How Propaganda Became Public Relations pulls back the curtain on
propaganda: how it was born, how it works, and how it has masked
the bulk of its operations by rebranding itself as public relations. Cory
Wimberly uses archival materials and wide variety of sources—Foucault’s
work on governmentality, political economy, liberalism, mass psychology,
and history—to mount a genealogical challenge to two commonplaces
about propaganda. First, modern propaganda did not originate in the
state and was never primarily located in the state; instead, it began and
ﬂourished as a for-proﬁt service for businesses. Further, propaganda is
not focused on public beliefs and does not operate mainly through lies
and deceit; propaganda is an apparatus of government that aims to create
the publics that will freely undertake the conduct its clients’ desire.
Businesses have used propaganda since the early twentieth century to
construct the laboring, consuming, and voting publics that they needed
to secure and grow their operations. Over that time, corporations have
become the most numerous and well-funded apparatuses of government
in the West, operating privately and without democratic accountability.
Wimberly explains why liberal strategies of resistance have failed and
a new focus on creating mass subjectivity through democratic means is
essential to countering propaganda.
This book offers a sophisticated analysis that will be of interest
to scholars and advanced students working in social and political
philosophy, Continental philosophy, political communication, the history
of capitalism, and the history of public relations.
Cory Wimberly is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of
Texas Rio Grande Valley, USA.
How Propaganda Became
Freedom to Care
Liberalism, Dependency Care, and Culture
Moved by Machines
Performance Metaphors and Philosophy of Technology
Responses to Naturalism
Critical Perspectives from Idealism and Pragmatism
Edited by Paul Giladi
Philosophical Investigations in New Media and Technologies
Naturalism, Human Flourishing, and Asian Philosophy
Owen Flanagan and Beyond
Edited by Bongrae Seok
Philosophy of Logical Systems
Consequences of Reference Failure
How Propaganda Became Public Relations
Foucault and the Corporate Government of the Public
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How Propaganda Became
Foucault and the Corporate
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To my parents, for teaching me the kind of skepticism
that always keeps one eyebrow cocked.
To Siena, for the joy that reminds me why I write.
And to the twins, whose birth allowed me to enjoy this
project for years longer than I might have otherwise.
Introduction: From Propaganda to Public
1 What Does Propaganda Do? 25
2 Propaganda Contra Liberalism 63
3 The Art and Science of Controlling Minds:
The Inﬂuence of Political Economy
and French Royalists on Public Relations 86
4 Governing Mr. and Mrs. Intelligent Quotient
Minus: Lineages of Crowd Psychology in
the Governmentality of Propaganda 105
5 Crossing the Atlantic, Propaganda’s New
Problematization for Corporate America 131
6 Edward Bernays and the Interacting Forces
That Govern Public Opinion 149
7 Grappling With Propaganda Today 170
Everybody knows enough about propaganda to dislike it, but few know
enough to say what it is that propaganda actually does. Propaganda typi-
cally conjures visions of ﬂag-waving foreign nations where the govern-
ment has the people so discombobulated that they think that up is down
and down is up. Or, closer to home, people use the word ‘propaganda’ to
draw a tremendous circle that encompasses all fallacious attempts at per-
suasion and sometimes even uncharitably shades into meaning something
like ‘ideas I disagree with.’ Propaganda in popular usage is an almost use-
lessly broad term vaguely tied to mass deception and public manipulation.
Few know that propaganda is something much more speciﬁc than this—
with a well-deﬁned and erudite body of professional knowledge, charac-
teristic practices, and even conferences for reﬁning their techniques—and
it is one of the propagandists’ great successes that few care to know it.
Propagandists abandoned the name ‘propaganda’ in the early twenti-
eth century to shed its negative connotations, and even many working in
the ﬁeld today cannot connect the contemporary name of the ﬁeld with
its historical one. ‘Propaganda’ ﬁrst came into usage in 1622 from the
Catholic Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Sacra
Congregation de Propaganda Fide), but by the twentieth century its
name was already popularly soiled. At the turn of the twentieth century,
propagandists entered into a long search for a new name and it took
decades for another name to reach consensus. Raymond Mayer lamented
the souring of the term in his 1933 How to Do Publicity: “Through the
years propaganda has been used to help win wars and to aid in struggles
for trade. It has fallen into ill repute, probably more so than it deserves.”1
Ivy L. Lee, perhaps the most inﬂuential of the modern propagandists,
wrote about his frustration in trying to replace the word ‘propaganda’
with something else in 1925: “[Propaganda] is a bad word; I wish I had
some substitute for it, but after all it means the effort to propagate ideas,
and I do not know any real derivative to substitute for the word.”2 One
can ﬁnd plenty of other examples of prominent propagandists (e.g., Qui-
ett and Casey, Arthur Page, John Price Jones, and Wilder and Buell)
lamenting the bad publicity propaganda had gotten and pondering the
From Propaganda to Public Relations
possibilities for a new name.3 ‘Publicity’ was the early favorite, but it was
‘public relations’ that eventually gained dominance during the 1920s.
Edward Bernays, perhaps the only other name in early twentieth- century
propaganda to equal the prominence of Ivy Lee, took sole credit for
renaming the ﬁeld in his 1923 Crystallizing Public Opinion, and while he
may have given himself too much credit (Bernays frequently did), he was
certainly instrumental in the renaming:
When I came back to the United States [from World War I], I decided
that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it
for peace. And “propaganda” got to be a bad word because of the
Germans using it, so what I did was to try and ﬁnd some other words
so we found the words “public relations.”4
The propagandists did their job well, and few people today know of
the connection between public relations and propaganda; many ‘pub-
lic relations counsels’ do not even know the history of their own ﬁeld.
Propaganda popularly remains deﬁned as any attempt at mass manipula-
tion, but the reality is that it is a multibillion-dollar industry with a well-
deﬁned set of practitioners, knowledges, and economic relationships.5
In this text I will switch between ‘public relations’ and ‘propaganda’
as interchangeable terms. Propaganda is not different from public rela-
tions except in its name: public relations and propaganda name the same
activities, the same rationalization of those activities, and even the same
personages. They are the same except that public relations is a kind of
doubling of propaganda, in that the term ‘public relations’ is propaganda
for propaganda. I use the terms interchangeably in order to highlight
their connection and to reconnect them more tightly in academic and
public discourse. I understand that this usage might be counterintuitive
to some, but it is precisely to the degree it is counterintuitive that it is nec-
essary to connect them. We are subject to a near constant barrage of cor-
porate public relations and we should know it for what it is: propaganda.
What is it exactly that propagandists do? How do they conceptualize
society, the public, their clients, and their relationships to them? Any
research into these questions inevitably runs into thorny empirical block-
ages. Namely, no public relations ﬁrm is willing to open the archives
of their current or even remotely recent clients to preserve trade secrets
and to forestall the tremendously bad publicity that would result from
their activities becoming public. As the current work is not available,
this text turns to the historical archives, a strategy that is unique among
the current philosophical scholarship on propaganda; earlier work did
not even have the opportunity to use the archives, as many have 70- to
100-year waiting periods before they can be accessed. It is only in the last
years that some of archives have become available. An overview of my
approach and its unique results in comparison to past work is offered
toward the end of this introduction. Here, I would like to anticipate some
of my ﬁndings and show their relation to the core thesis of this book.
Earlier materials, from 1900 to 1934, have several advantages. First,
they are almost completely available to the public—a beneﬁt that cannot
be overstated. Just as importantly, the quality of the archives is excellent,
not just for their breadth but also because of the quality of the materials
themselves. The early twentieth century was a decisive time in the history
of propaganda and the West more generally: a break had occurred with
the previous propaganda methods of the nineteenth century, and a new
kind of propaganda was being born a tumultuous birth. The crisis and
rethinking of the ﬁeld that occurred during the early part of the twentieth
century produced an exceptionally articulate and philosophical discourse
as these individuals created their ﬁeld and created new prescriptions “for
American institutions and especially for business.”6
The present-day consensus is that the ﬁrst modern propaganda ﬁrm
was the Publicity Bureau of Boston, founded in 1900.7 Such claims of
origin must in the ﬁnal analysis be somewhat arbitrary, as the Publicity
Bureau was clearly inﬂuenced by developments before it and later prac-
titioners further enhanced, modiﬁed, and rejected the relations of power
and knowledge that trace from the Publicity Bureau. Across this zone of
temporal and conceptual ﬂux, this work primarily casts its net from 1900
and the founding of the Publicity Bureau to 1934, which not only marks
the death of Ivy L. Lee—the foremost early counsel in public relations—
but also the point at which the Great Depression was understood to be
an enduring phenomenon and thinking began to be concentrated around
issues arising speciﬁcally from the Depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Within this early period, 1900–1934, there was a decentralized but none-
theless highly interconnected construction of modern propaganda. The
eventuation of public relations was tied to the similarly dispersed and
contested birth of the corporation and the modern urban consumptive
public at sites across the United States. Propaganda stood between its cli-
ents (usually corporations) and their publics and sought to reﬁgure their
relationships to each other so that corporations could succeed: “Business
publicity comprehends the entirety of the relations between any enter-
prise, corporation or individual, engaged in a commercial undertaking,
and their or his public.”8 This is in part what makes this topic so inter-
esting: public relations explicitly and relentlessly sought to theorize and
modify the relationships forming between the corporation and its pub-
lics, and there are few areas of greater importance to the present than the
corporations or the public.
The ﬁrst law to make incorporation easy in the United States was
established in 1896 in New Jersey, and other states soon followed. From
1896 forward, the corporate apparatus played an important role in pro-
ducing, shaping, and intensifying changes underway in the United States.
The new urban populations, called to the cities by rapid changes in
American life, were characterized as a corporation’s ‘publics’ by propa-
gandists. These publics had many competing forms of description and
many possible futures outside of their construction as corporate publics:
these urban massiﬁcations were the proletariat to Marxists and Social-
ists, a series of rational autonomous individuals to laissez-faire liberals,
laborers to factory owners, voters to politicians, dangerous classes to the
middle and upper classes, and consumers to merchants. Alongside these
competing and in some ways overlapping characterizations of the urban
mass, propaganda developed a conception of the mass that would make
it governable and that would render its conduct able to be conducted by
its mostly corporate clientele.
The central chapters of this book conduct a deep investigation of
the publics as a peculiar invention of a time and place and position the
invention of the publics as part of the creation of the larger networks of
power and knowledge that would deﬁne corporations in the twentieth
and twenty-ﬁrst centuries. It was not only corporations that were try-
ing to theorize and govern the urban masses; many other actors were
engaged in similar projects, albeit guided by different values. Evidently,
it was hard to avoid thinking about the urban masses at the turn of the
century when it had manifested its new size and importance through the
largest mass events that had yet taken place in human history. The May
Day rallies that took place across the United States and Europe beginning
in 1890 were both the largest collective demonstrations (totaling all the
demonstrators across all locations) and the largest single demonstrations
(the most people in a single location) that had ever taken place.9 These
tremendous gatherings of individuals, by their own size and power, called
out their unprecedented character, which public relations (PR) alongside
others sought to shape, harness, and tame. These new urban masses were
not just visible on May 4th, but in tenements, on factory ﬂoors, on strike,
at the ballot box, at sporting events, consuming at the new department
stores, and as the audience for the exploding mass media outlets. The
urban mass in many ways culminated in the mass readership of newspa-
pers, a daily ritual shared by 15 million people in the United States at the
turn of the century.
