Civilizing the Unruly Masses : The Impact of Edward L. Bernays's Invisible Governance on American Democracy
- Lepore, Judith A.
- [University Park, Pennsylvania] : Pennsylvania State University, 2021.
- Physical Description:
- 1 electronic document
- Additional Creators:
- Kupfer, Charles
- etda.libraries.psu.edu , Connect to this object online.
- Restrictions on Access:
- Restricted (PSU Only).
- After World War I, the mass public's unsophistication and brutishness as a threat to civilized rule consumed many social and political theorists. The propaganda machine that served the Western Allies under Woodrow Wilson's Committee of Public Information bore a new kind of technocratic weapon, one which Edward L. Bernays, "the Father of Public Relations (PR)," helped develop using the sociological and psychological tools first established by his double uncle, Sigmund Freud. Bernays eventually created and codified a PR system designed to alter the mass public's values, beliefs, and actions, particularly in the name of invigorating American democracy through unconscious, invisible influence. This study analyzes Bernays's PR theory and practices to evaluate the extent to which his ideals and program for invisible governance could be considered democratic. While Bernays thought of himself as politically liberal, even a member of the early twentieth-century's Progressive Era, his actual practices tended to support private interests over public ones. The top-down thinking of the Progressive Era's elite pervaded Bernays's work, and the emphasis on power and leadership as white, patriarchal, scientific, and educated defined his pro-democratic work, his clients' campaigns, and his personal identity. Pursuit of the public good eluded him in a business that depended on improving the commercial success of clients, but when the "public good" was a viable business option (as it was with the American Nurses' Association), Bernays's techniques were largely ineffectual. Moving the mass depended on the flexibility of social norms and conventions, which Bernays could not magically manufacture. Though he sought equipoise for PR throughout his centenarian lifespan, it was hardly achieved, and as such, PR's powerful techniques remain checked only by those who benefit most from their employment. This situation proved catastrophic for Guatemala's first attempt at democratic rule in the 1950s, when Bernays exploited the Red Scare to undermine¬¬ democratic labor and land reforms in support of the United Fruit Company. Because the techniques for mass influence were so dependent on communications technologies, the rapidity of social media and its proprietary algorithms make the invisibility of mass influence all the more pernicious for free-thinking citizens and a democratic society.
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- Dissertation Note:
- Ph.D. Pennsylvania State University 2021.
- Technical Details:
- The full text of the dissertation is available as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file ; Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view the file.
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