A cultural historian chronicles the dominant role that Freudian psychology has come to play in our culture.
“From the early 1920s through the early 1960s, psychoanalysis helped to reprogram the American mind by shifting our orientation from civic interests to personal ones in all spheres of everyday life,” writes Samuel (The American Dream: A Cultural History, 2012, etc.). As sources, the author relies primarily on films, magazine articles, newspapers and popular literature. He cites a 1925 description of Edward Bernays by the New York Times, in which he was called the “father of public relations.” Freud’s double nephew, Bernays orchestrated many lucrative advertising campaigns. One of the most famous, undertaken for Lucky Strike cigarettes, involved New York City debutantes smoking in public during the Easter parade. In its early days, following World War I, psychoanalysis was restricted to members of the social elite able to afford the time and money for up to six sessions per week, but its influence spread. Evident in such films as Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), its popularity was amplified when Cary Grant, Marlon Brando and other celebrities endorsed it. The human potential movement of the 1960s reshaped Freudian psychology for a broader audience, with offshoots such as group therapy, sensitivity training and the Esalen Institute's encounter sessions. In the author's view, the dominance of consumerism in our society ensures its place in our “cultural vocabulary,” even though it is no longer dominant in therapeutic practice.
A lively, if narrow, look at the American century that underplays other aspects of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and ’70s.