Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sigmund Freud: Putting Theory Into Practice


I've always been drawn to the more scientifically rigorous aspects of psychology, so when I studied Freud as an undergraduate I quickly dismissed his theories as interesting but fundamentally flawed. I then watched Adam Curtis' acclaimed series 'The Century of the Self' which in my humble opinion is one of the best documentary series ever made; and although my views on Freud's theories remain unchanged, there is absolutely no doubting their influence.

The Century of the Self first aired back in 2002 on the BBC and the first of this remarkable four part series (which I highly recommend that you watch below) was publicized as follows:

Episode 1 Happiness Machines

"The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession 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 eroticising the motorcar.

His most notorious coup was breaking 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 today's world."

If you meet anybody who tells you that psychology doesn't matter or that it's irrelevant, get them to watch The Century of the Self and ask them to get back to you!

The Century of the Self: Episode 1

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Sigmund Freud: Putting Theory Into Practice

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