“The century of the self” Adam Curtis

pt 1

pt 2

pt 3

pt 4

If you use propaganda for war you can certainly use propaganda for peace

Cigarette = torch of freedom


Edward Berney’s idea was not to sell to your intellect, (if you ought to buy an automobile) but you would feel about it if you have this automobile. I think he intros the idea if they purchase something, they engage themselves emotionally or personally in a product or service.


The factory would produce the new goods, Edward Bernays would produce the new kind of consumers


After the war Freud became very pessimistic and thought man was a sadistic impossible creature, very bad specie, and man could not be improved. Man is a ferocious animal, the most ferocious animal. Enjoy torturing and killing, he did not like men.


The principles of mass democracy is wrong. The masses cannot make decisions on a rational basis. The leading political writer Walter Lippmann argued that “human beings are in fact driven by irrational forces, than it necessary to rewrite democracy”. What we need was a new elite that he called “the bewildered herd”. This would be done through psychological techniques that would control the unconscious feeling of the masses.


Ann Bernays “He did not feel that most people out there had reliable judgment. They very easily vote for the wrong man, or do the wrong thing so they had to be guided from above. It was despotism in a sense. You appeal to their desires and their unrecognized longings, that sort of things. You can in their deepest desires and deepest fears, and use that to your purposes. “


President Hoover “You have taken over the job of creating desire, and have transformed people into constantly moving happiness machines. Machines that have become the key to economic progress. “

“Professor Martin Bergmann - Psychoanalyst, US Army 1943-45: World War II was a major shattering experience because I discovered the enormous role of the irrational in the life of most people. Now that I can say that I learned that the ratio between the irrational and the rational in America is very much in favor of the irrational. That there's much greater unhappiness, much more suffering, it's much more a sad country than one would imagine from the advertisements that you made, a much more problematic country.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 16) (pdf)

“He was the first to do this, this was absolutely the first time this was ever done. And he had a movie projector up there where you could show advertisements and people could react to them and he invented the whole technique for mining the unconscious about the hidden psychological wants that people had about products. This became the focus group.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 20) (pdf)

“The consumer may have basic needs that the consumer himself or herself doesn't fully understand. You have to know what” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 20) (pdf)

“those needs are in order to fully exploit the consumer. Is it wrong to give people what they want by taking away their defenses, helping remove their defenses?” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 21) (pdf)

“Dichter called it the strategy of desire.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 21) (pdf)

“If you identify yourself with a product it can have a therapeutic value. It improves your self-image and you become a more secure person and have suddenly this kind of confidence of going out in the world and doing what you want successfully. And it's believed that would then improve the whole of our society and become the best society on this planet.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 21) (pdf)

“What my father understood about groups is that they are malleable. And that you can tap into their deepest desires or their deepest fears and use that to your own purposes. I don't think he felt that all those publics out there had reliable judgment; that they may very easily might vote for the wrong man or want the wrong thing, so that they had to be guided from above.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 23) (pdf)

“Bernays had manipulated the American people but he had done so because he, like many others at the time believed that the interests of business and the interests of America were indivisible. Especially when faced with the threat of communism. But Bernays was convinced that to explain this rationally to the American people was impossible. Because they were not rational. Instead one had to touch on their inner fears and manipulate them in the interest of a higher truth. He called it the engineering of consent.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 24) (pdf)

“Then he put these tapes under our pillows called psychic driving. He would then put back into this empty brain a program of whatever sort he decided upon. And the people like myself would wake up another person I guess.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 26) (pdf)

“Herbert Marcuse - Interviewed 1967: This is a childish application of psychoanalysis which does not take at all into consideration the very real political systematic waste of resources of technology and of the productive process. For example this planned obsolescence; for example the production of innumerable brands and gadgets who are in the last analysis always the same; the production of innumerable different models of automobiles; and this prosperity at the same” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 27) (pdf)

“time, consciously or unconsciously leads to a kind of schizophrenic existence. I believe that in this society an incredible quantity of aggressiveness and destructiveness is accumulated precisely because of the empty prosperity which then simply erupts.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 28) (pdf)

