Jung, Magic, and the Manipulation of Eros: How Capitalism Controls Us
Bernay’s classic work, Propaganda (1928) explored the psychology behind manipulating masses and the ability to use symbolic action and propaganda to influence politics and effect social change. Bernays’ thesis is that “invisible” people who create knowledge and propaganda rule over the masses, with a monopoly on the power to shape thoughts, values, and citizen response. “Engineering consent” of the masses, he argued, would be vital for the survival of capitalism.
In this post we explore how the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis have been used by the marketplace to transform products into magical brands that we subconsciously connect with.
What (Freud’s nephew) Edward Bernays and his fellow marketers did was to introduce eros to the marketplace and to explore a new technique to infuse products with its energy. Products started to transmute into pseudo-symbols when charged with psyche, libido, emotional appeal, and the promise to still the desires constantly stirring within the consumer’s unconscious.
Influenced by the insights of psychoanalysis, a new method of marketing was born, one that would reshape the field of advertising and form a psychological framework for the industry that today is referred to as branding.
The word brand derives from Old Norse, a Viking language spoken in Scandinavia until the fifteenth century. Brandr meant ‘to burn’. Later in history, the word came to identify the process of marking cattle, criminals, and slaves using a hot iron, a precursor to the logo.
Brands today are more than mirrors for our unspoken, often unconscious, psychological wants and desires.
Why Mr Blake Cried: Monogamy, Matrimony and the Mind-Forg’d Manacles
In his fascinating exploration of the ideological status and function of traditional marriage and the role of ‘family values’, Theodore W. Jennings shows how in the Bible Jesus actually radically subverts these institutions and ways of relating, seeking to replace them with more inclusive, equal, and genuinely socially integrative forms of living. It is interesting in this respect that one of the first things that spiritual communities do is to replace the atomising, inward-looking, emotionally toxic and politically hierarchical structure of the ‘family’ with more open and egalitarian forms of living. Though in contemporary society, as in Jesus’s day, ‘The Family’ is held up as integral to its power structure and affective organisation of stratified, socially isolated, inward-looking, and hierarchical power dynamics, which the institution of The Family both transmits and reflects, another way of living, and of being is possible.
Breaking the ‘mind-forg’d manacles’ that weld us to these old ways of thinking – and more importantly ways of feeling – was one of the central tasks of Jesus’s mission, and was both echoed and developed by the generation of radical poets and thinkers of Blake’s day, including Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, Rousseau, and of course Blake himself. Before a more awakened and liberated form of society can emerge, Blake suggests, we have to transcend our existing shackles (it is no coincidence that Jennings for example calls one of his chapters ‘Marriage, Family, and Slavery’ – echoing Wollstonecraft’s earlier critique of this institution for the regressive and toxic situations and spaces it generates). And in order to do that, we first need to understand what the concept of The Family actually is.