Notes of documentary series “The Century of the self”

The century of the self


Feruid came up with psychoanalysis, which showed that information does not lead to decision making, and that making a decision is far more complex and irrational and driven much more by base desires and animalism, and is influenced by even the subconscious and the unconscious.

public relations was the term coined by Bernays (nephew of sigmund freuid) as alternate to propoganda (as german use of it had made the word negative)

next bernays discovered that it’s possible to make people act irrationaly by linking products to emotional desires and feelings…he used this to make smoking among women acceptable by showing it as a sign of freedom of women, literally linking smoking to the phrase “torches of freedom”

he was first to demonstrate that a product should be sold as a feeling, an emotional requirement instead of a rational one. Now the consumer desires overshadow his needs.

The culture was deliberately shifted from a Needs based one to a Desire based one using ADs.ADs trained/conditioned people to Desire/Want new things even before the old had been consumed

Bernays was the first to introduce Product placements in movies, studies (paying doctors and researchers to say that a product is good for you) brand ambassadors, organize fashion shows..all to connect products to emotion and make people feel that products are a part of their personality. This together he called, the “Engineering of Consent”

he was first to promote that ordinary people must buy shares

Freuid and Bernays proved that the basic principle of Democracy, that a group of people can be trusted to make decisions on a rational basis, was Wrong

This went on till 1929, when the markets collapsed

Freud then wrote “Civilization and it’s Discontents” to attack the idea that Civilization was an expression of human progress. He argued that Civilization had been constructed to control the dangerous animal forces inside human beings. Also, the idea of Human freedom, which is the heart of democracy, is Impossible. He said that Humans can’t ever be truly allowed to express themselves as it’s too dangerous (as humans are animals and their decisions are irrational) and so must always be controlled and thus there will always be a discontent in Man’s Mind as he’ll never be allowed to do what he want in society. Freud didn’t believe in the equality of Man as well.

Hitler’s socialist party came to power on the argument that democracy brings out selfish interests of individuals and leads to inequality etc. His slogan was “38 Parties and still 6 Million Unemployed”. Also the 1929 crash in America showed Germans that Free Market is Doomed to failure…so they voted for Hitler’s socialist party. First thing Hitler did was control all Business and bring all production under state and new motto was “service over self”
Hitler’s regime showed how masses’ libidal forces (forces of love) are directed to the leader and how the other end, the forces of hate are directed to any outsider

Back in America, post 1929, Roosevelt became president, but he chose to strengthen democracy by enforcing broad executive powers, known as “the new deal”, whereby a committee was setup to launch new public welfare projects, moving away from Laissez Faire (let it be economics) economic theory. This involved people more in the Govt. But Big Business couldn’t bear this, and hence formed National Association of Manufacturing to counter this broadening Govt. role. They launched a campaign against Govt. on bernays principles and linked Democracy to Capitalism, and once again turned People from Active Citizens to Passive Consumers, and again, it was not People but People’s Desires that were in charge

Ep 2

After WW II, Govts all over the world were convinced that Freud’s theory that the unconsious, and subconscious desires of Man are base and animalistic and irrational and of savage barbanism, and that they can surface anytime (like with Nazi camps and WW). Hence they decided to suppress/repress/control those so that WW would not happen again and democracy can be preserved.

The mental treatment of WW II vetrans was the 1st inquiry into the feelings and emotions of people and the birth of psychoanalysis. Past regression of these vetrans confirmed that their breakdowns were not a direct result of fighting, but the stress of combat had merely the triggered old childhood memories of men’s violent feelings and desires repressed till now as they were too frightening
this was overwhelming proof that underneath, humans were driven by primitive irrational forces

Psychoanalyst now created techniques to deal with this irrational human, to preserve and maintain democracy so as to prevent a rerun of Nazi Germanany..COZ Democracy left to itself, failed to do this…

Freud’s Psychoanalysis was only to show people their unconscious drives, but his daughter Anna believed it was possible to teach people to control these forces. She demonstrated this by teaching children to conform to the rules of society, to be disciplined. This way, when they grow up, their Ego, strong over the years of compliance, would keep the subconscious desires in check

This template was then applied to All Americans by the 1946 National mental health act. This trained thousands of psychologists to encourage people to conform to the accepted patterns of family and social life, hence strengthening their ego and hence making them able to control the dangerous forces within them. So that they’re not driven by base desires and passions. Showing them that the road to Happiness was in Adapting to the external world ie compliance. This is how they created model citizens.