Propagandists intentionally placed themselves at the nexus of the cor-
poration, the mass media, the state, and the urban masses. This makes
propaganda a sensitive, multifaceted, and well-situated barometer for the
tensions that marked turn-of-the-century life, much like a seismograph
placed between colliding tectonic plates. William Baldwin, one of the
ﬁrst and most respected early public relations counsels, wrote: “Rub-
bing takes place at all levels—person-to-person, group-to-group, nation-
to-nation, alliance-to-alliance. It can become highly abrasive where
imbalances develop in management-labor, producer-consumer, landlord-
tenant, majority-minority relationships and the like.”10 It was the task of
public relations not just to observe the rubbing of those plates but also to
adjust those plates, making sure that corporations and their publics took
the forms that would best ease corporate growth and dominance.
It is no wonder then that propaganda was a site of great innovation
and action: its constitution depended not just on its relationships to its
publics and corporations, both of which were themselves intense poles
of activity and change, but also to the contesting efforts of others within
the United States to deﬁne them differently. Propagandists inserted their
work into the relationship of businesses and the masses in order to shape
corporations and the publics on terms favorable to its business clients,
while simultaneously justifying and naturalizing the domination of busi-
ness in shaping American life:
Business is in the saddle. It is the power behind the throne. The world
will be what business makes it, and advertising, if it sees its opportu-
nity in the largest light, can help business to formulate its ideals, put
them into effective language, and write them not merely on the pages
of newspapers and magazines or on the waves of the ether, but in the
more enduring stuff of minds and hearts.11
Into the deeply and rapidly changing waters of the turn of the early twen-
tieth century public relations began to lay down piers, attempting to
build and hold in place constructions of the public and corporations that
were favorable to its clientele and to itself: “Publicity in its ultimate sense
means the actual relationship of a company to the people, and that rela-
tionship involves far more than saying—it involves doing.”12 Propaganda
sought to build the publics and corporations that would best achieve
its corporate client’s directives, which sometimes placed propagandists
in the odd position of working for the client against the client’s wishes
when they judged that the client was doing something damaging to its
What sets this work apart in considering propaganda is how it exam-
ines the changes propaganda created in constructing its publics, corpora-
tions, and itself. Typically, as I will explore in greater detail and speciﬁcity
in Chapter 5, previous studies of propaganda have assumed that propa-
ganda has neither signiﬁcantly altered the nature of the publics nor busi-
ness (i.e., capitalism). Rather, previous critics have seen propaganda as a
means to spread fallacious reasoning or provide an ideological cover—a
kind of masking that hides the nature of things without fundamentally
altering them. Previous efforts, popular and scholarly, have taken propa-
ganda to focus on beliefs. This work, instead of looking at propaganda
as papering over reality with false belief, looks at propaganda as having
an important role in creating it. Instead of taking propaganda, corpora-
tions, and the public as objects of study whose form is pre-given but
hidden by propaganda, this study looks at propaganda as occupying a
privileged place in the invention of corporations, their publics, and the
relations of government between the two. This work starts from a dif-
ferent set of methodological presuppositions than those that guide most
work on propaganda. I will not shelter the hope most critics have that
the world they want lives just below the surface, waiting to spring forth
once the right critical philosophical incantation is uttered to clear away
the lies and ideological distortions. This work begins from the position,
well supported by the archives, that propaganda was an apparatus for
transforming all the relationships its clients had with the world and in
turn transforming those clients and the publics they governed. Edward
Bernays was clear that his primary strategy was not lying or ideological
masking of subjects’ true nature; he counseled his clients that “to make
customers is the new problem.”13 Make, not deceive, were his words and
conduct, not beliefs, was his target.
At the turn of the twentieth century, massive numbers of consumers,
laborers, urban dwellers, and voting blocs that hardly existed 50 years
before needed to be created on a gigantic scale. Relations and subjec-
tivities that may today seem common and even natural hardly existed as
modern propaganda ﬁrst went to work. Theodore Vail, head of AT&T
and an early proponent for the wide-scale and continuous use of propa-
ganda by businesses, wrote in November, 1917:
Contrast the conditions which I saw as a boy and the conditions of
today. When I ﬁrst entered business, man was self-dependent; with
the exception of the luxuries—and there were few enough of those—
the individual and his family produced every necessity of life. Most
production and manufacture was by individual, manual labor. . . .
Now none of us is self-contained; we depend upon others for not
only the luxuries but also for the comforts and the very necessities
As corporations made steel I-beams, party dresses, and bar soap, they
also needed to mass-produce the workers, voters, shoppers, and labor
to fuel a stable and thriving environment for business in the twenty-ﬁrst
century. Propaganda did this by transforming corporations into appara-
tuses of government and subjectiﬁcation.
One of the most powerful and provocative ways propaganda devel-
oped for thinking of itself was as an apparatus of government that
worked in the last analysis through subjectiﬁcation. Although the exact
term ‘subjectiﬁcation’ was not used as part of the early discourse of prop-
aganda, the idea of mass-producing publics to ﬁll the human needs in a
rising industrial and corporate order—as laborers, consumers, managers,
voters—was an exciting and innovative concept. Bernays wrote in 1928:
Mass production is only proﬁtable if its rhythm can be maintained—
that is, if it can continue to sell its product in steady or increasing
quantity. The result is that while, under the handicraft or small-unit
system of production that was typical a century ago, demand cre-
ated the supply, today supply must actively seek to create its corre-
sponding demand. A single factory, potentially capable of supplying
a whole continent with its particular product cannot afford to wait
until the public asks for its product; it must maintain constant touch,
through advertising and propaganda, with the vast public in order
to assure itself the continuous demand which alone will make its
costly plant proﬁtable. This entails a vastly more complex system of
distribution than formerly. To make customers is the new problem.15
For most public relations counsels, subjectiﬁcation was an activity that
could only be carried so far. Propagandists worked with a view of the
subject as composed of certain innate natural drives. These drives could
be satisﬁed in a variety of ways, so the work of propagandists was to
transform how drives were translated into speciﬁc desires and how sub-
jects went about satisfying those desires. For instance, Brewster and
Palmer argued that all people have a drive for sociality and companion-
ship. This drive, while an inalterable fact, still could be satisﬁed in an
almost inﬁnite number of ways, and it was the job of the propagandist
to train the customer to satisfy the drive in a way useful to their clients
through “repetition, impressive size, illustration and short phrases”:
We do not know just what electricity is, but we do know something
about how it acts and, within certain limitations, how it can be con-
trolled. Neither do we know just what the mind is, but through the
researches of psychologists and through practical experience we
have learned something of how the mind behaves and how, to some
extent, its action can be inﬂuenced by advertising.16
Thus, by way of anticipation, we can glimpse here the notion that the
government of the subject occurred largely through subjectiﬁcation but
that this subjectiﬁcation was bounded: PR counsels assumed that the
object of desire and the satisfaction of desire could be transformed but
not the basic drives humans possess.
I differ from public relations in that I am not going to take the presup-
position that the basal psychology of the subject is essentially ﬁxed in
the way that public relations agents take it to be. I follow Foucault in
thinking that it is an error to regard the subject “as a sort of elementary
nucleus, a primitive atom or some multiple inert matter to which power
is applied, or which is struck by a power that subordinates or destroys
individuals.”17 Rather than accepting propagandists’ metaphysical claims
to have discovered the essence of the subject, I treat that metaphysics as
a cover and legitimation for the deeper creation of the subject who bore
those supposedly innate drives.
Nietzsche, Foucault, and many others have worked historically and
especially through the twentieth and early twenty-ﬁrst centuries to pro-
vide interesting genealogies of the emergence and eventual disappearance
of subjectivities; the thrust of these works is to show that what we assume
to be common to people across time and culture is not. For instance,
feminists like Judith Butler, Diana Taylor, and Jana Sawicki disrupt an
enduring understanding of gender roles; queer theorists like Mark Hal-
perin do the same with sexuality; Ladelle McWhorter and Cornel West
do the same with race, Nietzsche with morality; and Foucault with mad-
ness, illness, health, and normality. These works empower and provide
positive support for the analytical position I am taking here because they
provide strong reason to be skeptical about claims to have discovered
the nature of the subject. This work will take the more skeptical position
that propagandists did not discover the nature of the subject but created
a knowledge of the subject based on their own local needs. In this genea-
logical frame, I take it not only that the propagandists work through
subjectiﬁcation at a ‘surface’ level, altering the objects of desire and their
manner of pursuit in the publics, but also that their understanding of the
underlying nature of public subjectivity was also their creation and part
of what they produced in their action.
This work takes its primary analytical point of departure on the sub-
ject from Foucault’s “The Subject and Power,” although it draws on com-
plementary materials from The History of Sexuality and several of his
lecture courses from the late 1970s. In Foucault’s work from The History
of Sexuality Volume I (1976) to “The Subject and Power” (1982), gene-
alogy does not posit a “theory of the subject,” so most accurately one
would have to say that there is no such thing as ‘the genealogical subject’;
this makes sense in my own aim to work outside of the priority of a sub-
ject that is marked by an enduring human essence. Instead of a theory
of the subject that elaborates a human nature, Foucault’s genealogy per-
forms an “analysis” of subjectivity in order to write its “history.”18 An
analysis differs from a theory in that a theory seeks to give a totalizing
account—it seeks to capture the quiddity of the thing, in this case the
subject. In contradistinction, an analysis of the subject aims to record
the conditions under which it is emergent: “My objective, instead, has
been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture,
human beings are made subjects.”19 Instead of looking for the subject
as an autonomous, independently existing object with its own essential
deﬁnition and functions, this work approaches the subject as a part of a
particular situation that only materializes through the differential elabo-
ration of relations of power in a localized context.
The subject, for Foucault and in this work, is something that only
appears within a certain strategic situation; it has no being or meaning
outside of it. For instance, there is no familial subject outside of famil-
ial relations (sons, daughters, mothers, fathers); there are only fathers
if there are mothers, and mothers if there are sons and daughters, and
so forth. All subjects are found embedded in some particular situation
and they gain their meaning (e.g., ‘corporate executive’) only within that
speciﬁc arrangement of forces, in this case the arrangement known as the
‘corporation.’ The subject here is not a generic element of theory that can
be anonymously transposed between contexts but a localized phenom-
enon that is only revealed through a situated analysis of power relations.
Power is thus an important term in understanding the subjectivities
produced in propaganda. In rehashing the subject of power in Foucault,
I am mindful of the possibility of needless repetition. If sometimes people
write that gallons of ink have been spilled on a topic, we would have to
say that the amount of ink that has been spilled on Foucault’s theory of
power is closer to what spilled from the Exxon Valdez. Resultantly, in
establishing the analytical framework of this text, I will move quickly to
narrow the discussion of power in Foucault to conduct, which is the most
relevant aspect to understanding to the approach of this text.
Foucault explored several ways of understanding power throughout
his career. During the 1970s, until Security, Territory, Population (1977),
Foucault studied power through the lens of war. Especially in Society
Must Be Defended, he looked at power as an expression of war; power
was the assertion of one agent’s prerogative over another: “Power is
war, the continuation of war by other means.”20 For reasons that are not
directly germane to this text, Foucault found this notion of power prob-
lematic and began to explore power as conduct.
