The Century of the Self is a four part series first broadcasted on BBC in 2002. The filmmaker Adam Curtis explores how those in power have used Sigmund Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.
Freud’s influence on the 20th century is widely regarded as massive. The documentary describes the impact of his theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their engineering of consent. Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the father of the public relations industry.
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. … Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smooth functioning society.
Edward Bernays — From the book Propaganda, 1928
Episode 1 — Happiness Machines
Episode 2 — The Engineering of Consent
Episode 3 — There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed
Episode 4 — Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering