Propaganda Does Not Have to be Good or Evil

Iago Ramos
University of Salamanca, Spain |

Received: 30-April-2019 | Accepted: 1-June-2019 | Published: 6-July-2019
Disputatio [Dec. 2019], Vol. 8, No. 11, pp. 99-114 | DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3425228
Article | [EN] | Full Text | Statistics | Copyright Notice [sp] | Vol. 8 No. 11

How to cite this article:
Ramos, Iago (2019). «Propaganda Does Not Have to be Good or Evil». Disputatio. Philosophical Research Bulletin 8, no. 11: pp. 99–114.

Abstract | This paper aims to demonstrate that, to discuss propaganda better, we ought to consider how its presence alters the dynamics of the milieu it influences. I examine Jason Stanley’s analysis of propaganda’s ability to undermine public deliberation and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s defense of the use of propaganda for the establishment of egalitarian political communities, to conclude that propaganda does not have a wicked nature. To strengthen the claim, I introduce an analogy between propaganda and parasitism to illustrate that propaganda establishes a non-mutual relationship with the public mind.
Keywords |
Deliberation · Democracy · Egalitarianism · Propaganda.

La propaganda no tiene que ser buena o mala

Resumen | Este artículo plantea que, para poder debatir correctamente la propaganda, debemos centrarnos en cómo esta modifica las dinámicas del medio en el que está presente. Tras cotejar el análisis que hace Jason Stanley de la capacidad que tiene la propaganda para socavar el debate público, y la defensa que hace Jean-Jacques Rousseau de su uso para establecer comunidades políticas igualitarias, se afirma que la propaganda no tiene una naturaleza perversa. Esta conclusión se refuerza introduciendo una analogía entre la propaganda y el parasitismo que ilustra cómo la relación que se establece entre propaganda y mente pública no es mutua.
Palabras Clave | Deliberación · Democracia · Igualitarismo · Propaganda.


Achen, Christopher, and Bartels, Larry (2016). Democracy for Realists. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Bernardi, Bruno (2007). Le principe d’obligation. Paris: Vrin-EHESS.

Bernays, Edward (2005). Propaganda. New York: Ig Publishing.

Doob, Leonard. (1950). “Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda.” Public Opinion Quarterly 14: 419–442. doi:

Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, etc. Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert. University of Chicago: ARTFL Encyclopédie Project (Autumn 2017 Edition), Robert Morrissey and Glenn Roe (eds.),

Gómez, Andrés, and Nichols, Elizabeth (2013). “Neglected wild life: Parasitic biodiversity as a conservation target”. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife 2: 222-227. doi:

King, Martin Luther (2007). “Propagandizing Christianity. Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church”. In The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume VI: Advocate of the Social Gospel, September 1948 – March 1963. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Miller, Clyde (1939). “If You Would Detect Propaganda”. The Rotary 55(6): 14–15.

Neuhouser, Frederick (2014). Rousseau’s critique of inequality: reconstructing the second discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rousseau, Jean Jacques (2003). Œuvres Complètes Tome III. Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.

Rousseau, Jean Jacques (1861). “Lettres sur la Vertu et le Bonheur.” In Œuvres et Correspondance Inédites, 133–165. Paris: Michel Lèvy Frères.

Ségur, Louis-Philippe (1827). Mémoirs and Recollections of Count Ségur: Ambassador from France to the Courts of Russia and Prussia. Vol. 3. London: Henry Colburn.

Sheehan, Kim. (2013). Controversies in Contemporary Advertising. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Stanley, Jason (2015). How Propaganda Works. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Swanson, Eric (2017). “Critical Notice of Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works”. Mind 126(503): 937-947. doi:

Tucker, Anne (2011). “Flawed Assumptions: A Corporate Law Analysis of Free Speech and Corporate Personhood in Citizens United”. Case Western Reserve Law Review 61: 495-548.

Tye, Larry (2002). The father of spin: Edward L. Bernays and the birth of public relations. New York: Macmillan.

Zotos, Yorgos, and, Tsichla, Eirini (2014). “Female Stereotypes in Print Advertising: A Retrospective Analysis”. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 148: 446–454. doi:

© The author(s) 2019. This work, published by Disputatio [], is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License [BY–NC–ND]. The copy, distribution and public communication of this work will be according to the copyright notice. For inquiries and permissions, please email: