Power and Propaganda:


What are the modalities of power?


Power as a) ability – potential; b) actual – act of power


Positive: ability to get someone to do something


Negative: ability to stop them


Power: getting someone to do something they otherwise would not do (or stopping them from doing something they did intend to do)


These modes turn on

a)       a notion of action

b)      A notion of intentionality on the part of the power-actor and the person acted upon (who intended to do something else)

c)       A notion of centre/periphery relations

d)      Direct unmediated relation between actor and acted-upon

But there are other modes of power than those that are rooted in a definite action as a physical or speech act (“Get out!”) with a corresponding action by the acted upon (you ‘get out’) cos I command you to do so or push you.

There are terms such as persuading, encouraging, incentivising, bribery, threatening, blackmail, coercing…


All of which are forms of power that are tactics of getting people to accede to what you want…but some of them are taken to fair means and others foul


Persuasion – fair; coercion – foul…but the first is usually psychological – it is used to change your mind fairly rationally without unwarranted force and then your action; the second usually draws on threats of some kind that I as power agent will administer – physical or material sanction that are not considered reasonable but nonetheless will be imposed. And I try to remove all options. Persuasion does not remove options but gives you reasons to change your course of action.

What forms of power might we say Propaganda uses?


Steven Lukes in his classic analysis suggests that there is a third face of power that is power that shapes opinion so as to engage people’s acceptance of a state of affairs – the creation of a climate of opinion such that if you are ‘within that arena’ then you are likely to accept a lot of what falls out from that.


There seems to be form of power of that are the psychologically based strategies and tactics aimed to encourage people to support or refrain from supporting some phenomenon of some kind.


Does propaganda rest primarily on the mediation of ‘support for…’?


Does it try to offer some narrative of a world that is desirable against a world that is not?


Does it rest on psychological properties of inspiration, hope, perceived advantage?