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thought-provoking documentary: The Century of the Self
December 24, 2007, 3:08 pm
Filed under: miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , ,

I am currently into psychology and I have read books on how techniques that take advantage of inherent human psychology can and are employed for personal gain and corporate profits. These include books on body language (Barbara and Allan Pease), reading people (David Liebermann is a good choice for Machiavellian techniques) and advertising (Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a must-read classic).

Recently I stumbled upon an interesting documentary by Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self on (where else?) Youtube. The documentary traces the development of the use of academic psychology (specifically Freud’s studies) in the world of consumerism and political persuasion. It puts what I have learned from my reading in a historical context.

The central figure in this documentary is Edward Bernays, who is often seen as the father of public relations. He applied Freud’s theory of the ego, super-ego and id to his various propaganda and advertising jobs to great success. I must admit that prior to watching this documentary I had no idea who was Edward Bernays. He played a crucial role in transforming what used to be a economy of need to a economy of desire, in which corporations manipulate and capitalise on the inherent psychological desires of humans for their own profit. Consumers now buy on the basis of desire instead of needs, and this trend seem to be a permanent feature of our consumer landscape.


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