate the inter- relation of media-ideological constructs and self-definition, the authors have compared cultural representation models of ‘acceptable’ and ‘obnoxious’ females in war time with ethnographical interviews conducted with women at the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Antifašistički front žena (Women’s Anti-Fascist Front, AFŽ) Istrian Conference in 2004. The contrast between recollections and culturally constructed official memory shows how the memories of women, as autonomous historical subjects, resist the imposed collective amnesia on the anti-fascist movement, although these women also leave many ‘unsuitable truths’ untold about their subordinate role within the anti-fascist movement.

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Raymonde Monnier

Departing from Mario Turchetti's study on the concept of tyranny and tyrannicide, the author sets out to explore its specific use in the political discourse in the eighteenth century. Originally, as in the works of Plato and Montesquieu, tyranny was used in reference to degenerate forms of government. Tyranny and tyrannicide gained additional significance with its inclusion in the virulent discourse during the radicalization of the French Revolution. Based on the myth of Brutus and other classical sources, anti-tyrannical rhetoric in the form revolutionary literature and propaganda spurted political activism. As the figure of the king became the main obstacle to liberty and the foundation of a new republic, tyranny and tyrannicide became key concepts in the revolutionary movements.

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Sowing the Seeds of Its Own Destruction

Democracy and Democide in the Weimar Republic and Beyond

Mark Chou

That all democracies have, by their very nature, the potential to destroy themselves is a fact too rarely documented by the acolytes of democracy. Indeed, in the brief decades since Joseph Goebbels, then as Reich Minister of Propaganda, reminded the world that it 'will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy, that it gave its deadly enemies the means by which it was destroyed', democrats have quickly forgotten just how precarious a thing democracy can be. The objective of this article is to entertain the underexplored notion that democratic failure is a possibility that remains very much entrenched within the idea and ideal of democracy itself. Using the breakdown of democracy during the Weimar Republic as a brief illustrative example, the article first describes the process through which a democracy can self-destruct before offering a theoretical explanation of why this is so - one which draws its inspiration from the dual notions of autonomy and tragedy. By doing this, it will hope to have shown just how a democracy can, in the course of being democratic no less, sow the seeds of its own destruction.

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Liberty P. Sproat

Since the early 1920s, following the Bolshevik Revolution, Clara Zetkin, the renowned German socialist, politician, and fighter for women's rights, argued that only communism provided complete emancipation for women because it brought equality both in theory and in practice. Zetkin used her periodical Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale (The communist women's international) (1921-1925) to convince women of the virtues of joining Soviet Russia (later the Soviet Union) in worldwide revolution rather than succumbing to the empty promises of feminist movements in capitalist nations. From reports of International Women's Day celebrations to statistical reviews of the institutions established to aid working women, Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale used the example of Soviet Russia to illustrate what life for women entailed in a country that had experienced a successful communist revolution. The Soviet model portrayed in Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale was optimistic and illustrated what Zetkin anticipated her female readers dreamed for themselves. The periodical, thus, became a tool of communist propaganda to convince women that supporting international communism was the most effective path for obtaining equal economic and social rights with men.

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Oksana Kis

During the Soviet regime the meaning of International Women’s Day (IWD) in Ukraine changed dramatically: its original feminist essence was substituted with communist propaganda aimed at women’s mobilization for the construction of a radiant communist future. In recent decades 8 March turned into a holiday of spring, women’s beauty, and love, celebrated both in public settings and in Soviet families. By the late 1980s, Soviet citizens had interiorized the new ways to celebrate this day at which men and boys were expected (or even required) to solemnize the “eternal femininity” of their counterparts by expressing their love, respect, and attention to women and girls of all ages, to greet them with flowers and gifts and to fulfill all their (rather modest) wishes one day a year. The leaders of the Communist Party and the heads of local authorities developed the new tradition of publishing their holiday greetings to female citizens in the media, while directors of enterprises congratulated their female employees in more tangible ways, from flowers and letters of commendation to financial bonus or career promotion. While celebrating “Soviet women―the most liberated women in the world,” nobody was to speak about the multitude of gender inequalities persisting in late Soviet society, as the so-called woman question was proclaimed solved in the USSR long ago.