Edward Bernays &
The Century of the Self
Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, is widely recognised as the father of propaganda and public
relations, and the grandfather of the modern advertising industry. Bernays adapted Freud’s psychological insights to create communications techniques that could manipulate vast numbers of people at the unconscious level into behaviours they would not have considered otherwise. His techniques were quickly adopted and advanced in the early 20th century by corporations, were embraced and refined in Nazi Germany and are used at an even more advanced level in 21st century communications and politics.
Bernays’ approach involved the reframing of our personal identities from being members of our communities to a focus on the “self” and the reframing of people from being “humans” to being merely “consumers” of whatever elite groups offered up for their consumption.
Adam Curtis’ acclaimed BBC documentary series examines the rise of the all-consuming self, now recognised as “the consumer”, against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.