The Century of the Self Summary
The Century of the Self, the documentary by Adam Curtis, investigates how the unconscious of human mind could be controlled and redirected to the right state without hurting the individual. The aspect of politics and economic gains is clearly introduced by the invention of public relations for the American corporations by Freud’s nephew Edward. This is a summary of the reasoning by Sigmund Freud about the understanding of self-feelings. This documentary seeks to show how the followers of Freud advanced from the original beliefs of the scientist to the general reasoning about feelings and expressions. The point that is clearly highlighted in the documentary is the belief that Freud saw the unconscious state of mind as a menace that should be kept strictly under watch. When one conducts an in-depth analysis of the piece, it is easy to see the relationship between the need for democracy and the quest for freedom of choice.
The documentary tries to display the unreliability of rational choice by the people and define the need for people to be ruled by other powers above them like political leaders. This documentary seeks to show how people cannot be trusted with making their decisions without being influenced. This is explained by the belief that there is a police officer in the mind of every individual; and for the person to enjoy democracy and freedom, the police officer must be destroyed. That is to say, people must liberate themselves from constant supervision and obvious influence by the elite. The development of the documentary gives an explanation on the lack of rationality in mob psychology and group thinking, and the need for people to stay and work under management.
In order to understand the documentary theme, one has to ask themselves how democracy can work in a society, given the fact that people’s choices are irrational and cooperation by individuals has responsibilities attached. Adam Curtis' series in the documentary examines the rise and struggle of the all-consuming self in the minds of the people against the backdrop of the dominant Freudian dynasty. To many people, the victory of the self in politics and business is the best achievable expression of democracy, where power finally moves to the people. According to the documentary, the people may tend to feel that they are in charge, but the question is, “Are they really?” The police officer in the mind keeps troubling people and making them change their decisions whenever they tend to question the authenticity of their needs.
The Century of the Self composition tells the untold and probably most controversial ones about the rise of the mass-consumer society in the USA and Great Britain. A fundamental question that one may ask after watching the piece is, “How did the all-consuming self appear, who created it, and in whose interests was it founded?” The Freudian dynasty is placed at the heart of this compelling and influential social history. The documentary seeks to make people understand that there is a manner in which you can manipulate people, using what they know or believe. Politically, people are ruled through what they know and what is considered dear to them. This is where Freud is seen trying to explain why it is necessary to capture the minds of the people, not using force but by making them want what they do not need.
In this documentary, Sigmund Freud is considered the founder father of psychoanalysis, while Edward Bernays is the brain behind the invention of public relations. Anna Freud is the daughter of Sigmund, who is devoted to making the work of her father known and understood as the gospel of truth. Lastly, Matthew Freud is a grandson of Freud, who is considered the present-day expert in matters of public relations. According to the documentary, the work of Sigmund Freud into the murky and bubbling world of the subconscious significantly changed the world. His ideologies triggered new thinking and more quests to know about the relationship between truth and public relations.
By introducing a technique to examine the power of the unconscious mind, Freud provided important tools for understanding and probing the secret desires of the masses. This brings the passion in which Freud conducted his work, ensuring that everybody understands their role in the psychology of mob decision-making. The documentary seeks to show how his work served as the predecessor to the world that is full of marketing moguls and political spin doctors. The fundamental understanding of the documentary is that society’s belief that the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction is a man's ultimate goal. This documentary series is fundamentally about how those individuals in power have used Sigmund’s theories in an attempt to control the dangerous and unruly crowd in an age of mass democracy.
Freud, who is believed to be the founder of psychoanalysis, brought a significant change in perception about the human mind as well as its applications. Sigmund’s influence on thinking in the 20th century is profoundly regarded as massive and significant. The documentary seeks to show how Freud brought immense changes in the way people used to handle issues and the revolution of mass democracy. In the documentary, the impact of his theories on the understanding of the human mind is being described. It is also used to show the ways politicians and the public relations agencies have used it during the past hundred years in their engineering of consent. The main objective here is to prove how Freud’s ideologies have influenced the world and show the way the human mind has evolved following the evolution of the mass democracy.
