Analyzing Edward L. Bernays' Insights on Manipulation, Power, and Society - Essay Sample

Published: 2024-01-15
Analyzing Edward L. Bernays' Insights on Manipulation, Power, and Society - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Literature Political science Media
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1231 words
11 min read


Edward L. Bernays' influential book, propaganda, written in 1928, incorporates literature from psychosocial manipulation and social science into a detailed public communication technique examination. Propaganda explores using propaganda and symbolic actions to influence politics, lobby for racial and gender quality, and effect social change (Bernays, 2005). Moreover, the book also explores the psychology behind the manipulation of the masses. Therefore, underscore a critical chapter-by-chapter summary of Bernay's book propaganda from chapter 6 propaganda and political leadership to chapter 11, the mechanics of propaganda.

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(Propaganda and Political Leadership)

In this chapter, Bernays opens by addressing the centrality of propaganda in political leadership and portrays it as the solution to the leadership menace that has engrossed the contemporary democratic society. He posits that the dogmatic belief that the people's voice is supreme is the apparent reason for the political sterility in a democratic society. Only a few wise leaders use the instruments of propaganda to make their will and agenda the people's will and agenda via mass media and influential people to be effective leaders (Bernays, p. 92). Bernays posits that propaganda molds an invincible government, where the minority uses the mass media to protect their interests using crafted and carefully planned communication; they mobilize the masses to support their ideas and policies. The use of propaganda is not about pleasing the masses but using the crafted ideas to sway it.

(Women's Activities and Propaganda)

Barneys introduces this chapter by addressing women's efforts and activities in their political leadership, vocational interests, and economic pursuit, which have awarded them a milestone in legal equality with men. Women's most powerful influence and concerted effort are exerted and felt when they are armed and organized with the weapon of propaganda. Women in politics have achieved high position seats in the governments, not on the standpoint of the leadership they acquired but on their influence in organized groups (Bernays, p. 115).

Women in their fight to rise to power have promoted their ideas using the women organization and propaganda to make legislative programs pass to become the law of the land, such as gender and equality rules. Women have achieved this not necessarily by pleading with the public but through the wise use of crafted propaganda to push the ideas of a group of elites in organizations' name.

(Propaganda for Education)

At the beginning of this chapter, Bernays begins by criticizing the education fraternity for failure to secure the public interest, which has made the public not cognizant of the real value that education beholds. The matter has been aggravated by the fact that the educators are only trained to stimulate the thoughts of individuals' students in the classroom but not trained to stimulate the masses' thoughts. He posits that the educators do not need the masses in their immediate scope of their academic duties, but they depend on them for their success, general and moral support.

Therefore, education and educators' devaluation and inferiority are solvable by an awakening realization to academia to stop perceiving themselves just as a mere educator confined by the training and class objective attainments but a propagandist. From a theoretical perspective, educators should not work to please the public but sway it by meeting the conditions of the public mind and, in other words, putting place circumstances that set up thoughts through personalities dramatizing.

(Propaganda in Social Service)

Here, the award-winning author introduced the chapter with a critical emphasis on the importance of public relation council in social service. Following the very nature of social support, it can only continue employing voluntary support from the wealthy; it requires constant use of propaganda. The most significant impediment or hindrance of an attempt to change a men's heart is inertia, which is also a hindrance to civilization.

People's attitudes towards a number of issues such as international politics, social relations, and economics go beyond a mere attitude and strengthen under the force of tradition. Therefore, propaganda in social service is primarily a struggle to direct an active public opinion consciously against the pre-existing acceptance of public ideas in a movement against inertia. Like propaganda in various sectors, publicity and selling ideas to the target group are fundamental and paramount. He asserts that social service is identical to propaganda in vary in many cases (Bernays, p. 139). Furthermore, social services, even those that are administrative and governmental rather than spontaneous and charitable, typically depend on wise propaganda.

(Art and Science)

In the first paragraph of this chapter, the author centralizes propaganda's importance in the public receivership and appreciation of various artwork. The creation of a public acceptance is fundamental in the event that an art gallery intends to launch as a canvas of an artist. Mass production often reaches a state of stagnation or impulse when it competes on price only rather than competition based on aesthetic values. Hence, propaganda in commercial and applied art is vital in making more opportunities that are significant for individual artists fantastically. In the field of art and science, propaganda has the power to determine what is beautiful and what is not beautiful; thus, the artist is obliged to collaborate with industries to increase the public taste of their products (Bernays, p. 142).

(The Mechanics of Propaganda)

In this closing chapter, the author begins with an explicit explanation of the meaning and media channels of propaganda. He defines propaganda as a means of the establishment of reciprocal understanding between a group and an individual. All the media though which special pleaders utilize to disseminate propaganda include all the means through which people transmit their ideas to one another in contemporary society.

Notably, propagandists need to adapt to the sporadic in the value of various instruments of propaganda. For instance, fifty years ago, a public meeting was a principal instrument of propaganda but depreciated in value to the extent of today its cumbersome to get even a handful to attend a public meeting without an extraordinary attraction program (Bernays, p. 150). Print media, most especially the newspapers, have stood the test of time; thus, it is still a powerful instrument of propaganda despite the many evolutions. The editors in their editorial work are not concerned whether an idea is a propaganda; their main aim is to deliver news to the masses. Radio is another media that matches newspapers and that one's personality is a critical feature and instrument of propaganda (Bernays, p. 154)

In my viewpoint, propaganda is a critical instrument in business, politics, and leadership in a democratic society. It provides not only a sense of wise governance but promotes peaceful coexistence, inclusion, and integration. Generally, propaganda is a genius book since it houses nuggets of wisdom in the name of propaganda, presented with a high sense of manipulation and persuasion. However, as much as I like propaganda by Bernays, the book's explanations are unrealistic. For instance, when talking of "invisible power," he gives a simplistic sociological view of society, which is untrue since the rich, and the powerful always differ in several issues and ideas. Propaganda lacks scientific accuracy because, like sociology and economics, propaganda can never be an exact science.


In conclusion, the intelligent and conscious manipulation of the opinions and the organized habits is vital in a democratic society. Therefore, despite the limitations and cons surrounding the use of propaganda in various sectors, the benefits the instrument of propaganda beholds in contemporary society are unmatched.


Bernays, E. L. (2005). Propaganda. New York: Ig.

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