of the All-Consuming Self and the Influence of the Freud Dynasty
- from Sigmund to Matthew
The Century of the Self - a new BBC TWO series starting 17 March
BBC TWO series by BAFTA award winner Adam Curtis examines the rise
of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty,
starting Sunday 17 March at 8.00pm.
many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the
ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved
to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge,
but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and
sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer
society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming
self created, by whom, and in whose interests?
Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history,
from Sigmund to Matthew: Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis;
Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmunds
devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmunds great
grandson, Matthew Freud, who became part of the new marketing culture
that took over politics in Britain when New Labour swept to power
in the 1990s.
Freuds work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious
changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious
mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires
of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to
a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and societys
belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is mans
this first programme of the series, Happiness Machines tells the
story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American
nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the profession of public
relations in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's
ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations
how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically
linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires. Bernays
was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer
persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement
and outrageous PR stunts, to the eroticisation of the motorcar.
most notorious coup was to break the taboo on women smoking by persuading
them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom.
But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of
selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control
the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his
uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.
It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate
second programme, The Engineering of Consent, explores how Freuds
ideas about the unconscious mind were used by those in power in
post-war America to try and control the masses. Politicians and
planners came to believe Freuds underlying premise - that
deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires
and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these
instincts that had led to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop
it ever happening again they set out to find ways to control this
hidden enemy within the human mind.
Freuds daughter, Anna, and his nephew, Edward Bernays, provided
the centrepiece philosophy. Their ideas were used by the US government,
big business, and the CIA to develop techniques to manage and control
the minds of the American people. But this was not a cynical exercise
in manipulation. Those in power believed that the only way to make
democracy work and create a stable society was to repress the savage
barbarism that lurked just under the surface of normal American
is a Policeman Inside All Our Head: He Must be Destroyed is the
third programme in the series. In the 1960s, the influence of Freudian
ideas in America was challenged by a radical group of psychotherapists.
They were inspired by the ideas of Wilhelm Reich, a pupil of Freuds,
who had turned against him and was hated by the Freud family. He
believed that the inner self did not need to be repressed and controlled.
It should be encouraged to express itself.
of this came a political movement that sought to create new beings
free of the psychological conformity which had been implanted in
peoples minds by business and politics. This programme shows
how this rapidly developed in America through movements like est
(founded by Werber Erhard) - into the irresistible rise of the expressive
self: the me generation.
the American corporations soon realised that this new self was not
a threat but their greatest opportunity. It was in their interest
to encourage people to feel they were unique individuals and then
sell them ways to express that individuality. To do this they turned
to techniques developed by Freudian psychoanalysts to read the inner
desires of the new self.
final programme of the series is Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering.
This episode explains how politicians on the left, in both Britain
and America, turned to the techniques developed by business to read
and fulfil the inner desires of the self. Both New Labour, under
Tony Blair, and the Democrats, led by Clinton, used the focus group,
which had been invented by psychoanalysts, in order to regain power.
They set out to mould their policies to peoples inner desires
and feelings, just as capitalism had learnt to do with products.
of this grew a new culture of public relations and marketing in
politics, business and journalism. One of its stars in Britain was
Matthew Freud who followed in the footsteps of his relation, Edward
Bernays, who had invented public relations in the 1920s.
politicians believed they were creating a new and better form of
democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of individual.
But what they didnt realise was that the aim of those who
had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate
the people but to develop a new way of controlling them.
Century of the Self is directed by Adam Curtis, who directed the
BAFTA award-winning documentary series, The Mayfair Set. The series
is produced by RDF Media for BBC TWO.