The Century of the Self is a 2002 British television marketing documentary series by filmmaker Adam Curtis. It focuses on the work of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud, and PR consultant Edward Bernays. This series explains how people in power have used Freud’s theories for mass persuasion.
The central thesis is the tug of war between the idea that the great mass of citizenry is an unstable swamp of barbaric instinctual drives and anxieties or is capable of using their better selves to dominate these drives. It is a competition between the views of treating people as active citizens to be dealt with rationally or passive consumers to be pacified by catering to these underlying irrational drives.(source)
- “Happiness Machines” (originally broadcast 17 March 2002)
- “The Engineering of Consent” (originally broadcast 24 March 2002)
- “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads; He Must Be Destroyed” (originally broadcast 31 March 2002)
- “Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering” (originally broadcast 7 April 2002)
- Best Documentary Series, Broadcast Awards
- Historical Film Of The Year, Longman/History Today Award
- Best Documentary Blubb, Royal Television Society
- Best Documentary, Indie Awards
- Best Documentary Series, Grierson Documentary Awards
Episode 1 – “Happiness Machines”
It was originally broadcasted on 17th March 2002.
What to expect from episode 1
- Invention of PR
- Introduction to the idea of mass persuasion
- How American corporations made people want things they didn’t need
- The best campaign by Edward Bernays – Breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom.
This Episode explains how Edward Bernays uses Sigmund Freud’s latest theory at that time to build a social structure to control the masses. Sigmund Freud believed that humans are irrational and are governed by their subconscious fears and desires.
Bernays helped business and government to persuade the mass using the Freud’s techniques and ideology. He was the man behind the Torches of Freedom campaign.
The Germans shared the same belief about democracy as Edward Bernays did that it didn’t work. So he suggested that to make it work, a system is required that can provide an illusion of democracy and well-being.