In “The Subject and Power,” Foucault asserts that the “equivocal
nature of the term ‘conduct’ is one of the best aids for coming to terms
with the speciﬁcity of power relations.”21 What is this equivocal nature,
and why did Foucault feel that it would give great insight into power
relations, and hence the creation of subjects? Conduct has two senses
here for Foucault, senses that will also be important in this text. Conduct
ﬁrst refers to an individual’s own behavior in “an open ﬁeld of possi-
bilities”; conduct indicates the free constitution of comportment among
many available lines of comportment. Conduct in this ﬁrst sense refers
to the way that a subject directs its actions in a situation in which it has
Conduct also has the second sense of guiding or leading others, in the
sense that a train conductor conducts a train or a symphony is conducted
by a conductor. Foucault states that he is thinking of conduct in this sec-
ond sense less as “a confrontation between two adversaries” and more
as the direction of the “possibilities or action of other people.”22 If previ-
ously Foucault had thought of power as war, as a struggle between con-
ﬂicting partners, then with the notion of conduct he opened the door to
the idea that power could be mutually acceptable and cooperative, if not
always egalitarian. We should not make the mistake, however, of think-
ing that conducting others is necessarily cooperative or beneﬁcent, just
that it is potentially so; conduct frees us from thinking that power must
be conﬂict, struggle, and war, not that it will never be so. It is also pos-
sible to conduct others surreptitiously, against their interests, or aggres-
sively against their will—in the way a prison warden conducts the lives
Conduct in this second sense of the conduct of others is deeply tied to
the idea of government in Foucault. For Foucault, the sense of govern-
ment that emerges in the renaissance is an attempt to direct the conduct—
or to conduct the conduct—of subjects into speciﬁc paths:
Before it acquires its speciﬁcally political meaning in the sixteenth
century, we can see that “to govern,” covers a very wide semantic
domain in which it refers to movement in space, material substance,
diet, the care given to an individual and the health one can assure
him, and also to the exercise of command, of a constant, zealous,
active, and always benevolent prescriptive activity. It refers to the
control one may exercise over oneself and others, over someone’s
body, soul, and behavior.23
Foucault studies government as a historically speciﬁc set of power,
knowledge, and subject relations that develop in the West as a means to
conduct the conduct of others. As we will see later in the text, propagan-
dists offer a critique of the dominant modes of government in the West,
especially liberalism, and holds propaganda to be a necessary corrective.
Freedom plays an important role in this thought on government, con-
duct, and subjectivity. The conduct of conduct makes sense as a descrip-
tion only if the subject being conducted is free. Stating that a subject
is conducted implies that the subject could have conducted herself oth-
erwise but was directed through those possibilities by another. Like
the train conductor moves the train between its many possible routes,
and the symphony conductor conducts the symphony through just one
arrangement of instruments, pitches, and rhythms among many, so too
does subject’s conduct get guided among many possibilities. This does
not mean that all the possibilities are equally weighted in terms of their
costs and rewards (some may be more greatly rewarded than others,
some are heavily penalized, etc.), but nonetheless conduct implies that
the subject is working in a relational context in which multiple differ-
ent ways to constitute itself exist and that government is deployed to
move the subject towards one of those possible lines. Conduct—whether
self-conduct or the conduct of conduct by others—always occurs in a
context of freedom, where freedom is the open possibility of constituting
many possible lines of comportment. Propaganda, like other means of
conducting the conduct of others (coaching, pastoring, parenting, etc.) is
the reaction to the “intransigence of freedom” of the subject; government
seeks to guide the subject’s conduct, knowing that the conduct could be
constituted in many possible ways, at least some of which the governor
prefers to others.24 It is the threat of the subject acting outside of the
interests of the governor that makes government necessary. Without the
freedom to constitute comportment in many possible ways, it is unnec-
essary to govern them; likewise, it is the freedom of the subject and the
possibility of unwanted conduct that prompts the growth of PR.
Precisely the problem that public relations and their corporate clients
were faced with was the freedom of subjects to conduct themselves in
ways contrary to the desires of corporations. The goal of corporate prop-
aganda was to alter the behavior of subjects and channel them into com-
posing their behavior in ways favorable to the new corporate order. It
should not be forgotten that propaganda began in a time of great change
for subjects in the United States as the myth and reality of the Jeffersonian
citizen farmer was being displaced by the many faces of the urban wage
earner. In the time of this explosion of new economic, social, and politi-
cal conduct at the turn of the twentieth century, corporations sought to
govern the publics towards the conduct that would enhance their wealth,
control, preeminence, and security. Propaganda is a response to free con-
duct and an attempt, not to dominate it via violence or physical con-
straint, but to conduct it in its freedom towards the desired outcomes. Do
not mistake my point: it is not that violence and physical constraint were
not used alongside propaganda—they were—but that propaganda is dis-
tinct from physical violence as a rationalization and practice of power.
This Foucauldian analytics of the subject not only provides a way to take
the subjectiﬁcation of public relations seriously, but it also provides a lens
through which the relations of power built through public relations can
be understood; namely, as a particular manifestation of the conduct of
conduct, government through mass subjectiﬁcation.
That this genealogical framework of analysis is so different from the
extant literature is outstanding on its face because many propagandists
explicitly deﬁne their service as government through the transformation
of the governed, “the signiﬁcant revolution of modern times is not indus-
trial or economic or political but the revolution which is taking place
in the art of creating consent among the governed.” And propagandists
are not shy to say that they govern through transforming businesses
and publics: “[The public relations counsel] helps to mold the action of
his client as well as to mold public opinion.”25 To fail to consider how
public relations changes its publics or its clients, either at the level of
desire or in deeper ways, has left much of the literature blinkered to the
effects of propaganda. To better spell this out, I would like to consider
how this blinkering operates in three broad types of writing on pub-
lic relations: (1) analyses in the social sciences that seek to determine
how public relations and propaganda work to inﬂuence and shape minds
(diagnostic analyses); (2) archival work that seeks to explain the context
into and from which public relations was born (historical analyses); and
(3) critical leftist work that that argues for the injustice and immorality
of public relations (critical theory and social epistemology).
One can cluster together a whole series of works, generally from the
social sciences, that aim to explain why propaganda works and when
it works best. These articles and books often do not always explicitly
state their own operating assumptions about the subject but presuppose
it in their discussions of propaganda. Many of these studies make claims,
again some only implicitly, that follow the formula, ‘Human nature is X,
therefore effective propaganda can only take forms Y and Z,’ or its vari-
ant, ‘Human nature is X, therefore propaganda cannot effectively take
forms A and B.’ For example, in Ellul’s canonical study of propaganda
he repeatedly makes claims of the following form: “Besides, the public is
only sensitive to contemporary events,” or:
One trait of vertical propaganda is that the propagandee remains
alone even when he is part of a crowd. His shouts of enthusiasm or
hatred, though part of the shouts of the crowd, do not put him in com-
munication with others; his shouts are only a response to the leader.26
Ellul assumes a stable and apparently universal form of subjectivity in
order to make these types of claims in Propaganda: The Formation of
Men’s Attitudes. He makes these kind of claims because he is interested
in producing scientiﬁc knowledge of the human being and its relationship
to propaganda, at least in the sense that he wants to produce knowl-
edge that does not vary with different populations, at different times, or
in different circumstances. By assuming a like nature across all human
beings, Ellul can proclaim the efﬁcacy or inefﬁcacy of different methods
of propaganda across different national and historical contexts to pro-
duce universal psychological claims about how propaganda works.
Jowett, who is another important writer on propaganda and public
relations, also makes similar claims. In his article, The Korean POW
Controversy and the Origins of a Myth, he claims that brainwashing is
impossible because the nature of the human psyche does not permit it:
“Despite the assurances of psychologists, psychiatrists, and those who
study the human brain, the notion of ‘brainwashing’ as a distinct pos-
sibility remains as ﬁrmly entrenched as ever.”27 Here, Jowett hoped to
show why the subject of contemporary psychology could not be deeply
affected by ‘brainwashing.’ He argues that the notion of brainwashing
should be dropped as a serious matter of study and research because the
psychological notion of the subject he adopts precludes it. Again, the
implication is that the subject is something given, natural, and funda-
mentally inalterable, which allows for knowledge about propaganda to
be produced that does not vary with changes in time, place, and culture.
Lasswell’s studies are older but are nonetheless still highly inﬂuential
in the study of public relations and propaganda. Like Ellul and Jowett,
he makes universalizing assumptions about human nature in order to
explain the efﬁcacy of public relations and propaganda. Unlike Ellul and
Jowett, he states explicitly that his assumptions about the nature of the
subject derive from ‘common sense’ rather than dressing them up in the
white lab coat of the sciences:
The procedure in this investigation has been to stick close to common-
sense analysis. . . . The present student goes no further than to
develop a simple classiﬁcation of the various psychological materi-
als, which have been used to produce certain speciﬁed results, and to
propose a general theory of strategy and tactics, for the manipulation
of these materials.28
In order to produce a theory of the efﬁcacy of propaganda across coun-
tries, Lasswell makes assumptions about the similarity of all publics in
order to show how they must be affected by propaganda. Regardless of
whether he works from the framework of psychology as Jowett does or
from “common-sense” assumptions, he still needs to produce the subject
as an enduring and universal substrate if his knowledge of propaganda
is not to be a history but a science. If he wants to give an account about
“how international war propaganda may be conducted with success”
which applies broadly across times and cultures, then the subject and its
nature must remain ﬁxed so that conduct of propaganda in relation to
the subject can also remain ﬁxed.29
All these social scientiﬁc analyses essentially aim to create a scientiﬁc
knowledge of propaganda, essentially parallel to the knowledge produced
by propagandists themselves. In order to ﬁll in the ‘missing’ discourse on
human nature and unlock the true secrets of propaganda, these social
scientists have had to proceed as if the propagandists were missing such
an analysis so that they could produce it. Unfortunately for them, the
propagandists had no such lack; they have an incredibly well-elaborated
psychology of the human being. The cause of this problem is that many,
many social scientiﬁc studies are strongly lacking in a solid knowledge of
the propagandists’ own texts and archives and are too willing to share
their inferred assumptions.
This assumption of a stable subject of propaganda unknowingly con-
tributes to the legitimation of the propagandists’ understanding of public
subjectivity. In taking the nature of the subject to be ﬁxed, as do Lass-
well and Ellul, they can have a hard time explaining how propaganda
can be so effective without also having to support the propagandists’
claims to have discovered the nature of the subject. For instance, if prop-
aganda techniques work by assuming the public to be subrational and
they establish techniques that work through treating the public as subra-
tional, there is a tremendous risk of reifying public relations’ assumption
of the public as subrational in explaining the technique’s efﬁcacy if one
takes the nature of the subject to be ﬁxed. Propagandists formulated their
relationships of government with the public based on a precisely articu-
lated theory of public subjectivity, which in turn shaped their practices of
propaganda. When social scientists set out to ‘discover’ the ﬁxed psychol-
ogy that makes propaganda work, they are vulnerable to restating and
legitimating the nature of the subject as it is framed in the discourse of
The textbook Effective Public Relations—perhaps the most widely
read and inﬂuential textbook on PR since its ﬁrst publication in 1952—
offers a clear example of this danger. On page 270 of the millennial
8th edition, the textbook states that individuals come to opinions
through ‘salience,’ deﬁned as “feelings about an object derived from an
individual’s experience,” and ‘pertinence,’ deﬁned as “the relative value
of an object on the basis of an object-by-object comparison.” In other
words, subjects develop feelings about objects and they compare those
feelings to other feelings to arrive at a related understanding of things.
