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The Century of the Self

The Century of the Self is a BBC documentary series by Adam Curtis, tracing the influence of Freudian ideas and the family of Sigmund Freud on the way corporations and governments throughout the 20th century have thought about, and dealt with, people.

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

Episode 1 - Happiness Machines
This episode tells the story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays who invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses.

Episode 2 - The Engineering of Consent
The episode explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud's ideas about the unconscious mind to try and control the masses.

Episode 3 - There is Policeman Inside All Our Heads, He Must Be Destroyed
This episode shows how Wilhelm Reich's ideas - the inner self should to be encouraged to express itself - rapidly developed in America through self-help movements into the irresistible rise of the expressive self: the Me Generation.

Episode 4 - Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering
This episode explains how politicians on the left, in both Britain and America, turned to the techniques developed by business to read and fulfil the inner desires of the self.


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