The Empire Has No Clothes

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Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works roots the danger of undermining propaganda in an ideology based account of politics, treating individuals’ beliefs and social belief systems as the primary target and mechanism of undermining propaganda. In this paper I suggest a theoretical alternative to the role ideology plays in Stanley’s theories and theories like it, which I call practice first. A practice first account instead treats public behavior as the primary target of propaganda, and analyzes undermining propaganda as altering the incentive structure that sets the terms for public behavior.

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