Now these Psychoanalysts moved to big business to create Model Consumers. This was led by Ernest Dichter who had practiced next door to Freud in Vienna, but had come to America and set up Institute of Motivational Research, to find out why people do things they do, to uncover the unconscious Motivations in irrational people that make them purchase stuff, be it sexual, psychological or sociological or status related.
he started by conducting group psychotherapy sessions about products.
Eg. he figured out that the reason ready to bake cake mix was failing was wife’s guilt in using it, as it represented ease and convineince…so the product was changed to allow user to add an egg, hence increasing the wife’s participation and reducing the quilt
The Consumer doesn’t directly understand his/her needs. You need to figure out those needs to exploit the consumer fully

He called this the removal of unconscious defences (like guilt above) to give people what they want.
This also helped create a Stable society as when people identify with products, those products have theraputic value in improving the person’s self image and security and confidence, hence improving the society in general. Dichter called it the stratergy of Desire.

An elite was necessary to create these circumstances and products as it was proven that democracy, left alone, will not favour it’s own survival in the future.

Then came cold war, and once again president eizenhower turned to bernays for help. bernays had demonstrated that the only way to connect to masses was through their subconscious desires and fears. He argued that instead of reducing people’s fears of Russia and communism, govt should manipulate the fear such that it becomes a weapon in the cold war.

He time and again manipulated the american public to decide what he (the business he was hired by..and he didn’t distinguish business from America) thought was best for them, as he knew that people were not rational and hence didn’t know what’s best for them or for democracy..he called this Engineering of Consent.

He later joined CIA for developing Brainwashing techniques…the basic principle behind Brainwashing was that people are very vulnerable and that this can be used to control them. THis failed completely.

People then began to question the need for psychoanlaysis, and the need to control people, and proposed arguments like this that making people confirm to the norm was actually suppressing their base desires and fears even more and in turn making them even more dangerous in the long run, not less. The sickness of society is at the level of society, not inside and must be treated at that level and not at the level of individuals.

Martin Luther King, in his speech said that psychoanlaysis considers Maladjustment to be bad, but there is an urgent need for people to be Maladjusted to the evils of society like racial segregation, bad economic conditions that lead to poverty and increasing monetary divide. and such

Now Freud and Anna’s confirmism and control was considered bad, and this was proven by the lives of those childern who were taken as template of confirmism. Those children, now adults became alcoholic and broken marriages and even committed suicide.

Ep 3

Now was the time of liberation of the self, and this led to increased power for Businesses to attract consumers, as now, with the base desires not in check by compliance and ego, they could directly target them and control and manipulate the individual’s action through them.
The psychoanalysis had changed from CONTROL you feelings to EXPRESS your feelings.
Leader of this group was Wilhelm Reich, a man hated by Freud.
Reich believed that the unconscious forces inside human mind were Good, not bad, as Freud believed.
Further Wilhelm said that it was the repression of these forces and impulses by society that distorts them. thats what made people dangerous
Wilhelm believed that the underlying natural impulse was the libido, sexual energy, and if this would release, humans would flourish. and that neurosis was due to lack of orgasm.
Anna Freud was on the other hand, a virgin.
their conflict came to clash in 1934, and Anna used her influence to get Wilhelm kicked out of international psychoanalytic association
in 1960s, american public began to question their manipulation by ADs by Corporate America
Marcuse published paper that Freud’s principles used by Corporates have created an America where people are reduced to expressing their feelings and identities through only mass produced objects, resulting in a one-dimentional-man, CONFORMIST and REPRESSED.
This was showed by groups in form of protests which were all supressed by the govt.
so then the only option was to go into one’s own mind and remove the seeds of control and repression. the idea was that changing one;s own self, if done by enough people would change society itself, without needing political change.
so to do so they turned to ideas of Wilhelm and resurrected him. Perls had been trained by Reich and had been developing on his ideas in California at Esalen Institute. he pushed individuals to publically express their feelings
. to do self revelation and take ownership of one’s feelings. this he said gave people power and freedom. this was called the “Human Potential Movement”. They linked personal transformation to social transformation. using the same principles they tried to attack racism, by group session of whites and blacks expressing their feelings on race. such confontration led to people transcending their feelings and becoming liberated individuals
This led rise to the Hippie movement of the 60s
Corporate America was threatened by it. Eg. less and less people were buying life insurance. LIC is baseb on a protestant mindset ie u buy if if u’re a person who can sacrifice in present for future gain…
This was opp. to hippie culture, which was seen at that time as political radicalism, but was actually, in it’s core about self expressiveness…preoccupation with the self
Corporates soon realised that these hippies were consumers too, but not of the comfirmist products of the past, but products that would express their individuality, make them stand out in a conformist world.