Public policies are created through the implementation of political and economic ideologies to influence the masses. This is the core of the documentary since everything from the Freud’s way of thinking to the Edward’s invention of PR revolves around having a favorable economic and political arena for people to make fair choices without intimidation. Among the main actors are Freud himself and Edward Bernays, his nephew who is believed to have been the first person to apply psychological techniques in advertisements. He is regarded as the father and founder of the public relations industry in the documentary. This is an example of transmission of ideas from one generation to the other through mobilization.
According to the documentary, Sigmund developed new thinking and taught his daughter who then went ahead and influenced the grandson who later became a founder in a new industrial aspect. This is a call for mass influence from an ideology to a way of thinking and finally a way of life for the people. Freud's daughter Anna Freud is depicted as the pioneer of child psychology in the second part of the documentary. The Century of the Self documentary asks deeper and fundamental questions concerning the roots and methodology of representative democracy, modern consumerism, and its implications. It also goes ahead to question the modern way people see themselves and the attitude to fashion and superficiality.
The underlying issues that the media seek to explain concern the political economy that influences the way thinking has evolved. According to the film, social changes take place in the society through an individual with influential voice among the people. Edward is used to show how one individual can adopt an ideology and use it to make a difference without having to force people to accept it. Public relations are portrayed in the film as the coming together of people in agreement and the mechanism through which a firm can keep influencing its consumers. This is where people are made to buy things that they might not necessarily need, but have to buy them because they are influenced to want them by the firm producing.
One may argue that it is the love of wealth and political power that made people begin forming groups and speak with one voice. Looking at the way the world economics is run in the present day, the influence of this thinking becomes quite relevant, and the reality of greed and selfishness is portrayed. Part one depicts the foundation of the relationship between Freud and Edward Bernays, his American nephew, who is believed to have invented Public Relations in the early 1920s. Edward Bernays is considered the first person who successfully took Freud's ideology to manipulate the masses. He taught American firms how they could make consumers want products that they did not need, just by systematically linking the mass-produced goods to the people’s unconscious desires.
The aspect of the economic gain comes in to explain why people may find themselves purchasing the same thing, while their desires for it are different. Institutions have so far developed different and amazing perspectives following the influence from the way Freud was thinking and the way his nephew made the thinking easy for understanding by the people, thus pulling the masses to one side and forming a new way of life for them. Bernays, according to the documentary, was one of the primary architects of the modern mechanisms of mass-consumer persuasion. He is displayed as an expert on the political economy; and just by being a strong advocate of Freud’s ideology, he became successful in crafting public relations.
Corporations can now use public relations in maintaining consumers and making them want more than they literary need in their lives. According to the understanding of this documentary, the evolution of thinking has taken place due to the love of wealth and freedom by the people. Rational people seek easy methods of having economic as well as political power, and they do not need to be followed by laws and superior individuals. Political economy advocates freedom to choose and the convenience that comes with free consumption choices. This is where the explanation by the documentary tends to incline toward freedom rather than unity of the people. From the film, those people in power are portrayed to have believed that the only mechanism for making democracy work and the creation of a stable society was the repression of the savage barbarism that was hidden under the surface of freedom.
The Century of the Self documentary was produced by BBC which is run by the British government, thus downplaying the evils conducted by the government on the people. From the film, it is evident that the enemy of democracy is not capitalism nor is it consumption, but the government and its propaganda. Mass production goods enrich the society since they reduce the amount of time an individual has to work to satisfy their essential needs. Government propaganda debases the people since it is used as an excuse to cover everything wrong done by the state. These vices range from oppressive economy, killing taxation, murderous wars of aggression and regulation. The documentary’s economic dimension can be summarized in the statement that for the government to have control over the people, there must be propaganda and silent oppression through rules. Every individual suffers from the existence of a police officer in their mind, who tends to bar them from making progress. The rules that governments impose stick to the minds of the people and at times stop them from making important steps due to the fear of consequences.