The Work of Edward Bernays


Communication professionals should have at least a cursory understanding of Edward Bernays’ work. Along with Ivy Lee, he’s considered one of the fathers of the field of Public Relations. He may have actually coined the term. Edward Bernays was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, but I’ll let the video [posted below] explain that.

“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits.”
— Edward Bernays (Propaganda, 2005 ed., p. 71)

He called this practice of persuasion the “engineering of consent.”

Edward Bernays and Sigmund Freud are the main characters in the video below. It is the first of a four part BBC documentary The Century of the Self directed by Adam Curtis.

The other three parts can be found here: two, three, and four.

Posted by on May 14, 2009
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