“Marcuse said that the very idea that you needed to control people was wrong. Human beings did have inner emotional drives, but they were not inherently violent or evil. It was society that made these drives dangerous by repressing and distorting them. Anna Freud and her followers had increased that repression by trying to make people conform to society. In so doing, they made people more dangerous not less. Dr, Neil Smelser - Political theorist and psychoanalyst: Marcuse challenged that social world and he said that's a world that should not be adapted to. And in fact what the individual was adapting to was corrupt and evil and corrupting. In other words he switched the source of evil from inward conflict to the society itself. That the sickness in society lay at the society level not at the sickness of human beings in it. And if people did not challenge that then they were in fact submitting to evil.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 28) (pdf)

“Those in power would now control the self not by repressing it by feeding its infinite desires.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 30) (pdf)

“Freud argued that at heart that human beings were still driven by primitive animal instincts. The job of society was to repress and control these dangerous impulses. Reich believed the complete opposite. The unconscious forces within the human mind he said were good. It was their repression by society that distorted them. That was what made people dangerous” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 30) (pdf)

“In the mid sixties a protest movement began on America's campuses. One of the student's main targets was corporate America. They accused the corporations of brainwashing the American public. Consumerism is not just a way of making money it had become a means of keeping the masses docile while allowing the government to purse a violent illegal war in Vietnam. The students' mentor was a famous writer and philosopher called Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse had studied psychoanalysis and was a fierce critic of the Freudians. They had he said helped to create a world in which people were reduced to expressing their feelings and identities through mass produced objects. It resulted in what he called one-dimensional man - conformist and repressed. The psychoanalysts had become the corrupt agents of those who ruled America.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 32) (pdf)

“There's a policeman inside all our heads” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 32) (pdf)

“We want to live a life that isn't based on materialistic values, and yet the whole system of government and the economy of America is based on profit; on personal greed and selfishness. So that in order to be human, in order to love each other and be equal with each other and not place each other in roles we have to destroy the kind of government that keeps us from asserting our positive values of life.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 33) (pdf)

“he pushed individuals to publicly express the feelings inside them society had said were dangerous and should be repressed.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 33) (pdf)

“These techniques could be used to unleash a new powerful self strong enough to overthrow the old order. In the late sixties and early seventies thousands flocked to Esalen. Only a few years before it had been an obscure fringe institute. Now it became the center of a national movement for personal transformation. The human potential movement.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 34) (pdf)

“The effect of the experiment on the convent was cataclysmic. Within a year 300 nuns, more than half the convent petitioned the Vatican to be released from their vows and six months later the convent closed its doors. All that was left was a small group of nuns, but they had become radical lesbian nuns who thus gave up the religious life. They became persons.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 35) (pdf)

“We must conform he told them to the new non-conformists.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 36) (pdf)

“The expressive self threatened this whole system of manufacturing.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 36) (pdf)

“The real point to the EST training was to go down through layer after layer after layer after layer until you got to the last layer and peeled it off where the recognition was that it's really all meaningless and empty. Now, that's existentialism's end point. EST went a step further in that people began to recognize that it was not only meaningless and empty, but that it was empty and meaningless that it was meaningless and empty, and in that there's an enormous freedom. All of the constrictions, all of the rules that you placed on yourself, are gone. And what you are left with is nothing, and nothing is an extraordinarily powerful place to stand because it is only from nothing that you can create and from this nothing people were able to invent a life, allowing them to create themselves. To invent themselves. You could be what you wanted to be.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 37) (pdf)

“it wasn't selfish to only be thinking about yourself, it was your highest duty” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 37) (pdf)

“Socialism in one person. Although that of course is capitalism.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 38) (pdf)

“And at the top of the hierarchy were a large and growing group which cut across all social classes. The SRI called them the inner directives. These were people who felt they were not defined by their place in society but by the choices they made themselves.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 39) (pdf)

“Values and Lifestyles system so powerful. Its ability to predict what new products selfactualizers would choose. This power was about to be demonstrated dramatically. VALs was about to show not just what products they would buy, but the politicians they were going to elect.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 40) (pdf)

“Capitalism developed a whole industry at developing products that evoke a larger sense of self, that seemed to agree with us that the self was infinite, that you could be anything that you wanted to be. That took our philosophy and agreed with it. And that created products that supposedly helped you be this limitless self. The product sells you a way of life, a way of being. The products sells you values. You dress this way, you live in a house like this, you have furniture like this, you use this computer, you eat in these restaurants, there are values there. Hipness, coolness, so the notion that you could buy an identity would place the original movement notion that you were perfectly free to create an identity. And you were perfectly free to change the world and make the world anything that you wanted it to be.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 41) (pdf)