Do subjects reason? Do subjects have a principled analysis of the larger
social situation on which to base their understanding of value? Do they
have an ability to put aside feelings for a commitment to an abstract
sense of virtue or morality in the formation of values? No, subjects have
none of these abilities. Instead what we get in this picture of the human
being is a mass of feelings whose weight is only determined only by com-
parison with other feelings. This is not a full-ﬂedged rational individual
but an emotionally driven being whose actions are determined solely
by the strength of their feelings. This is pretty much the deﬁnition of
someone who is stupid, according to Merriam-Webster: someone who
is “not sensible or logical.”30 In building a universal notion of the sub-
ject out of a set of power relations designed to disempower and govern
the publics, there is tremendous risk that the underlying assumptions of
these relationships—that the public is ﬁckle, subrational, unconsciously
driven, suggestible, and impulsive—also becomes the conclusion of the
Ellul’s study of propaganda demonstrates the dangers of unknowingly
replicating public relations’ presuppositions about the subject as scien-
tiﬁc fact. For instance, Ellul argues that the only real effect reason has
on the public is aesthetic; people do not understand reason but relate to
it as a kind of costume that inspires deference, like the medieval masses
reacted to hearing the Bible read in Latin (e.g., with deference and awe
but without understanding). Ellul writes that propaganda that tries to
use “facts to demonstrate, rationally, the superiority of its system and
to demand everybody’s support” only “eliminate[s] personal judgment
and the capacity to form one’s own opinion.” In other words, facts para-
lyze the judgment of the average individual by catapulting the individual
into a realm of thought that is beyond him: facts do “not enlighten the
reader or the listener; they drown him.” The average individual “cannot
remember them all [facts], or coordinate them, or understand them.”31
As a result, Ellul’s study—even though he is a social scientist studying
propaganda and is not a propagandist—comes to the same conclusions
about public subjectivity that the public relations practitioners like Lee,
Bernays, Wilder and Buell come to: propaganda is an essential part of
modern life because it transcribes the demands of the technical and
rational basis of modern society into an irrational and emotional dis-
course that builds consent at the only level that the masses are able to
receive it—the subrational.32
As the social scientiﬁc literature writings claim to be working from an
objective view of human nature, they ultimately disavow their role in
producing and normalizing the relations of subjectivity and control pro-
duced by propagandists. Rather than seeing propaganda and its publics
as a development that occurred at a particular point in human history as
the result of a conﬂuence of historically unique forces, they produce a sci-
entiﬁc discourse that argues that propagandists discovered and exploited
a truth about human nature that was always already there, even if undis-
covered. They give the view, at least implicitly, that propaganda is not the
product and responsibility of any given society or set of relationships and
it cannot be changed or eliminated; instead, they produce propaganda as
something that we must live with because it preys upon weaknesses that
subjects will always have as long as they remain human. In sum, many
of the works in the social sciences that work diagnostically to produce a
scientiﬁc knowledge of how propaganda works end up reproducing and
giving legitimacy to the terrible knowledge of the subject and the govern-
mental relations of propagandists.
A second set of literature is not social scientiﬁc but historical. This lit-
erature documents the personages, institutions, and events in public rela-
tions more than it focuses on the mechanics of how propaganda works.
It is often hard to tell exactly what the issues are that these histories are
interested in because the texts frequently have no explicit methodology
or thesis. Miller’s The Voice of Business: Hill & Knowlton and Post-
war Public Relations never raises the topic of methodology. Capozzola’s
Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern
American Citizen is in many ways much more politically aware and artic-
ulate than Miller’s work but never raises the issue of its own method and
perspective. Scott Cutlip’s The Unseen Power: A History is in many ways
an unmatchable work. Cutlip was a friend to many of the top ﬁgures in
public relations and he had unparalleled access, not only to the public
relations counsels, but also to their family and friends. In his papers at
the Wisconsin Historical Society, the widow of Hamilton Wright carried
on a correspondence with him about her husband’s work even though it
caused her such grief that she had a serious lapse in health.33 The will-
ingness to endure a crisis of health as the result of interviews and then
persevere through future interviews serves as an example of the loyalty
and trust Cutlip engendered. Even so, this work has little reﬂection on
its methodology beyond carefully documenting its sources and their use-
fulness. I can only assume that the topic of methodology or aims is not
raised in these texts because they conceive of themselves as transparent
conduits of the historical facts: there can be no room for methodology or
aims if the work is an exact transcription of the past.
Cutlip’s work, while in many ways irreplaceable, nonetheless demon-
strates the problem of going without an explicit methodology and exami-
nation of one’s assumptions. In the ﬁrst page of the Prologue of Unseen
Power, we get as close as this text comes to a thesis and an explicit meth-
odology when Cutlip states, “I held, and still hold, that only through the
expertise of public relations can causes, industries, individuals, and insti-
tutions make their voice heard in the public forum where thousands of
shrill competing voices daily re-create the Tower of Babel.”34 Here Cutlip
accepts tout court the public justiﬁcations of propagandists going back
to the father of public relations, Ivy L. Lee.35 Cutlip accepts uncritically
the propaganda about propaganda: namely that it is an aid to democracy
because it makes previously unheard voices available—it makes democ-
racy more representative and fair. The biblical reference to the Tower of
Babel in Cutlip shows what he thinks the state of things is—total chaos—
and astonishingly places PR in the role of God returning order.
My point here is that without an explicit thesis, methodology, and their
critical review, one’s assumptions are all too likely to fall back on some-
thing like a ‘commonsense’ perspective on propaganda. The problem with
relying on common sense in a study of propaganda is that propaganda
has been working for more than a century to transform the common
sense about itself. If public relations has been even partially successful in
transforming the perception of propaganda and public relations, we need
to be very careful and quite skeptical about ‘commonsense’ analyses of
This situation is made more dangerous by the fact that many peo-
ple writing history about propaganda are themselves often public rela-
tions counsels, once were counsels, or were trained in related disciplines
like journalism, communications, or public relations (even if they never
worked in PR). Cutlip again comes to mind, as does Miller, but also Lass-
well, L’Etang, Olasky, Center, Broom, Ries, Gower, Mickey, and Hiebert.
Let me be clear: this does not mean that the foregoing authors have not
produced good work or that they have never been critical. However, it
does highlight that a large number of people working on the history of
public relations are working out of public relations and the related dan-
ger of writing from ‘common sense.’ Authors who have been trained in
public relations and have been taught to view it favorably are doubly at
risk of adopting a ‘commonsense’ view of public relations that is blink-
ered. When common sense is the guide, the same problems that befall the
social scientiﬁc literature arise. Insofar as propagandists’ views about the
subject, its governance, or the roles of corporations have become com-
mon sense, then the literature runs the risk of naturalizing those views by
uncritically adopting them.
Of course, not all writing on public relations is sympathetic, uncrit-
ical, and unreﬂective about its methodology or its subject. There is a
strong left-leaning tradition of criticism, which builds on the early work
of progressives like Upton Sinclair and Ida Tarbell. More recently, Noam
Chomsky has brought volumes of criticism from an anarchist perspec-
tive, and Marxian thinkers like Bourdieu, Habermas, Hall, Marcuse,
Horkheimer, and Adorno have worked on propaganda and related
issues. Stuart Ewen’s recent work PR!: A Social History of Spin is less
radical than the preceding authors but is nonetheless situated from a crit-
ical perspective. Of the aforementioned thinkers, Chomsky, Habermas,
Marcuse, and Ewen have most speciﬁcally written at length on the spe-
ciﬁc topic of public relations and propaganda. These authors also look at
subjects as having a ﬁxed and articulable nature but unlike many of the
social scientists and historians, they do not take on the propagandists’
assumptions about the subject its necessary government but formulate
their own counternarratives. This too is problematic for the way that it
masks the changes in subjectivity brought by propagandists by assuming
its nature is ultimately inviolable.
My aim here is not to address these thinkers’ body of thought as a
whole, which is a task that would require its own volume, but instead
just to deal with their methodology vis-à-vis propaganda. Chomsky,
Habermas, and Marcuse all share an assumption about the universality
of the subject with the social scientists discussed earlier, though to differ-
ent effect. In Chomsky’s famous debate with Foucault in 1971, he said:
That is, there are two intellectual tasks: one, and the one that I was
discussing, is to try to create the vision of a future just society; that
is to create, if you like, a humanistic social theory that is based, if
possible, on some ﬁrm and humane concept of the human essence or
At the time Marcuse wrote One-Dimensional Man, he had developed a
notion of the human psyche based on a rewriting of Freud according to
Marxist sensibilities. According to Marcuse, this psychology could be
found in all human societies, though it was differently manifested accord-
ing to the speciﬁc repressions demanded by that society. As a consequence,
Marcuse’s primary critique of propaganda in One-Dimensional Man was
that the human psyche would be better suited to a different and lesser set of
oppressions than it currently encounters in contemporary Western society:
As the liberty to work or to starve, [free enterprise] spelled toil,
insecurity, and fear for the vast majority of the population. [. . .] If
the productive apparatus could be organized and directed towards
the satisfaction of vital needs, its control might well be centralized;
such control would not prevent individual autonomy, but render it
Habermas’s most relevant work on public relations is his 1962 habili-
tation, Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit (“Structural Transformation of
the Public Sphere”). This early work of his is compelling and echoes some
of the themes of my own work: public opinion as a technology of domi-
nation, public relations as a tool to manufacture consent, and advertising
and public relations as technologies to manufacture the public sphere.
Even given this overlap, our primary emphases differ: Habermas reads
the rise of public relations and its ilk as a story about the rise and fall of
reason. For Habermas, the enlightenment drive to democratization meant
the growth of salons and coffeehouses in which rational-critical debate
could thrive and place a check on economic and political forces. In time,
structural and technological changes in society—importantly the rise of a
cheap and prevalent for-proﬁt mass media—undermined those spaces of
reason and replaced them with gibberish in support of an economic and
political elite. I would not deny that all of that is true in its outlines, but
I think the emphasis on the story of reason is misplaced in his account.
For Habermas, subjects have remained the same but their social context
has shifted for the worse, drawing out irrational and atomized behavior.
In the end, for all the help and inspiration that Chomsky, Marcuse, and
Habermas have given to my own work, my criticism of them is that they
are too conservative. They are conservative in the sense that they aim to
return to and enhance—thus conserve—what they see as essential human
qualities. They all wish to return to something that has been lost: Chom-
sky wants to end the alienation of production, Marcuse wants to satisfy
“true needs,” and Habermas wants to recover critical-rational subjectiv-
ity.38 These leftists seek to authorize the imposition and enforcement of
a set of social relations premised on the ﬂourishing of the subject’s own
true nature; in other words, these discourses portray the subject’s own
being as calling for the imposition of the particular social and politi-
cal circumstances that they favor and that only they adequately articu-
late. These authors attribute a voice to the nature of the subject that has
the convenient effect of allowing them to disregard the subject’s own
literal voice in favor of the phantasmal and essential one that appears in
their manuscripts. Here Marcuse traps the public in a kind of catch-22
when he states that the public must and can have the ﬁnal say over their
needs but can only have that say when they are “free” (in other words,
when they agree with his understanding of what a human should want
by nature): “In the last analysis, the question of what are true and false
needs must be answered by the individuals themselves but only in the last
analysis; that is, if and when they are free to give their own answer.”39
The voice of human nature is created in these works through the guise
of social sciences and, although the works’ stated intention is to oppose
oppression, they too silence these abject populations through assuming
that only they, and not the subjects themselves, can speak their true wants
In one important way, the leftists are much less democratic and egali-
tarian than even the propagandists and public relations counsels: it is
more common to see the public relations counsels question the ethics
of proceeding to impose their social-political vision on the public than
it is to see Chomsky, Marcuse, or Habermas engaging in such moments
of self-doubt and questioning. It can be hard for do-gooders to see their
image of the good as an alien imposition that is controlling, dominating,
and excising of the autonomy of those they claim to speak for. Foucault
criticizes Chomsky on similar grounds when he strives to get Chomsky to
see that his proposals for proletarian revolution will not achieve an ideal
justice but simply a different justice, a shift in power relations: “That is
the justiﬁcation, but one doesn’t speak in terms of justice but in terms
of power.”40 What is amazing about the debate is Chomsky’s seeming
inability to recognize the possibility of Foucault’s point. Chomsky never
openly grapples with the question of whether or not the ideals that he
constructs are really justiﬁed by an “essential nature” or are instead
just the imposition of his own ideals, no matter how well-meaning. His
assumptions about the justice and accuracy of his claims do not push him
to consider what might be the consequences of his ideas if in fact they are
not demanded by human nature but instead are his own invention.
I am concerned about the tyranny implicit in these works that results
from the way they deploy human nature as an authorization for a politi-
cal regime. But in respect to propaganda, I am also worried that they
fail to see some of the changes propaganda has wrought because they
assumed that such changes are impossible. In other words, their prob-
lematic position can be stated thusly: since the nature of the subject is
ﬁxed in the ways that they describe in their texts, then there can be no
worry of the nature of the subject being changed by propaganda; thus, it
is unnecessary, in theory and in practice, to grapple with propagandists
efforts to change the nature of the subject. This position is especially hard
to maintain in reference to propaganda, not just because of their frequent
discussions of transforming and shaping basic elements of human nature
but also because the historical record is rife with tremendous changes
in the public. It is astounding to see the transformation of small farm-
ers into laborers, consumers, and pro-corporate/pro-war voters in the
United States in a relatively short period following the Civil War and into
the new century. My own reaction verged on incredulity on ﬁnding out
that in 1850, 95% of the goods the average American used were self-
manufactured and 5% purchased, but by 1950 the equation was more
than reversed. It forces one not just to ask how human beings changed
over that period of time but also how they might yet change. What else
might we have become other than consumers? More importantly, what
might we be yet? In place of a discourse that is blinkered to the past
changes wrought in human nature and how it might yet be changed,
this work takes the constitution of the subjectivity of the publics to be a
historical question that can only be answered in reference to the archives
rather than a theory of the subject and whose future contains a multitude
of possibilities and no single ideal answer. I write this work on the gene-
alogy of the publics to reveal its contingent formation and to open the
possibilities offered by the future. In other words, this text is performa-
tively democratic insofar as it seeks to cast doubt on the naturalization of
domination and make available different vectors of analysis and action
on the creation of subjects and the relations of power and knowledge in
which they are enmeshed today.
This democratic solution has to be differentiated from the one Stuart
Ewen offers in his book PR!: A Social History of Spin, in that my aim
is not to restore a situation that was once present but is now lost. In
PR! Ewen essentially wants to walk democracy backwards, rolling back
the inroads that corporate power and public relations have made into
democratic life and returning to an ideal of Jeffersonian democracy.41 His
book reads as the story of the erosion of the democracy that was, with
the exception that the New Deal slowed this tide and even temporarily
pressed democracy forward. Even though the New Deal made headway,
it was not so much by producing a new form of democracy but by extend-
ing Jeffersonian principles: ‘“To ensure this ﬂow [of communication]’ and
to further his commitment to ‘Jeffersonian’ principles, Roosevelt would
promote the federal government not merely as an instrument of ‘directive
intelligence,’” but as a “clearing house for the exchange of information
and ideas, of facts and ideals, affecting the general welfare.”42 For Ewen,
FDR was the return of what was in the process of being lost. In the
end, even the Jeffersonian New Deal was overwhelmed by the “Hamil-
tonians,” the corporate “engineers of consent.”43 In time, the New Deal
became just another healthy piece of democracy eroded by corporate/PR
inﬂuence that needs to be restored: “For this situation to change, the pub-
lic sphere—currently dominated by corporate interests and consciously
managed by public relations professions—must revert to the people.”44
The aim of this text is not to reclaim the truth of the human essence
so that an ideal political regime can be constructed or recovered. Its aim
is to write a genealogy of propaganda so that we may better see just
how contingent and fragile our present is. Propaganda has spent over
a century at the hands of elites, mostly corporations, aiming to recon-
stitute mass subjectivity and public conduct through a new kind of pri-
vate government; this has been done so effectively that it may be hard
to see at present just how much of public life is both pernicious and
contingent. Hopefully, by mapping these contingent lines of force we
can better see their effects and also how they might be resisted. Previ-
ous literature on propaganda has many things to recommend it, and this
work is indebted to it. Nonetheless, that critical literature is not able
to see the depth, audacity, and import of the change propaganda was
proposing because it wanted to hold out the endurance of the past so
that it might be recovered in the present. In contrast, I aim to chart how
propaganda has framed and sought to govern public subjectivity without
making the assumption that the nature of the subject is ﬁxed and mak-
ing the claim that either the propagandists have gotten it right or gotten
it wrong. Instead, this text looks empirically and genealogically at how
propaganda emerged within a speciﬁc context and how its relations of
subjectivity, knowledge, and power were both produced and productive
of its context. This genealogical approach has the advantage of not hav-
ing to stand against the evidence of the archives; it makes sense of the
historically different articulations of power, knowledge, and subjectivity
that occurred before propaganda and the twentieth century, the break
that propaganda brought to those relations, and the eventual spread and
even hegemony of the relations of power, knowledge, and subjectivity of
In sum, this text is a genealogical analysis of the emergence of appa-
ratuses of propaganda through the archives. By ‘apparatus’ (dispositif ),
I follow Foucault’s usage, which is to use the term to frame an analysis
rather than to stipulate a deﬁnition. In other words, to look at something
as an apparatus is to approach it as a number of parts whose contingent
relationships with each other form the contingent being of the apparatus.
Foucault studies the relations between the different parts of an apparatus
as driven by an “urgent need” or problem that organizes his response:
What I’m trying to pick out with this term is, ﬁrstly, a thoroughly
heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, archi-
tectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative meas-
ures, scientiﬁc statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic
propositions—in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the
elements of the apparatus. The apparatus itself is the system of rela-
tions that can be established between these elements. Secondly, what
I am trying to identify in this apparatus is precisely the nature of
the connection that can exist between these heterogeneous elements.
[. . .] Thirdly, I understand by the term “apparatus” a sort of—shall
we say—formation which has as its major function at a given histori-
cal moment that of responding to an urgent need.45
To study propaganda as an apparatus means to search for the parts that
compose it and to analyze their relationship as a response to an “urgent
need.” One of the most interesting parts of propaganda is how, in respond-
ing to the needs of business, especially the needs of the new corporations,
it sought to meet that need and transform it. The birth of propaganda
is also the story of the birth of the modern corporation and its publics.
Propaganda became a vector for the induction of government into the
corporation and the transformation of its relationship to its publics.
Generally, my work should only be construed to be making a claim
about the propagandists’ archives. Dealing with the wide variety of
archival texts (for publication, to clients, for internal training, in private
discussion with other PR counsels, etc.) offers more than enough for a
single volume. If I were to take on further domains of analysis, it would
almost certainly have to be in another volume besides this one. The kind
of statistics that many would want to see accompany this analysis of
propaganda—for instance, statistical analysis about changes in consump-
tion habits—are neither available now nor will they ever be in the future.
Why? The American Statistical Association was formed in 1839 in Bos-
ton, but zero professional statisticians were being trained in the United
States until the 1870s. Even in 1870, there were still no master’s degrees
and PhDs offered in the United States. It took a signiﬁcant amount of
time for enough advanced practitioners to be educated and then directed
to the study of business for any useful statistical information to be pro-
duced. In the United States, business statistics were not widely collected
until the Hoover administration of 1929–1933. After this move by the
Hoover administration, there was an additional lag until the private
sector began to make extensive use of the statistics and keep their own
detailed statistical information.46 In sum, the data with which one could
use to make ﬁne-grained statistical analyses about the effects of propa-
ganda do not exist in the time frame I am examining. What remains
outside of the possibility of these statistical analyses is exactly the kind of
archival analysis that I am doing here.
In terms of resisting propaganda, successful displacements of propa-
ganda will have to take seriously that propaganda is not primarily an
epistemological apparatus but one of government and subjectiﬁcation.
Resisting propaganda is not so much a task of liberation from various
kinds of falsehood, as if underneath all the lies remained an untouched,
happy, and ﬂourishing being, waiting to be set free by the truth. Propa-
ganda has created contemporary subjects—the publics—to be willing
and cooperative agents in producing corporate proﬁt and hegemony. If
we want the kind of subjects that will produce new and more demo-
cratic relations of power and knowledge, they will have to be created in
response to the disposition of contemporary relations.
1. Raymond C. Mayer, How to Do Publicity (New York: Harper, 1933), 8.
2. Ivy L. Lee, Publicity: Some of the Things It Is and Is Not (New York: Indus-
tries, 1925), 22–23.
3. R. H. Wilder and K. L. Buell, Publicity: A Manual for the Use of Business,
Civic, or Social Service Organizations (New York: Ronald Press, 1923), 4,
14; Glenn C. Quiett and Ralph D. Casey, Principles of Publicity (New York:
D. Appleton, 1926), V; Address to the New York Company of AT&T “Talk
on Public Relations” by Arthur Page, March 28, 1932, Volume 5, Pg. 2,
Arthur Page Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society; Self Published Promo-
tional Newsletter “The Publicist” volume 1 by John Price Jones, Decem-
ber 1929, Box 2, Pg. 3, John Price Jones Company Collection, Baker Library,
Harvard Business School. For further discussion of the term “propaganda”
as a name for their ﬁeld, please see Wilder and Buell, Publicity, 4, 10, 14;
Lee, Publicity, 22; H. A. Bruno and R. R. Blythe, The Modern Torchbearers
(New York: Bruno, Blythe and Associates, 1928), 2–3; Roger William Riis
and Charles W. Bonner, Publicity: A Study of the Development of Indus-
trial News (New York: J. H. Sears, 1926), 143–144; John Price Jones, At the
Bar of Public Opinion: A Brief for Public Relations (New York: Inter-River
Press, 1939), xiii–xiv; H. S. McCauley, Getting Your Name in Print (New
York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922), v–vi; Edward Bernays, Crystallizing Public
Opinion (Brooklyn: Ig, 1923), 50; Talk before Annual Meeting of Ofﬁce
Equipment Manufacturers Institute “Industry’s Job in Public Relations,”
John W. Hill, Toronto, June 17, 1938, Box 39, Pg. 7, John W. Hill Papers,
Wisconsin Historical Society.
4. Edward Bernays, interview, in Century of the Self, directed by Adam Curtis
(London: BBC, 2002), DVD.
5. Paul Holmes et al. and the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations,
“The Holmes Report,” document, posted 2016, accessed September 9,
6. Alan R. Raucher, Public Relations and Business, 1900–1929 (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Press, 1968), 115–116.
7. Scott Cutlip, “The Nation’s First Public Relations Firm,” Journalism and
Mass Communication Quarterly 43, no. 2 (1966): 269–280.
