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The Century of the Self

the century of the self, the century of the self documentary
The Century of the Self is a 2002 British television documentary series by filmmaker Adam Curtis It focuses on the work of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud, and PR consultant Edward Bernays In episode one, Curtis says, "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"


  • 1 Episodes
  • 2 Overview
  • 3 Contributors
  • 4 Music
  • 5 Awards
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


  1. "Happiness Machines" originally broadcast 17 March 2002
  2. "The Engineering of Consent" originally broadcast 24 March 2002
  3. "There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads; He Must Be Destroyed" originally broadcast 31 March 2002
  4. "Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering" originally broadcast 7 April 2002


Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed our perception of the mind and its workings The documentary explores the various ways that governments and corporations have used Freud's theories Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in public relations, are discussed in part one His daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in part two Wilhelm Reich, an opponent of Freud's theories, is discussed in part three

To many in 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 How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests

BBC publicity

Along these lines, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of consumerism and commodification and their implications It also questions the modern way people see themselves, the attitudes to fashion, and superficiality

The business and political worlds use psychological techniques to read, create and fulfill the desires of the public, and to make their products and speeches as pleasing as possible to consumers and voters Curtis questions the intentions and origins of this relatively new approach to engaging the public

Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a group, Stuart Ewen, a historian of public relations, argues that politicians now appeal to primitive impulses that have little bearing on issues outside the narrow self-interests of a consumer society

The words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927, are cited: "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed Man's desires must overshadow his needs"

In part four the main subjects are Philip Gould, a political strategist, and Matthew Freud, a PR consultant and the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud In the 1990s, they were instrumental to bringing the Democratic Party in the US and New Labour in the United Kingdom back into power through use of the focus group, originally invented by psychoanalysts employed by US corporations to allow consumers to express their feelings and needs, just as patients do in psychotherapy

Curtis ends by saying that, "Although we feel we are free, in reality, we—like the politicians—have become the slaves of our own desires," and compares Britain and America to 'Democracity', an exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair created by Edward Bernays


  • Dr Alfred Pritz, President, World Council for Psychotherapy
  • Countess Erzie Károlyi
  • Edward Bernays interviewed 1991
  • Pat Jackson, PR Adviser and colleague of Edward Bernays
  • Peter Strauss, employee of Edward Bernays 1948–52
  • Peter Solomon, investment banker, Lehman Brothers
  • Stuart Ewen, historian of public relations
  • Dr Ernst Federn, Viennese psychoanalyst
  • Anne Bernays, daughter of Edward Bernays
  • George Gallup Jnr, son of George Gallup
  • Marcel Faust, resident of Vienna, 1930s
  • Prof Martin Bergmann, psychoanalyst, US Army 1943–45
  • Ellen Herman, historian of American psychology
  • Anton Freud, Anna Freud's nephew
  • Michael Burlingham, Dorothy Burlingham's grandson
  • Dr Robert Wallerstein, psychoanalyst, Menninger Clinic 1949–66
  • Dr Harold Blum, psychoanalyst
  • Dr Neil Smelser, political theorist and psychoanalyst
  • Fritz Gehagen, psychoanalyst and employee of Ernest Dichter
  • Hedy Dichter, wife of Ernest Dichter
  • Bill Schlackman, psychologist and employee of Ernest Dichter
  • Larry Tye, journalist, Boston Globe
  • Howard Hunt, Head of CIA Operation, Guatemala, 1954
  • Dr Heinz Lehmann, psychiatrist and colleague of Dr Ewen Cameron
  • Laughlin Taylor, assistant to Dr Ewen Cameron 1958–60
  • Linda MacDonald, patient of Dr Ewen Cameron
  • Dr John Gittinger, Chief Psychologist, CIA, 1950–74
  • Celeste Holm, actress and former patient of Dr Ralph Greenson
  • Dr Leo Rangell, Los Angeles psychoanalyst
  • Dr Alexander Lowen, experimental psychotherapist, 1950s
  • Morton Herskowitz, student of Wilhelm Reich 1949–52
  • Lore Reich Rubin, Wilhelm Reich's daughter
  • Robert Pardun, student activist, 1960s
  • Herbert Marcuse interviewed 1978
  • Stew Albert, founding member of Youth International Party
  • Michael Murphy, founder of Esalen Institute
  • George Leonard, leader, Encounter Group, Esalen Institute, 1960s
  • Dr William Coulson, leader, Nuns' Encounter Group
  • Daniel Yankelovich, Yankelovich Partners Market Research Inc
  • Werner Erhard, founder of Erhard Seminars Training
  • Jesse Kornbluth, journalist, New Times, 1970s
  • Jerry Rubin, founder of Youth International Party interviewed 1978
  • Jay Ogilvy, Director of Psychological Values Research, SRI International, 1979–88
  • Amina Marie Spengler, Director, Psychological Values Research Programme, 1978–86
  • Jeffrey Bell, speech-writer to Ronald Reagan, 1976–81
  • Christine MacNulty, Program Manager, Values and Lifestyles Team, SRI International 1978–81
  • Robert Reich, economist and member of Clinton cabinet 1993–97
  • Matthew Wright, tabloid journalist 1993–2000
  • Mario Cuomo, Governor, New York 1982–95 archive
  • Philip Gould, Strategy Advisor for New Labour election campaign 1997
  • Dick Morris, Strategy Advisor to President Clinton 1994–96
  • Mark Penn, Market Researcher for President Clinton 1995–2000
  • Douglas Schoen, Market Researcher for President Clinton 1995–2000
  • James Bennet, Washington correspondent, The New York Times
  • Derek Draper, assistant to Peter Mandelson 1992–95


  • Aaron Copland: Billy the Kid ballet
  • Arvo Pärt: Spiegel im Spiegel, Für Alina
  • Dmitri Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues Shostakovich, Prelude 1 C major
  • Johannes Brahms: Symphony No 3 in F major, Op 90, beginning of the third movement poco allegretto
  • Kano: She's a Star from the album New York Cake
  • Louis Armstrong: What a Wonderful World
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
  • Raymond Scott: Portofino 2 from Manhattan Research Inc
  • The Gold Diggers' Song We're in the Money from the film Gold Diggers of 1933
  • Ennio Morricone: Quelle foto from the film Le foto proibite di una signora per bene
  • Felix Slatkin: The Green Leaves of Summer


  • Best Documentary Series, Broadcast Awards
  • Historical Film Of The Year, Longman-History Today Awards

Nominated for:

  • Best Documentary Series, Royal Television Society
  • Best Documentary Series, Grierson Documentary Awards
  • Best Documentary, Indie Awards


  1. ^ Adams, Tim 10 March 2002 "How Freud got under our skin" The Observer Retrieved 13 January 2013 
  2. ^ "The Century of the Self - BBC Two England - 17 March 2002" BBC Genome Retrieved 19 October 2015 
  3. ^ "The Century of the Self - BBC Two England - 24 March 2002" BBC Genome 
  4. ^ "The Century of the Self - BBC Two England - 31 March 2002" BBC Genome 
  5. ^ "The Century of the Self - BBC Two England - 7 April 2002" BBC Genome 
  6. ^ "BBC Four Documentaries - The Century of the Self" BBC Online Archived from the original on 14 May 2011 
  7. ^ Note: the quote is from a 1927 article by Mazur in the Harvard Business Review
  8. ^ "BBC cleans up at Broadcast Awards 2003" Broadcast Retrieved 22 October 2015 
  9. ^ "Back to Narrative at the History Today Awards" History Today 
  10. ^ "Programme Awards Winners 2002" Royal Television Society 

External links

  • The Century of the Self on IMDb
  • The Century of the Self – BBC Documentary by Adam Curtis by Dan Haggard in Reviews In Depth, 25 January 2010
  • Episode guide:
    1. Happiness Machines at BBC Online archive copy
    2. The Engineering of Consent at BBC Online archive copy
    3. There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed at BBC Online archive copy
    4. Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering at BBC Online archive copy

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