If you’ve got about four hours to spare — better make it five, for the occasional break — watch all four parts of the 2002 BBC documentary miniseries The Century of the Self. Written and directed by Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self explores the rise of public relations and marketing, as well as the influence of various members of the Freud family, especially Sigmund Freud himself.Because CoS is a British documentary, the average American might never guess it was pushing an agenda. Instead of screaming “THOSE EVIL BASTARDS ARE MANIPULATING US!”, Curtis calmly, thoughtfully, dispassionately suggests that the corporations, which have used the techniques developed by Edward Bernays, Anna Freud and their successors, have subverted our critical thinking skills. Selfish, instinct-driven creatures, Curtis intones quietly, are “ideal consumers”, and consumerism is “a way of giving people the illusion of control while allowing a responsible elite to continue managing society.”Although we feel we are free, in reality we … have become the slaves of our own desires. We have forgotten that we can be more than that, that there are other sides to human nature. (Curtis, A. . Century of the Self, Part 4: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering [motion picture])
Although CoS is mild anti-big business agitprop, what it says about the subtly destructive effects of Freudian consumerism bears consideration.
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