8. Riis and Bonner, Publicity, 6.
9. Jaap van Ginneken, Crowds, Psychology, and Politics: 1871–1899 (Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 163–164.
10. Draft of an unpublished autobiography, William H. Baldwin, 1/22/63, reel
10, Pg. 28, William H. Baldwin Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
11. Transcript of the ﬁfth radio talk titled “The Mainspring of Business Activ-
ity” from the “New Business World” series, conducted by Merle Thorpe
with Bruce Barton guest, November 30, 1929, Box 135, Pg. 18, Bruce Bar-
ton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
12. Lee, Publicity, 48.
13. Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: H. Liveright, 1928), 63.
14. Article “Truths from Business” appearing in The Forum by Theodore Vail,
November 1917, Box 1, Pgs. 619–620, Theodore Vail Papers, Wisconsin
15. Bernays, Propaganda, 63. Emphasis mine.
16. Brewster and Palmer’s book is an early textbook that combines public rela-
tions and advertising into one text. Early university textbooks often com-
bined public relations with either advertising or journalism. Arthur Brewster
and Herbert Palmer, Introduction to Advertising (New York: McGraw-Hill,
1924), 78, 97.
17. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings
1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), 98.
18. Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” Critical Inquiry 8, no. 4 (1982): 777.
19. Ibid., 777.
20. Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de
France, 1975–1976, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 15.
21. Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” 789.
22. Ibid., 789–790.
23. Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de
France, 1977–1978, trans. Graham Burchill (New York: Palgrave Macmil-
lan, 2007), 112.
24. Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” 790.
25. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 68, 82.
26. Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1968), 31, 80.
27. Garth S. Jowett, “Brainwashing: The Korean POW Controversy and the
Origins of a Myth,” in Readings in Propaganda and Persuasion: New Clas-
sic Essays, ed. Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell (Thousand Oaks:
Sage, 2006), 210–211.
28. Harold D. Lasswell, Propaganda Technique in World War I (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 1971), 13.
29. Ibid., 12.
30. Merriam Webster, “Stupid,” accessed August 9, 2018, www.merriam-web
31. Ellul, Propaganda, 84.
32. Lee, Publicity, 47; Bernays, Propaganda, 10–11, 20; Wilder and Buell, Pub-
33. Letter from Frances Purdy Wright to Scott Cutlip, September 1, 1986,
Box 13, “Hamilton Wright” folder, Scott Cutlip Papers, Wisconsin Histori-
34. Scott Cutlip, The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History (Hillsdale:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), ix.
35. Lee, Publicity, 19–22.
36. Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate on
Human Nature (New York: New Press, 2006), 41.
37. Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of
Advanced Industrial Capital (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964), 2.
38. Ibid., 4–5.
39. Ibid., 6.
40. Chomsky and Foucault, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate, 54.
41. Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996),
80, 121, 125, 126–127, 145, 146–147, 150, 154, 172–173, 241–242, 397,
410, 411, 414.
42. Ibid., 242.
43. Ibid., 241, 414.
44. Ibid., 411. Emphasis mine.
45. Foucault, Power/Knowledge, 194–195.
46. Matthew Hannah, Governmentality and the Mastery of Territory in Nineteenth-
Century America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 71.
1. George Creel, How We Advertised America: The First Telling of the Amaz-
ing Story of the Committee on Public Information That Carried the Gospel
of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe (New York: Harper, 1920), 5.
2. Cutlip, “The Nation’s First Public Relations Firm,” 269–280.
3. Raucher, Public Relations and Business, 1900–1929, 65–74.
4. Creel, How We Advertised America, 4–5.
5. Ibid., 4.
6. Ibid., 17.
7. Ibid., 3–5.
8. Bruno and Blythe, The Modern Torchbearers, 2.
9. Edward Bernays, interview, in Century of the Self, directed by Adam Curtis
(London: BBC, 2002), DVD.
10. Bruno and Blythe, The Modern Torchbearers, 2–3; Bernays, Propaganda,
27–28; Wilder and Buell, Publicity, 11, 30; Riis and Bonner, Publicity,
11. Ivy Lee, Human Nature and the Railroads (Philadelphia: E. S. Nash, 1915), 8.
12. John Whiteclay Chambers II, The Tyranny of Change: America in the Progres-
sive Era, 1890–1920 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 25.
13. William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New
American Culture (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 8.
14. Katherine H. Adams, Progressive Politics and the Training of America’s Per-
suaders (New York: Routledge, 2009), 25.
15. Chambers, Tyranny of Change, 55.
16. Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in
the Gilded Age (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 79–91.
17. Wilder and Buell, Publicity, 22.
18. Lee, Publicity, 44.
19. Special talk at the AT&T Commercial Conference by A. W. Page, June 1927,
Volume 5, Arthur Page Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
20. Raucher, Public Relations and Business, 67.
21. David Ames Wells, Recent Economic Changes and Their Effect on the Pro-
duction and Distribution of Wealth and the Well-Being of Society (New
York: Dr. Appleton, 1898), 25–26.
22. Bernays, Propaganda, 63. Emphasis mine.
23. McCauley, Getting Your Name in Print, v.
24. Riis and Bonner, Publicity, 6.
25. Ibid., 121.
26. Ibid., 143.
27. Tarde and crowd psychology will be discussed in detail in Chapter 3. Lee,
Human Nature and the Railroads, 22–23.
28. Bruce Baldwin, The Shopping Book (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1928), 1–2.
29. Ibid., 3.
30. Ibid., 2.
31. Matter sent out from Ivy L. Lee to Armour and Company, March 29,
1926, Ivy Ledbetter Lee Papers, Box 40, Folder 7–9, Public Policy Papers,
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University
32. Hayes Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading (New York: General, 1927), 1–3.
33. Ibid., x.
34. Hannah, Governmentality and the Mastery of Territory, 85–93; Roland
Marchand, Creating the Corporate Soul: The Rise of Public Relations and
Corporate Imagery in American Big Business (Berkeley: University of Cali-
fornia Press, 1998), 44–47.
35. Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading, 140.
36. Marchand, Creating the Corporate Soul, 14; Leach, Land of Desire, 118–119.
37. Marchand, Creating the Corporate Soul, 116.
38. Another excellent example of the manipulation of the public/private distinc-
tion can be found in Ewen’s and Marchand’s account of American Telephone
and Telegraph’s PR campaigns. AT&T’s PR campaign would also work well
as an example here, but the account is involved enough that it would over-
take the chapter to recount. See Marchand, Creating the Corporate Soul,
48–87; Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin, 85–101.
39. Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading, 1–3.
40. Address to the National Association of Manufacturers titled “Where We Are
Headed in Public Relations by John W. Hill, June 3, 1943, Box 39, John W.
Hill Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
42. Lee, Human Nature and the Railroads, 18–19.
43. Upton Sinclair, The Brass Check (Pasadena: Upton Sinclair, 1919), 313.
44. Hannah, Governmentality and the Mastery of Territory, 87.
45. Marchand, Creating the Corporate Soul, 44.
46. Ibid., 44–45.
47. Ibid., 128–129.
48. Ibid., 128.
49. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 82.
50. Lee, Publicity, 44.
51. Raucher, Public Relations and Business, 101.
52. Ivy L. Lee as quoted in Ray Heibert, Courtier to the Crowd: The Life Story
of Ivy Lee (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1966), 167.
53. “About API,” American Petroleum Institute, accessed January 9, 2018,
54. The Ivy L. Lee papers contain thousands of examples and well over 100 fold-
ers of material on his work building, developing, and propagating associa-
tions. For a few examples see: Matter Sent Out from Ivy L. Lee, Ivy Ledbetter
Lee Papers, Box 32, Folder 5–7; Box 33, Folder 5–7, 11; Box 27, Folders 24,
25, 28, 34; Box 28, Folder 7, 14, Public Policy Papers, Department of Rare
Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
55. Eric F. Goldman, Two-Way Street: The Emergence of the Public Relations
Counsel (Boston: Bellman, 1948).
56. Creel, How We Advertised America, 5.
57. Ibid., 5.
58. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 148–149.
59. Creel, How We Advertised America, 184.
60. The issue of the overlapping nature of relationships of subjectiﬁcation will
be discussed further in Chapter 5.
61. Stanley Kelley Jr., Professional Public Relations and Political Power (Balti-
more: Johns Hopkins Press, 1956), 32.
62. Lee, Publicity, 60.
63. Bernays, Propaganda, 96–97.
64. Ibid., 65.
65. Unpublished manuscript “The Twisting Trail” by James D. Ellsworth,
December 1936, Box 5, Pgs. 65–66, Scott Cutlip papers, Wisconsin Histori-
66. Document titled “The Bell System” by James D. Ellsworth, Box 5, Pg. 1,
Scott Cutlip papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
67. Article “Truths from Business” appearing in The Forum by Theodore Vail,
November 1917, Box 1, Theodore Vail Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
68. Untitled and unpublished manuscript by Arthur Page, undated (approx.
1927), Box 62, “Writings” folder, Pg. 36, Arthur Page Papers, Wisconsin
69. McCauley, Getting Your Name in Print, v.
70. Curtis, Century of the Self.
71. Calvin Coolidge, “Address Before the American Association of Advertising
Agencies, Washington, D.C., October 27, 1926,” The American Presidency
Project, accessed August 1, 2016, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=412.
72. Allan Brandt, The Cigarette Century (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 84–85.
73. Leach, Land of Desire, 42.
74. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 2014), 236.
75. Michel Foucault, Dits et ècrits IV (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), 237.
76. Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg, “The Aesthetic and Ascetic Dimen-
sions of an Ethics of Self-Fashioning: Nietzsche and Foucault,” Parrhesia
2 (2007): 44–65. I also have sympathy for Harrer’s view that subjectiﬁca-
tion and subjectivation are closely related in Foucault’s own writing and no
absolute distinction is possible. I follow Milchman and Rosenberg because
the distinction they argue for between the terms mirrors one I want to make
in this text. See Sebastian Harrer, “The Theme of Subjectivity in Foucault’s
Lecture Series ‘Herméneutique du Sujet’,” Foucault Studies 2 (2007): 75–96.
77. Mayer, How to Do Publicity, 1.
78. Quiett and Casey, Principles of Publicity; Lee, Human Nature and the Rail-
roads, 16; Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 152–153.
79. Bernays, Propaganda, 10, 19, 27, 37; Barton, “The Mainspring of Business
Activity,” 18; Quiett and Casey, Principles of Publicity, 1.
80. Jones, At the Bar, 32–33.
81. Ellul, Propaganda, 25.
1. Prepared remarks delivered at the AT&T General Sales Conference by
Arthur Page, January/February 1927, Volume 5, Arthur Page Papers, Wis-
consin Historical Society.
2. Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” 777.
3. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1994), 271.
4. Ibid., 169.
5. Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading, 1.
6. Lee, Publicity, 61.
7. Ibid., 58–59.
8. For more information about the charge that corporations were soulless and
the response to this charge by corporations, see Marchand, Creating the
Corporate Soul, 1–5.
9. Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading, viii–ix.
10. For a more extensive consideration of this topic in political economy, see
Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France,
1978–1979, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
11. Adam Smith, An Inquiry in the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,
ed. R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 25.
