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.
Integrating the Inner and the Outer: How Society Shapes Who We Are
In my 2017 book, The Political Self: Understanding the Social Context for Mental Illness (Routledge), I explore how our social and economic contexts profoundly affect our mental health and well-being, and how modern neuroscientific and psychodynamic research has significantly developed our understanding of these wider discussions. The book therefore looks both inside and outside—indeed one of the main themes of the volume is that the conceptually discrete categories of “inner” and “outer” in reality constantly interact, shape, and inform each other. Severing these two worlds, it suggests, has led both to a devitalised and dissociated form of politics, and to a disengaged and disempowering form of therapy and analysis.
“Rather than separating our understanding of economic and social practices from our understanding of affective development and human development, we need to bring them together, to align them: we need to realise that politics, the external world, is not a world without an ‘inner’.”
Drawing on a number of leading figures in these fields, including Iain McGilchrist, Sue Gerhardt, David Smail, Nick Totton, Joel Bakan, Nick Duffell, Dave Grossman, Joel Kovel, Jonathan Rowson, and James Hillman, the book argues that we need to understand people and their psychological distress in an essentially social and environmental context. Rather than separating our understanding of economic and social practices from our understanding of affective development and human development, we need to bring them together, to align them: we need to realise that politics, the external world, is not a world without an “inner”. And for this to happen, we need a new integrated model for mental health, and a new politics: we need a new dialogue between the political and personal worlds, and a recognition of how psychotherapeutic practice and the psyche both shape and are powerfully shaped by existing structures and interests.
The Divided Therapist: Hemispheric Difference and Contemporary Psychotherapy
In The God of the Left Hemisphere I explored the remarkable connections between the activities and functions of the human brain that writer William Blake termed ‘Urizen’ and the powerful complex of rationalising and ordering processes which modern neuroscience identifies as ‘left hemisphere’ brain activity. In The Divided Therapist I extend this analysis, exploring its implications for our mental health and the practice of therapy itself – the regeneration and reintegration of the psyche. If the first book was about the “fall into Division”, this book is about the “Resurrection to Unity”: the restoration of psychic wholeness.