The Century of Self Transcript

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  • Topic: Edward Bernays, Psychoanalysis, Freud family
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  • Published : November 28, 2011
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A hundred years ago a new theory about human nature was put forth by Sigmund Freud. He had discovered he said, primitive, sexual and aggressive forces hidden deep inside the minds of all human beings. Forces which if not controlled, led individuals and societies to chaos and destruction. This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy. But the heart of the story is not just Sigmund Freud but other members of the Freud family. This episode is about Freud's American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays is almost completely unknown today but his influence on the 20th century was nearly as great as his uncles. Because Bernays was the first person to take Freud's idea about human beings and use them to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations for the first time how to they could make people want things they didn't need by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires. Out of this would come a new political ideal of how to control the masses. By satisfying people's inner selfish desires one made them happy and thus docile. It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate our world today.

Part One - Happiness Machines
Freud's ideas about how the human mind works have now become an accepted part of society. As have psychoanalysts. Every year the psychotherapists' ball is held in a grand palace in Vienna. Dr. Alfred Fritz, President World Council for Psychotherapy: This is the psychotherapy ball. Psychotherapists come, some advanced patients come, former patients come, and many other people - friends, but also people from the Viennese society who like to come to a nice, elegant, comfortable ball. But it was not always so. A hundred years ago Freud's ideas were hated by Viennese society. At that time Vienna was the center of a vast empire ruling central Europe. And to the powerful nobility of the Habsburg accord, Freud's ideas were not only embarrassing, but the very idea of examining and analyzing ones inner feelings was a threat to their absolute control.

Countess Erzie Karolyi - Budapest: You see at that time these people had the power and of course you just weren't allowed to show your bloody feelings, I mean you just couldn't. You know if you were unhappy, can you imagine, for instance you sit somewhere in the country, in a castle, you are deeply unhappy, you are a woman; you couldn't go to your made and cry on her shoulders, you couldn't go into the village and complain about your feelings, it was like selling yourself to someone, you just couldn't. You know? Because they had to respect you.

Now of course, Freud, he put that thought very much into question you see to examine yourself you would have to put other things into question - the society, everything that surrounds you and that was not a good thing at that time. Why not?

Because your self-created empire to a certain extent would have fallen to bits much earlier already. But what frightened the rulers of the empire even more was Freud's idea that hidden inside all human beings were dangerous instinctual drives. Freud had devised a method he called psychoanalysis. By analyzing dreams and free association he had unearthed he said powerful sexual and aggressive forces which were the remnants of our animal past. Feelings we repressed because they were too dangerous. Dr. Earnest Jones - Colleague of Freud: Freud devised a method for exploring the hidden part of the mind which we nowadays call the unconscious this the part is totally unknown to our consciousness. That there exists a barrier in all our minds which prevents these hidden and unwelcome impulses from the unconscious from emerging. In 1914 the Austria-Hungarian Empire led Europe into war. As the horror mounted Freud saw it as terrible evidence of the truth of his findings. The saddest thing he...
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