The series, made by producer Adam Curtis, follows the development of the concept of the self from the ideas of Freud, to the massively influential but largely unknown role of his nephew Edward Bernays.
Bernays is considered the ‘father of public relations’ as he virtually invented the practice in its current form by applying his uncle’s theories.
Crucially, instead of selling products on the basis that they were better products, he revolutionised advertising by marketing them to appeal to the sense of self – i.e. the product would make you a better person (more attractive, more independent or whatever).
He was later involved in applying the same techniques to excert political influence on behalf of the US government and later wrote Propaganda, one of the most influential books on the subject.
The documentary tracks how the psychology of the ‘self’ evolved and was used by marketeers and politicians throughout the 20th century.
It gets a little political towards the end, but otherwise strikes me as a groundbreaking analysis of a neglected topic. Highly recommended.