PR! A Social History of Spin

PR! A Social History of Spin

PR! A Social History of Spin

PR! A Social History of Spin


This is Stuart Ewen's long-awaited history of public relations. Based on unexplored and often confidential sources, the book shows how the the art of PR has moulded and warped the contours of American democracy.


When I began the research for this book--attempting to discover the social and historical roots that would explain the boundless role of public relations in our world--one of my first stops along the way was a sojourn with Edward L. Bernays, a man who, beginning in the 1910s, became one of the most influential pioneers of American public relations, a person whose biography, though not widely known, left a deep mark on the configuration of our world.

Born in Vienna in 1891, Bernays was the double nephew of Sigmund Freud. (His mother was Freud's sister; his father was Freud's wife's brother.) His family background impressed him with the enormous power of ideas and accustomed him to the privileges and creature comforts of bourgeois existence.

Bernays was also a farsighted architect of modern propaganda techniques who, dramatically, from the early 1920s onward, helped to consolidate a fateful marriage between theories of mass psychology and schemes of corporate and political persuasion.

During the First World War, Bernays served as a foot soldier for the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI)--the vast American propaganda apparatus mobilized in 1917 to package, advertise, and sell the war as one that would "Make the World Safe for Democracy." The CPI would become the mold in which marketing strategies for subsequent wars, to the present, would be shaped.

In the twenties, Bernays fathered the link between corporate sales campaigns and popular social causes, when--while working for the American Tobacco Company--he persuaded women's rights . . .

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