Which sociological perspective do you think provides the best explanation of propaganda? Why?
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I would argue that the conflict theory is the sociological perspective that is most able to explain propaganda.
The conflict theory of sociology argues that everything that happens in a society happens because of conflicts between various groups. For example, the conflict theory might argue that we developed a system in which men typically went out to work and women typically stayed home as a result of the conflict between men and women. Men won the conflict and put women in a subordinate position.
This sort of perspective has the most persuasive explanation of propaganda. In this perspective, propaganda comes about because the dominant group needs to get the support of the subordinate group or groups. The dominant group is asking the subordinate group to make sacrifices. Perhaps it is asking them to go fight and die in a war. Or it is asking them to give up material comforts so that the state can use more resources to build military strength. One way or another, the dominant group, which controls the government, is asking people to make sacrifices over and above what they would usually be called on to make. When this happens, the dominant group needs to prevent the subordinate group(s) from rebelling. The best way to do this is to convince them that the sacrifices are necessary. Propaganda helps with this task by highlighting and emphasizing the alleged threat from some outside group.
This is a strong explanation of propaganda. Propaganda is necessary to persuade subordinate groups to make great sacrifices that they would not be willing to make if they were not manipulated by propaganda. In short, propaganda is one way in which the dominant group compels the subordinate group(s) to do its will.
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