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Watch The Century of Self online


By Robert Alstead - Posted on 20 May 2008

The BBC's fascinating series about the shadow cast over the 20th Century by the ideas of Sigmund Freud.The Century of Self is an excellent four-part series from the BBC about the influence of Freud's ideas on the 20th Century.

Read the review below, or just watch (note there is stuttering in first few seconds).

The first part, Happiness Machines, explains how Edward Bernays applied his uncle Sigmund's ideas about the subconscious to manipulate the masses. Where previously advertising stressed functionality, "the father of public relations" appealed to people's need for status and luxury. He is credited with breaking the taboo on women smoking by stage-managing a PR event where a group of debutantes ("suffragettes" he told the media) pulled out "torches of freedom". Sex sells.

Bernays became extremely rich in his lifetime working for corporations, the secret service and presidents, and it is alleged he even helped bring down the democratically elected left-wing regime of Guatemala because it interfered with US corporate interests.

Part two continues in this vein focusing on how governments convinced themselves that it was vital in the interests of democracy to suppress each individual's dangerous irrational desires and fears.

It reveals how governments, corporations and secret service worked on developing methods of manipulation, stemming from techniques that Freud's daughter Anna pioneered on individuals. It proved, tragically, to be a flawed science. But it makes fascinating viewing.

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