How do we conceptualize and theorize about the social organization of ideology? How should we think methodically—in theoretically and empirically informed ways—about the institutionalization of indoctrination and propaganda? How should we approach the study of the social and political instrumentation of ideology in regimes that assume that historical missions of messianic social change are the stringent organizing and legitimization principles of their very existence? This book is an attempt to answer these questions.
On the one hand, this book explores key elements of conceptualization and theoretical framing of the phenomena associated with the institutionalization of indoctrination. New potential venues of theoretical elaboration are identified, and in several cases, these venues are tentatively engaged. On the other hand, this book balances the exploratory theoretical approach with an exploratory historical investigation. Concentrating on the case study of Communist Romania, this book charts various facets of the institutionalization of the “political-ideological commissars” in the education system, while tracking their evolution. The two dimensions of the book offer, in conjunction, a contribution to our understanding of the institutional arrangements of indoctrination and their associated social monitoring and control practices, as well as to our awareness regarding their avatars, as manifested in recent history.
Paul Dragos Aligica is professor of Political Science at the University of Bucharest and a senior research fellow in the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University.
Simona Preda received her Ph.D in History from the University of Bucharest in 2011, and MA in History of Ideas from the University of Bucharest in 2006. She is the author and co-author of five books on Romanian history in the context of modernization of Eastern Europe and on Communist education and propaganda.
Chapter 1: Ideocracy, Totalitarianism and the “New Man”
Chapter 2: The Functions and Logic of the Indoctrination and Propaganda Institutions
Part II: The Romanian Case (1948-1989): Descriptive and Narrative Facets
Chapter 3: Indoctrination and Propaganda in Communist Romania: An Overview of the General Patterns of Organization and Evolution Over Time
Chapter 4: The Ideological Worker: An Overview of its Profiles and Functions in the Context of the Romanian System
Chapter 5: The Ideological Turn in Higher Education: Further Insights from the Romanian Case
Part III: Evolving Frameworks of Analysis and Emerging Research Agendas
Chapter 6: A Failure of Institutionalization: A Key Insight from the Case Study and the Challenges of its External Validity
Chapter 7: Research Directions in the Study of Indoctrination and its Institutionalization
The work of reconstruction of indoctrination in Communist Romania by Aligica and Preda is brilliant, the writing is superbly readable, and by the end of the book the reader comes to appreciate the new research directions suggested by the authors in the study of indoctrination and its institutionalization. The scholarship is impressive and sets new standards.
Studying indoctrination and propaganda under communism has seemed to be an easy task for social scientists since the basics of totalitarian rule were first explored many decades ago. However, Aligica and Preda demonstrate with great erudition and precision that without a profound empirical analysis of the institutional varieties of how communist ideology was mediated and practiced "on the ground”, one cannot go beyond the psychological and cultural platitudes of proselytization and brainwashing.
Using the example of higher education in communist Romania, they present deep insight into the unknown world of the political commissars (ideological workers) without presuming that their job to train and monitor the citizens was successful or enjoyable. Being an obedient agent of an ideocratic regime meant that they were despised by both their principals and people at large, and forced to muddle through the conversion from communist into nationalist ideology while still celebrating the mission of creating the New Man.