12. Ibid., 456.
13. Lee, Human Nature and the Railroads, 107.
14. Bernays, Propaganda, 51–52.
15. Bruno and Blythe, The Modern Torchbearers, chapter 3.
16. Lee, Publicity, 56, 47.
17. Lee, Human Nature and the Railroads, 8, 12.
18. Talk before Annual Meeting of Ofﬁce Equipment Manufacturers Institute
“Industry’s Job in Public Relations,” John W. Hill, Toronto, June 17, 1938,
Box 39, Pg. 7, John W. Hill Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
19. Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading, ix. For a similar perspective from
another author, see S. M. Kennedy, Winning the Public (New York: McGraw
Hill, 1921), 126–133.
20. Kennedy, Winning the Public, 127 (emphasis added).
21. Bernays, Propaganda, 11, 14.
22. Ibid., 104.
23. Wilder and Buell, Publicity, 6.
24. Lee, Publicity, 38.
25. Bernays, Propaganda, 9–10.
26. Ibid., 9, 35.
27. Raucher, Public Relations and Business, 125.
28. Van Ginneken, Crowds, Psychology, and Politics, 161, 186–187.
29. Adams, Progressive Politics, 142.
30. Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1922),
31. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy (New York: Rout-
ledge, 1994), 256–257; Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Aspects
of Sociology (London: Heinemann Educational, 1973), 75–87.
32. Eugene E. Leach, “Mental Epidemics: Crowd Psychology and American
Culture, 1890–1940,” American Studies 33, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 25–26.
33. Raucher, Public Relations and Business, 30, 117, 131–135.
34. Ibid., 128.
35. Cutlip, The Unseen Power, 13.
36. Excerpts from the Memoirs of James D. Ellsworth, undated, Box 5, James D.
Ellsworth folder, Pg. 56, Scott Cutlip Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
37. Riis and Bonner, Publicity, 78.
38. Ibid., 146.
39. Cutlip, The Unseen Power, 308.
40. University of Wisconsin Class Notes, William H. Baldwin, 1912–1913,
Micro 809, Reel 1, William H. Baldwin Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
41. Speech to Newspaper Publishers, June 16, 1931, Box 135, Folder Speeches
1930–1931, Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
42. Article “Getting Your Second Wind in Business” published in American
Magazine under the pseudonym Joseph French Johnson, Bruce Barton,
May 1920, Box 125, Folder American Magazine, Bruce Barton Papers, Wis-
consin Historical Society.
43. Person Correspondence from Bruce Barton to Walter Lippmann, Bruce Bar-
ton, 12/31/31 and 11/13/33, Box 39, Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin His-
44. For an example of how Le Bon and McDougall’s ideas about how demo-
cratic publics should be engaged in complicated issues informs Barton’s eve-
ryday work see: Letter to the Editor of the Rochester Times Union, “Urges
Advertising to Promote Peace,” Bruce Barton, February 12, 1929, Box 131,
Folder Printer’s Ink, Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
45. Draft article submitted to the New York Herald Tribune, Bruce Barton,
June 1933, Box 131, Folder New York Herald Tribune, Bruce Barton Papers,
Wisconsin Historical Society.
46. Roy L. Smith, Capturing Crowds (New York: Abingdon Press, 1923), 72, 76.
47. Ibid., 56, 72–73.
48. Ibid., 68.
49. Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (London: Benn,
50. Smith, Capturing Crowds, 145.
51. Ibid., 16.
52. Ibid., 93.
53. Irving Squire, Informing Your Public (New York: Association Press, 1924), 5.
54. Abram Lipsky, Man the Puppet: The Art of Controlling Minds (New York:
Frank-Maurice, 1925), 11.
55. Mary Swain Routzahn, Traveling Publicity Campaigns (New York: Russell
Sage Foundation, 1920), 106.
56. Herbert Heebner Smith, Publicity and Progress (New York: Hodder &
Stoughton, 1915), v.
57. Ibid., 37–38.
58. Address before National Association of Manufacturers “Organizing for
Public Relations,” John W. Hill, November 30, 1942, Box 39, Pg. 9, Bruce
Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
59. Chapter draft “Some Deﬁnitions of “The Public Interest” Have Been
Attempted,” John W. Hill, Box 41, Folder Anniversary Book, Pgs. 9–10, Bruce
Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
60. Adams, Progressive Politics, 84.
61. Alfred McClung Lee, “Trends in Public Relations Training,” Public Opinion
Quarterly 11, no. 1 (Spring 1947): 83–91.
62. For a booklist from course offered at New York University by William H.
Baldwin see: New York University Lecture Notes 1950–1951, First Lecture,
Micro 809, Reel 8, William H. Baldwin Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
63. Gardner Edward Hall, Effective Business Letters (New York: Ronald Press,
64. Lyle M. Spencer, Editorial Writing (New York: Houghton Mifﬂin, 1924), 205.
1. Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1995), 58.
2. Ibid., 56.
3. Ibid., 24.
4. Tönnies read and annotated Ferguson’s Essays at least twice in 1880 and
1885. Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Civil Society (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 2001), 64.
5. Ibid., 22.
6. Ibid., 52.
7. Ibid., 57.
8. Ibid., 83.
9. Ibid., 53.
10. Bernays, Propaganda, 92.
11. Tönnies, Community and Civil Society, 175.
12. Ibid., 175.
13. Although some may not consider Lippmann a crowd psychologist and more
of a popular author because he lacks a PhD and university appointment,
his books Public Opinion and The Phantom Public were tremendously
inﬂuential and dealt with all the key elements of crowd psychology. In this
respect, Lippmann can be likened to Le Bon, who similarly lacked a univer-
sity appointment and its professional credentials but nonetheless produced
tremendously popular and inﬂuential work.
14. Van Ginneken, Crowds, Psychology, and Politics, 133.
15. Le Bon, The Crowd, 1.
16. Ibid., 12.
17. Ibid., 3.
18. Ibid., 19.
19. Ibid., 55.
20. Ibid., 11.
21. Ibid., 5.
22. William McDougall, The Group Mind (New York: Putnam, 1920), 64.
23. William Conway, The Crowd in Peace and War (New York: Longmans,
24. Ibid., 106.
25. Ibid., 73–74.
26. Ibid., 106.
27. Gabriel Tarde, “On Communication,” in Gabriel Tarde On Communication
and Social Inﬂuence, ed. Terry Clark (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
28. Van Ginneken, Crowds, Psychology, and Politics.
29. Tarde, On Communication, 278.
30. Adams, Progressive Politics, 102.
31. Tarde, On Communication, 281.
1. Bernays, Propaganda, 159.
2. Address to AT&T General Operating Conference “What Publicity and
Advertising Can Do to Help Operation,” Arthur Page, May 1927, Articles
and Addresses 1927–1956, Volume 5, Arthur Page Papers, Wisconsin His-
3. Transcript of radio talk hosted by Merle Thorpe “The New Business World”
featuring Bruce Barton, November 30, 1929 Box 135, Folder Speeches 1929,
Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
4. Transcript of a Discussion amongst Propagandists “An Informal Talk with
Some Old Friends,” William H. Baldwin, 1935, Reel 7, Image 862, William
H. Baldwin Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society. See also Wilder and Buell,
5. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 137–138. See also Kennedy, Winning
the Public, 82–83.
6. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 150.
7. Bernays, Propaganda, 41.
8. Unpublished manuscript “The History of Fundraising,” John Price Jones,
August 1930, Box BC-2, Volume 2, Pg. 13, John Price Jones Company Col-
lection, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
9. McDougall, “The Group Mind,” 57–58.
10. Bernays, Propaganda, 50. See also: Lee, Human Nature and the Railroads,
14; Quiett and Casey, Publicity, 367; Smith, Capturing Crowds, 68; and
Address delivered to the John Price Jones Staff Conference “Philanthropy
and the Mass Mind,” Eugene L. Belisle, March 3, 1933, Box BF-10, Folder
1933 Annual Staff Conference, John Price Jones Company Collection, Baker
Library, Harvard Business School.
11. Magazine article “Let’s Advertise This Hell!” published in The American
Magazine, Bruce Barton, May 1932, Box 131, Folder American Magazine,
Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
12. Address to AT&T General Operating Conference “What Publicity and
Advertising Can Do to Help Operation,” Arthur Page, May 1927, Articles
and Addresses 1927–1956, Volume 5, Arthur Page Papers, Wisconsin His-
13. See Lippmann, Public Opinion, 165.
14. Bruno and Blythe, The Modern Torchbearers, chapter IV.
15. See Lee, Publicity, 47 and Bernays, Propaganda, 92.
16. Le Bon, The Crowd, 63.
17. Address to AT&T Trafﬁc Conference, Arthur Page, November 11, 1927,
Articles and Addresses 1927–1956, Volume 5, Arthur Page Papers, Wiscon-
sin Historical Society.
18. “Mr. Page’s Address to the Bell Telephone Laboratories,” Arthur Page,
June 15, 1929, Articles and Addresses 1927–1956, Volume 5, Arthur Page
Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
19. Thomas F. Woodlock, “The Children of Marxism,” in Thinking It Over
(New York: McMullen, 1947), 52.
20. Bernays, Propaganda, 11–12.
21. Ibid., 19.
22. See Transcript of radio talk hosted by Merle Thorpe “The New Business
World” featuring Bruce Barton, November 30, 1929 Box 135, Folder
Speeches 1929, Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
23. Cutlip, The Unseen Power, 102–103.
24. Le Bon, The Crowd, 67.
25. Ibid., 55.
27. Unpublished article “A Statement About Public Relations and Its Practition-
ers,” Pendleton Dudley, June 15, 1965, Box 5, Folder Dudley-Anderson-
Yutzy, Pg. 2, Scott Cutlip Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society. See also
Kennedy, Winning the Public, 22; Lipsky, Man the Puppet, 33; Lee, Human
Nature and the Railroads, 15, 18; Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion,
28. Le Bon, The Crowd, 67. See also Lippmann, Public Opinion, 89.
29. John Price Jones, Principles of Successful Fundraising (New York: John Price
Jones, 1936), 38. See also, Speech at the National Manufacturers Association
“The Public,” Bruce Barton, December 4, 1935, Box 136, Folder Speeches
1934–1935, Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society and Ivy L.
Lee, Publicity Methods for Engineers (Chicago: Hammond Press, 1922), 174.
30. Le Bon, The Crowd, 67.
31. Ibid., 67.
32. Ibid., 69.
33. Ibid., 56.
34. Ibid., 64.
35. Quiett and Casey, Publicity, 363.
36. Wilder and Buell, Publicity, 222. See also, Jones, At the Bar of Public Opin-
ion, 69, and Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 92. Note here that the
usage of a priori in Bernays is close to the way that Foucault will use the term
in The Order of Things 43 years later.
37. Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An
Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger (Boston:
MIT Press, 1991), 42.
38. Immanuel Kant, Towards Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, trans.
Ted Humphrey (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), 135.
39. Jürgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” New Ger-
man Critique 3 (Autumn 1974): 50.
40. Bernays, Propaganda, 34.
41. John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (Athens: Ohio University Press,
42. Ken Kurson, “SHOCKER: US Govt Spent $4.34 Billion on Outside PR in
Last Seven Years,” December 9, 2015, http://observer.com/2015/12/shocker-
1. Michel Foucault, “Polemics, Politics, and Problematizations,” interview by
P. Rabinow, in Essential Works of Foucault, vol. 1 (New York: New Press,
2. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 137.
3. Lee, Human Nature and the Railroads, 95.
4. Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading, vii–viii.
5. Wilder and Buell, Publicity, 3.
6. Mayer, How to Do Publicity, 46.
7. Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty
Years’ Work Among Them (Montclair: Patterson Smith, 1967), 27.
