Saturday, 20 March 2010


Notes from the screening of the documentary 'Century of the Self'.

The documentary enforced a lot of points from last week's lecture.

"There is a policeman inside our heads - he must be destroyed."


- Sigmund Freud: Our subconscious thoughts should be controlled.

- WIlhelm Reich: Our subconscious thoughts should not be controlled. Our inner self should be embraced.


Edward Bernays brought in Freud's idea of the unconscious mind in advertising. These techniques involved subtly playing to the repressed desires of the masses.

It was observed that this form of consumerism kept the masses docile.

Wilhelm Reich's contrasting ideas about the mind were largely ignored at the time. Lore Reich blamed Freud's daughter Anna for this.

Former Student Activist Robert Pardun said: "advertising was manipulation, it was a way to get you to do something that didn't come out of you".

Herbert Markuse, another critic of Freud said: "People are reduced to expressing their feelings through manufactured objects".

Wilhelm Reich's contrasting ideas were largely ignored at the time. Lore Reich blamed Freud's daughter Anna for this.

Personal becomes political

The public turned to Reich from the 1960s - in advertising and politics.

"The whole system of government and economy is based on profit, on personal greed and selfishness

Politically, it was asserted that society couldn't be changed unless enough individuals changed themselves.

So, "the personal became the political".

An interviewee said that Reich's ideas could be summed up by "taking ownership of who you are".

Minority groups, designed to express marginal opinions, began to develop.

Black/white encounter groups were an example of these groups, in which intense racial arguments would take place. It was seen as healthier to air feelings publicly rather than keeping them inside or behind closed doors.

Another group, the Human Potential Movement (HPM), was designed to bring out the best in people. The idea was to transmit these human qualities to make positive changes to society.

HPM was rooted heavily in Existentialism as it encouraged individualism and having control of one's destiny.

Reich and American corporations

Reich had a massive effect on corporate America as his ideas became more prominent. (Marketing) values were now challenged more often.

Additionally, the consumer could be seen no longer as passive and one of a 'mass'. The consumer now wanted to feel like an individual, and wanted to be offered products to reflect that.

Advertisers had to monitor the habits of the consumer a lot more as a result.

However, to add a WINOL-like sting, self-expression was not unlimited. Individuals could be grouped into 'lifestyles,' which inevitably helped corporations.

No comments:

Post a Comment