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Century of Self; eight People sipping Wine in Kettering by Curtis, Adam

The concluding part of the BBC documentary series The century of the self explains how politicians on the left, in both Britain and America, turned to techniques developed by business to read and fulfil the inner desires of the self. Both New Labour, under Tony Blair, and the Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, used the focus group, invented by psychoanalysts, in order to regain power. They set out to mould their policies to people's desires and feelings, just as capitalism had learnt to do with products.

Historical background
Unlike America, the ruling elites in Britain had always distrusted the idea of pampering to the masses. However, the economic stagnation of the 1970s forced corporations and politicians to takes people's attitudes on certain issues into consideration. Out of this grew a new culture of public relations and marketing in politics, business and journalism. One of its stars in Britain was Matthew Freud who followed in the footsteps of his relative, Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations in the 1920s.

Social interest
The politicians who were using techniques from psychoanalysis believed they were creating a new and better form of democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of the individual. But what they did not realize was that the aim of those who had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate the people but to develop a new way of controlling them in an age of mass democracy.

Argumentation
Although Edward Bernays publicly argued that consumerism would benefit a democratic society, privately he did not believe that true democracy could ever work. He was greatly influenced by his uncle Sigmund Freud who believed that individuals were driven by primitive desires and feelings. It was too dangerous to let the masses ever have control over their own lives. Consumerism was a way of giving people the illusion of control while allowing a responsible elite to continue to manage society.

The century of the self
The century of the self is a four part BBC television documentary series written and produced by British television producer and documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis. The series covers the different ways in which Sigmund Freuds theories and those of his critics about the unconscious part of human psyche have been used to further both commercial and political goals, focusing on the United States and Great Britain.

About the filmmaker
Adam Curtis is a renowned British television producer and documentary filmmaker noted for making programmes which often make far reaching claims on grand subjects. The scale of his subject matter and his claims to the undisputable truth of his opinion often give rise to controversy. However, his documentaries always expound clear views on the subject which are structurally well argued. Curtis is known for his extensive use of archival footage and the narration his own documentaries.

Awards
Best documentary series, Broadcast awards. Historical film of the year, Longman/History today awards. Nominated for: Best documentary, Royal television society. Best documentary, Indie awards. Best documentary, Grierson documentary awards. Best documentary, William Coupan Memorial award.

Director
Curtis, Adam
Copyright Holder
BBC
Duration
58 min.
Year of release
2002
Language
English

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