8. Van Ginneken, Crowds, Psychology, and Politics, 29.
9. Unpublished manuscript “The History of Fundraising,” John Price Jones,
August 1930, Box BC-2, Volume 2, Pg. 13, John Price Jones Company Col-
lection, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
10. Jones, At the Bar of Public Opinion, 4.
11. Wilder and Buell, Publicity, 5.
12. Ibid., 6.
13. Ibid., 6.
14. Jones, At the Bar of Public Opinion, 32–33.
15. Bernays, Propaganda, 20.
16. Lee, Human Nature and the Railroads, 8.
17. Ibid., 8.
18. Bruno and Blythe, The Modern Torchbearers, chapter 5, Pg. 2 (unnumbered).
19. Unpublished manuscript “The History of Fundraising,” John Price Jones,
August 1930, Box BC-2, Volume 2, Pg. 80, John Price Jones Company Col-
lection, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
20. Ivy Lee’s Publicity contains a transcript of a question and answer session
with journalists and journalism students. One of the primary points of criti-
cal contention is the co-optation of journalism by propagandists like Lee for
corporate purposes. See Lee, Publicity, 25–43.
21. For a useful cataloging of early tactics of co-optation by early propagandists,
see Creel, How We Advertised America. The text is usefully organized into
chapters devoted to different tactics.
22. Miguel Vatter, “Foucault and Hayek,” in The Government of Life: Foucault,
Biopolitics, and Neoliberalism, ed. Vanessa Lemm and Miguel Vatter (New
York: Fordham University Press, 2014), 171.
23. Creel, How We Advertised America, 17.
24. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy? (New York: Colom-
bia University Press, 2014), 146.
25. Mayer, How to Do Publicity, 10.
26. Kennedy, Winning the Public, 127. See the following address by Arthur Page
for a glimpse into how similar issues were handled at AT&T, Address to
AT&T Public Relations Course “Talk on Public Relations,” Arthur Page,
March 28, 1932, Articles and Addresses 1927–1956, Volume 5, Pgs. 1–2,
Arthur Page Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.
27. Étienne Balibar, “Subjection and Subjectivation,” in Supposing the Subject,
ed. Joan Copjec (New York: Verso, 1996), 9.
1. An earlier and abbreviated version of this chapter was published as “The
Job of Creating Desire: Propaganda as an Apparatus of Government and
Subjectiﬁcation,” The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 31, no. 1 (2017):
101–118. This article is used by permission of The Pennsylvania State Uni-
Jones, At the Bar of Public Opinion, 29–30.
2. Jones, At the Bar of Public Opinion, 29–30.
3. John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (London: J. M.
Dent, 1961), 297, 300.
4. Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, “Public Opinion and the Classical Tradition:
A Re-Evaluation,” Public Opinion Quarterly 43, no. 2 (Summer 1979): 143–156.
5. David Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, vol. I (London: Long-
mans, Green, 1875), 110.
6. Immanuel Kant, “On the Common Saying: ‘This May Be True in Theory, but
It Does Not Apply in Practice’,” in Kant: Political Writings, ed. H. S. Reiss
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 84–85.
7. Upton Sinclair, “Poison Ivy,” in The Brass Check (New York: Arno and New
York Times, 1970), 311.
8. Jason Stanley, How Propaganda Works (New Haven: Yale University Press,
9. Ibid., 291.
10. Arnold Farr, “Herbert Marcuse,” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
December 18, 2013, accessed August 1, 2016, http://plato.stanford.edu/
11. Karl Marx, “The German Ideology: Part I,” in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed.
Robert C. Tucker (London: W. W. Norton, 1978), 173.
12. Karl Marx, “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,” in The Marx-
Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (London: W. W. Norton, 1978), 117.
13. Marcuse, One Dimensional Man, 4, 32.
14. Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 118.
16. Ibid., 95.
17. Ibid., 126.
18. Nick Crossley, “On Systematically Distorted Communication: Bourdieu and
the Socio-Analysis of Publics,” Sociological Review 52 (2004): 88–112.
19. Pierre Bourdieu, “Public Opinion Does Not Exist,” in Sociology in Question
(London: Sage, 1993), 150.
20. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 244.
21. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction (New
York: Vintage Books, 1990), 17.
22. Ibid., 156.
23. Cutlip, The Unseen Power, 178.
24. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, 297.
25. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 99.
26. Ibid., 106.
27. Ibid., 68.
28. Ibid., 82.
29. Ibid., 113.
30. “The History of Fundraising,” August 1930, Box BC, vol. 1, 113–114, John
Price Jones Company Collection, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
31. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 113.
32. Ibid., 152.
33. Cutlip, The Unseen Power, 195–196.
34. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 155.
35. Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, 7, 241.
36. Ibid., 6.
37. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 171.
38. Ibid., 106.
39. Ibid., 156.
1. Virginia Woolf, Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown (London: Hogarth Press, 1924).
2. US Department of Health and Human Services, Reducing Tobacco Use:
A Report of the Surgeon General (Atlanta: US Department of Health and
Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center
for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Ofﬁce on Smoking
and Health, 2000), 14.
3. Glen M. Broom, Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations, 10th ed.
(Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2009).
4. Ibid., 3.
5. Ibid., 340.
6. Ibid., 337.
7. Henry Ford and Samuel Crowther, My Life and Work (Garden City: Garden
City, 1922), 72.
8. Celia Lury, “Brand as Assemblage,” Journal of Cultural Economy 2, nos.
1–2 (2009): 70.
9. Dave Doherty, “The Era of Micromanufacturing,” Digikey.com, October 16,
2017, accessed July 30, 2019, www.digikey.com/en/blog/micromanufacturing.
10. Lury, “Brand as Assemblage,” 72.
11. Harold Van Doren, Industrial Design: A Practical Guide (New York:
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12. Leach, Land of Desire, 39.
13. Marchand, Creating the Corporate Soul, 36–41.
14. Curtis, Century of the Self.
15. A. Fuat Firat and Nikhilesh Dholakia, “From Consumer to Construer: Trav-
els in Human Subjectivity,” Journal of Consumer Culture 17, no. 3 (2017): 9.
16. Russell W. Belk, “Possessions and the Extended Self,” Journal of Consumer
Research 15, no. 2 (1988): 139–168.
17. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste,
trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 8.
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standing A. Fuat Firat on Consumption, Markets and Culture,” Consump-
tion, Markets and Culture 15, no. 1 (2012): 124.
19. The background of much of the co-optation literature in marketing is prob-
ably the work of Sidney J. Levy. More recent work done more directly on
co-optation has been done by Moor, Firat, Venkatesh, Dholakia and others.
For examples, please see: Elizabeth Moor, “Branded Spaces: The Scope of
‘New Marketing’,” Journal of Consumer Culture 3, no. 39 (2003): 39–60
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Reenchantment of Consumption,” Journal of Consumer Research 22, no. 3
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America (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 235.
21. Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders (New York: Penguin, 1981),
22. Broom, Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations, 270.
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Business Insider, June 2014, accessed July 30, 2019, www.businessinsider.
24. Broom, Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations, 214.
25. For examples of recent ways that new data about publics is being used in
employee morale programs please see the journal Personnel Psychology or
the following article for an overview: Erin White, “How Surveying Workers
Can Pay Off,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2007, B3.
26. Pavel Krapivin, “How Google’s Strategy for Happy Employees Boosts Its
Bottom Line,” Forbes, September 2017, accessed July 30, 2019, www.forbes.
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ber 2012, accessed July 30, 2019, www.careerbliss.com/facts-and-ﬁgures/
28. Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading, 13–30, 54–64.
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30. Robbins, Human Relations in Railroading, IX, 31.
31. For a great description of how public relations and marketing have pen-
etrated the practice of government, please see Liz Moor, The Rise of Brands
(New York: Berg, 2007), 82.
32. Eric Hellweg, “2012: The First Big Data Election,” Harvard Business
Review, November 2012, accessed July 30, 2019, https://hbr.org/2012/11/
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35. Moor, The Rise of Brands, 82.
36. For recent examples of how the mass media have heralded the rise of big
data, please see: Olivia Goldhill, “How Big Data Got So Powerful,” Quartz,
July 2019, accessed July 30, 2019, https://qz.com/1656462/how-companies-
use-big-data-to-proﬁt-from-your-personal-info/; Gil Press, “Big Data Is
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Challenges for Business,” TechRepublic, June 2019, accessed July 30, 2019,
and Louise Matsakis, “Big Data Supercharged Gerrymandering: It Could
Stop It Too,” Wired, June 2019, accessed July 30, 2019, www.wired.com/
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February 2012, accessed July 30, 2019, www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/
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39. Lee, Publicity, 47, and Human Nature and the Railroads, 18.
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atic for Kids?” University of Michigan Health Lab, February 2018, accessed
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43. For a cross section of different approaches to limiting screen time, please
see Klaus Wölﬂing, Kai Müller, et al., “Efﬁcacy of Short-term Treatment
of Internet and Computer Game Addiction: A Randomized Clinical Trial,”
JAMA Psychiatry, July 2019, accessed July 30, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1001/
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screentimenetwork.org; and “Advocating for Kids Wellbeing in the Digital
Age,” Common Sense Media, accessed July 30, 2019, www.commonsense
44. While many thinkers have traversed the argument I gave in brief earlier,
Todd May was one of the earliest to use it in the context of developing politi-
cal goals outside of the priority of the concept of human nature. Please see
Todd May, The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism (State
College: Penn State University Press, 1994).
45. My choice of the smoking cessation movement as a point of reﬂection might
seem odd, when I could have chosen, for instance, the movements against
relations of sex, sexual, or racial subjectiﬁcation. Odd perhaps, but it can be
explained for two reasons. First, these movements against subjectiﬁcation—
against sexist, homophobic, and racist relations of subjectiﬁcation—have
largely targeted the state and social norms rather than corporations. Where a
corporation has been targeted it often has not been the corporation’s propa-
ganda that has been the target but its hiring, promotion, or other practices.
As I will detail in a moment, what is interesting about the smoking cessation
movement from the point of view of this text is that it is aimed primarily
against corporate propaganda and its ability to shape conduct and create
publics (i.e., smokers and tobacco users).
46. US Department of Health and Human Services, Reducing Tobacco Use, 5.
47. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Best Practices for Compre-
hensive Tobacco Control Programs—2014” (Atlanta: U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion,
Ofﬁce on Smoking and Health, 2014), 18–29.
48. Ibid., 7.
49. Ibid., 6, 20.
50. US Department of Health and Human Services, Reducing Tobacco Use, 41.
51. CDC, “Best Practices,” 22.
52. Ibid., 19.
53. Stanley, How Propaganda Works, 80–83.
54. CDC, “Best Practices,” 40–41.
55. Ibid., 7.
56. Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 147–151.
57. CDC, “Best Practices,” 8.
58. The ideas in this last paragraph take their point of departure from Rancière’s
conception of democracy, though it is out of the purview of this book to
elaborate them too greatly here. For more behind my thinking, please see
Jacques Rancière, Hatred of Democracy (New York: Verso, 2014).
59. Lury, “Brand as Assemblage,” 7.
60. I am not arguing that all forms of domination are equally bad—they are not
equivalent. What I am arguing is that seeking to supplant propaganda’s admin-
istration of public subjectivity and conduct with another regime of administra-
tion does not strike at the fact that the administration itself is objectionable.
61. Ibid., 6.