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CYBER-UTOPIA AND THE MYTH OF PARADISE: USING JACQUES ELLUL'S WORK ON PROPAGANDA TO ANALYSE INFORMATION SOCIETY RHETORIC

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Whereas Jacques Ellul's work on the role of myth in propaganda about the technological society has been largely overlooked, it presents an effective means to analyse the ways in which the information society is symbolically constructed. The French thinker'sexamination of mid-twentieth-century propaganda has much relevance in studying current rhetoric about the 'information revolution', 'global information infrastructure' and 'knowledge-based society'. Not only did he prove prophetic in his description of the increasing intensification of technique in various aspects of life, but also his work offers significant insight into the ways the integrally capitalist vision of 'global information society' is being publicized around the world. The promotion of new media on a transnational scale by government, industry and media can be usefully studied within a myth-based framework. Unlike other writers on myth and communication Ellul underlined the religious roots of myth, therefore drawing attention to the ancient origins of contemporary notions. He suggested that ideology in itself was not able to mobilize individuals, but was dependent on the psychological/spiritual force of myth to move people to action. Propagandists use networks of various myths, which operate interactively with each other to reinforce prevailing ideologies. This article uses a set of technological myths identified by Ellul (science, history, nation, work, happiness, youth and the hero) to show how they can be used in developing a framework to analyse and challenge current propaganda about information society. Such applications of the French sociologist's work on myth, propaganda and technological society will encourage the broadening of scholarly activity beyond the strictly positivist confines of dominant social science.
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Keywords: INFORMATION SOCIETY; JACQUES ELLUL; MYTH; PROPAGANDA; TECHNOLOGY; UTOPIA

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2001

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