Political leaders use their influence over state institutions to maximise political control, irrespective of the regime they represent. Since autocratic leaders have more power over state institutions, their tactics were studied more closely, especially the avenues more focused on violence. A growing literature looks at the non-violent means used by political leaders to create political legitimacy and regime stability, especially under the form of information control. This literature focuses on ad-hoc information control and anti-regime coordination that are threatening; this overlooks the possibility of information control that is meant to shape not only the political information received, but the filter through which political information is processed.
This thesis looks at institutional control tactics that guide the creation of an individual’s political identity and information filtering process using indoctrination. I propose indoctrination is a multi-level socialisation-based process aimed at creating a political identity that is both supportive of the regime and skeptical of the regime’s opponents. I argue that the purest avenue for indoctrination is schooling and especially schooling via nation-building school subjects which also have the capacity to generate a self-reinforcing pro-regime loop through an individual’s collective memory. Nation-building is essentially a political instrument delivered primarily through schooling; this reinforces the need for political scientists to study education tied into the nation-building process, as a potential avenue for social identity creation, indoctrination, and political control. To understand how indoctrination through schooling is exercised, this study identifies a case study where two opposing regimes (one democratic and one autocratic) share the same national history and then compares the schooling materials of the competing regimes referring to the same historical periods. By contrasting how the same history is used in two different nation-building narratives, I draw the core tactics used for indoctrination by the autocratic political regime. The thesis concludes by stressing the importance of schooling materials as a readily available new data source for the study of indoctrination input and as a widely used means to achieve political control in both democratic and non-democratic political regimes.
Dani Sandu is a Romanian social science researcher who studied in Romania, the United States, and Italy. He is a researcher of the determinants of social identity and the effects in political behaviour, especially in new democracies or post-authoritarian societies. During his PhD at the European University Institute in Florence he was also a Visiting Student at New York University, Department of Politics, a Visiting Researcher at the Georg Eckert Stiftung in Germany, and a Senior Researcher at the Global Focus Center. Apart from his academic work, he was also involved in consulting for various international organisations such as the World Bank and the European Commission. He is one of the co-founders of Romania's first fact-checking organisation.