“And this vast range of new desires fitted perfectly with changes in industrial production. Computers now allowed manufacturers to economically produce short runs of consumer goods. The old restrictions of mass production disappeared, as did the worry that bedeviled corporate America ever since mass production had been invented. That they would produce too many goods. With the new self, consumer desire seemed to have no limit.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 42) (pdf)

“Out of this explosion of desire came what seemed a never ending consumer being that regenerated the American economy.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 42) (pdf)

“It was in a sense the triumph of the self, it was the triumph of a certain self-indulgence, a view that everything in the world and all moral judgment was appropriately viewed through the lens of personal satisfaction. Indeed the ultimate ending point of that logic is that there is no society, there is only a bunch of individual people making individual choices about their own individual wellbeing.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 42) (pdf)

“They believed that they were creating a new and better form of democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of individuals. But what the politicians didn't realize was that the aim of those who had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate the people but to develop a new way of controlling them in a new age of mass democracy.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 43) (pdf)

“If the primary need is security and belonging we call the groups Mainstreamers, if it's status and the esteem of others then it's Aspirers, if it's control it's Succeeders, and if it's self-esteem it's Reformers.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 45) (pdf)

“To Thatcher and Reagan this was a new and better form of democracy. But to their opponents in the parties of the left they had summoned up the most selfish and greedy aspects of human nature.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 46) (pdf)

“The worst thing Ronald Reagan did was to make the denial of compassion respectable. He said you've worked hard, you've made your money, you shouldn't have to feel guilty about refusing to throw it away on people who choose to be” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 46) (pdf)

“homeless and who choose not to work. That's what he said. He said it with an elegance and kind of a benign aspect that disguised it's harshness.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 47) (pdf)

“Gould discovered was a fundamental shift in people's relationship to politics. They no longer saw themselves as part of any group but as individuals who could demand things from politicians in return for paying taxes. Just as business had taught them to do as consumers.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 47) (pdf)

“reactive politics.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 48) (pdf)

“I said that I felt the most important thing for him to do was to bring to the political system the same consumer rules philosophy that the business community has. Because I think politics needs to be as responsive to the whims and desires of the marketplace as business is. And it needs to be sensitive to the bottom line - profits or votes - as a business is.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 49) (pdf)

“Instead of treating them as something that you can manipulate you treat them as something you need to learn from. And instead of feeling that you can stay in one place and you can manipulate the voters you need to learn what they want and move yourself to accommodate them.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 50) (pdf)

“Pools and Patios, or Caps and Gowns who were urban intellectuals living in university towns.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 50) (pdf)

“And I would say what's the point of getting re-elected if you have no mandate to do anything when you're re-elected and he'd say what's the point of having a mandate if you can't get re-elected? Isn't the ultimate goal getting re-elected?” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 51) (pdf)

“It suggests that democracy is nothing more and should be nothing more than pandering to these un-thought about very primitive desires. Primitive in the sense that they are not even necessarily conscious, just what people want in terms of satisfying themselves.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 51) (pdf)

“I see the focus group as a way of hearing what the people have to say. And I see the focus group as a way to a new form of politics.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 53) (pdf)

“The World's Fair created a spectacle in which all of these concerns were met and they met by Westinghouse and General Motors and the American Cash Register Company and company after company presented itself as the sort of centerpiece of a society in which human desire and human want and human anxiety would all be responded to and it would all be met purely through the free enterprise system. There was this sort of notion that the free market was something not guided by ideologies or by political power, it was something that was simply guided by the people's will.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 53) (pdf)

“consumerism was a way of giving people the illusion of control while allowing a responsible elite to continue managing society.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 53) (pdf)

“It's not that the people are in charge but that the people's desires are in charge. The people are not in charge the people exercise no decisionmaking power within this environment.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 53) (pdf)

“Although we feel we are free, in reality we like the politicians 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.” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 54) (pdf)

“Politics must be more than that. Politics and leadership are about engaging the public in a rational discussion and deliberation about what is best and treating people with respect in terms of their rational abilities to debate what is best. If it's not that, if it is Freudian if it is basically a matter of appealing to the same basic unconscious feelings that” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 54) (pdf)

“business appeals to then why not let business do it? Business can do it better, business knows how to do it. Business after all is in the business of responding to those feelings” (“The Century of the Self”, p. 55) (pdf)