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What is a Manifesto?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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A manifesto is a document that sets forth the principles and goals of an organization. Typically, it is designed to be widely distributed to the public, and it serves as an official declaration. Often, the document is political in nature, as is the case with the Communist Manifesto, although it can also be employed by artists and other collective groups as a medium of communication. In many instances, a manifesto is highly revolutionary, and is designed to stimulate public dialog.

Generally, a manifesto intended for a large audience is written in clear, plain language so that everyone can understand it. The document can be long or short, and many organizations create a shorter one for large distribution to pique the interest of the public. A shorter manifesto might appear in the form of a flier or poster which can be easily duplicated and distributed, and it will include information about where to obtain the longer version.

It is hoped that, after reading a manifesto, members of the public will seek out more information about the group that wrote it, creating a growing awareness of and support for a movement. In addition, the document can be used as a starting point for public discussion, as some readers will undoubtedly critique it while others defend it. These discussions can help to refine the manifesto, as members of the public bring up important issues which were not addressed in the original document.

As a revolutionary statement, a manifesto can be a powerful and daring document. In some cases, the authors will not be identified, especially if the document is very radical, out of concern for their safety. Citizens reading the manifesto may be forced to question their government, the lives that they live, the state of the sciences, or the meaning of art. This introspective interaction will often drive the reader to pass the document on to someone else, causing the audience to grow.

In addition to being used by revolutionary political groups and conventional parties in some areas, many artists use the manifesto as a communication tool to spark dialog about the state of art. This is especially common with artistic collectives, which may include political aspects in their art, or be involved in aesthetic discussions with other groups of artists or critics. Some famous groups of writers have also issued manifestos, and some progressive companies issue a tongue-in-cheek “manifesto” to outline their goals and ethics as an organization.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Proxy414 — On Feb 01, 2011


This is unfortunate that something so important as a central document has been turned into a rather taboo word. It is to be hoped that this will change in time, and many good manifestos will be drafted.

By SilentBlue — On Jan 30, 2011

The term manifesto has come to have negative connotations due to perceptions about the communist party. Ever since communism has been responsible for so much upheaval and destruction, the "Communist Manifesto" of Marx has come to have the effect of profanity, especially in the US.

By hangugeo112 — On Jan 28, 2011

It is important for any venture that you have a solid core to unite around. This core should be detailed but concise. In short, it should be elegant: attractive yet simple. A set of doctrines which guides conduct is necessary for the proper functioning of any business, political movement, or project.

By anon26897 — On Feb 20, 2009

Good one here, I really wanted to know what it entailed before embarking on one myself. With this brief introduction to a manifesto, I am better able to give my audience what they want to hear!


Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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