The products of that time had emotional meaning, but individuality and self expressiveness was never there till now.

the problems facing corporates was that these hippies can’t be analysed in focus groups and also the individuality of products demanded variety, which the current system of mass production can’t make. it was profitable only when making large no. of same objects, which fit best in limited and controlled desires of a conformist society,

But the threat was increasing.
werner erhard created sessions for training people, called EST to be themselves. he developed on ideas of human Potential movement, and said taht there was no self, and that one can do anything he wants be. Idea was to break one’s socially constructed remove all social layers and show the person that deep down it’s all meaningless and empty, the end point to exestensialism…but EST went a step further to make people recognize that IT WAS NOT ONLY MEANINGLESS AND EMPTY, BUT IT WAS EMPTY AND MEANINGLESS, AND IN THAT THERE IS ENORMOUS FREEDOM..ALL YOUR AND SOCIETY’S RULES ON YOURSELF ARE GONE AND YOU’RE LEFT WITH NOTHING..AND IT’S ONLY FROM NOTHING THAT YOU CAN CREATE AND INVENT THEMSELVES AND THEIR LIVES…ONLY THE INDIVIDUAL MATTERS..THERE IS NO SOCIETAL CONCERN…you living a fulfilled life IS ALL U NEED TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT,,,,IT’S YOUR HIGHEST DUTY
but the original vision that the change in enough individuals will drive societal change and bring social and political reform was not met even by the 70s, as people began to realise that they could be happy within themselves and changing society was irrelevant. this was reiterated by Rubin the founder of Yippie movement in 68.
The idea was to become fully developed and blossomed in oneself..Socialism in Oneself..which is similar to Capitalism
From 70s to 80s this idea of SELF-ACTUALIZATION had spread to 80% of public
at this point the corporates stepped into the public’s heads to find what these individuals need to express themselves..this research was done by Stanford, called Star Wars project..
Goal was to measure the desires of these individuals, coz as they say in business, what gets measured, gets done
Stanford turned to Maslow, who had studied Esalen and invented new psychological types, callled Hierarchy Of Needs, the different stages people went through as they liberated themselves…the top was self-actualization, the point where they became completely self directed and free of society…Stanford thought that this might become a new way of classifying society, not by class but by different psychological desires and drives….Stanford found that self expression was not infinite, but could be classified into identifiable types, and they invented a new term for it: LIFESTYLES…they called their system VALUES AND LIFESTYLES (VALs)…
Now began Lifestyle Marketing…an era post that of lookign at consumers in demographics of age or income, but to undestand the underlying Motivations and values

The product should now reflect the Values of their consumers’ lifestyles. this helped predict what new products self-actualizers would choose…
This analysis was so powerful that it could not only predict what products people would buy, but the politicians they would choose. Regan won on this by this campaign theme of Let the People Rule, taking Govt off the backs of people..he targeted these inner-directed people (those moving towards self-actualizers) cutting across classical demographics, by shocasing the values these people themselves live buy
This caused the individualistic people to vote for republicans (right wing), coz their values were shocased by Regan
True to his word, when Regan was elected in 81, he let these self-actualizers take the opportunity to build america by making govt. take a step back
same thing as regan was done by margret thacher in britain
these capitalists developed products aimed at lifestyles and represented values of their customers…
range of products that help individualists express their individualism and aid them to be their limitless self..
products that sell you a way of life, sells you values..
The earlier model of BUYING AN IDENTITY by buying a particular car, was replaced by notion that YOU’RE FREE TO CREATE AN IDENTITY and to change the words the way u want…
Computers aided in bringing customization to products …
Earlier with mass produced goods of same kind there was always worry that supply would be greater than demand,,,but with this paradigm shift, demand is infinite, as we’ve transformed from MARKET WITH LIMITED NEEDS TO A MARKET WITH UNLIMITED EVER CHANGING NEEDS DOMINATED BY SELF-EXPRESSIVENESS, THAT PRODUCTS AND SERVICES CAN SATISFY IN AN ENDLESS VARIETY OF WAYS, THAT CHANGE ALL THE TIME..AND SO ECONOMIES HAVE UNLIMITED HORIZONS..

EP 4

the goal has always been to control people in a new age of mass democracy
the RIGHT believes in individualism and individual expression
the LEFT on the other hand believes in society and persuades people to realise they have common interests with others, to help them rise above their individual feelings and fears
the idea of the RIGHT won in Regan’s time of 80s, to revive the economy while the idea of the LEFT won in time of Roosevelt in 30s after the great depression to encourage employees to form unions, and the introduction of the Welfare System for those trapped in powerty. this idea drove the democratic party and america for 50 yrs till 1980

Democrats in Britain is called Labor party. and they too came in power with thacher;s idea of individualism in 80s, finally defeating the long rule of the conservative party

the expectation of people from politicians that they vote for now, is the same as from products, they want their desires and wants and individual needs to be fultilled…people don’t side left or right anymore…
the candidate has to taylor his promises to the values and lifestyles of the voters that he’s targeting
in 90s clinton, a democrat came to power by promising tax cut for middle class, but due to high deficit, he wansn’t able to deliver on this promise, so increased taxes and promised big govt. but people hated it and so went republican on both houses of congress in 94 elections …
basically people now don;t care about public welfare or developemnt..they are selfish and capitalistic and are looking for govt. to get outta way and for tax repulicans and RIGHT side all the way….

Clinton then used the consumer rules philosophy to win back public support for his instead of manioulating voters he saw what they wanted and changed his agenda to fit that…