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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Jun 11, 2023

"He [Bernays] proposed to his uncle that he’d do a translation of this book that had been given to him and Freud, perhaps without thinking too much about it,  approved the idea.  Bernays went about hiring a translator who was a psychology Ph.D. student that he found at Columbia University and he got Stanley Hall to write an introduction for what was published in 1920 as ‘A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis’. Now, shortly after this happened,  Freud had second thoughts about authorizing Bernays to translate his lectures, particularly as he had been working with his trusted colleague Ernest Jones on translations.  But by the time Freud wired Bernays to try to stop this publication, Bernays said that it was already too late and that the advertisements had already been placed and the publication was proceeding. Bernays assured Freud that it would be all right and he also assured him that he would get fame and glory and also substantial recompense for the publication. Freud was not too happy about this, nor was Ernest Jones, and when they finally  received the translation that Bernays had done they were particularly upset." 


Episode Description: We begin by describing the complicated bloodline between Freud and Edward Bernays - Bernays' mother was Freud's sister, and his father was the brother of Freud's wife. We then consider Bernays' role as the founder of the field of public relations. This has led many to inaccurately see him as a manipulator of the masses through the use of his uncle's theories. In fact, Bernays served as the pro-bono literary agent for Freud's books in the US which contributed to his popularization and to providing vital financial support during the years of Austria’s hyperinflation. We also discuss Bernays' role in the American pro-democracy movement, which was designed to counter the influence of Nazi propaganda in the years before WWII. We close with Joseph's describing his interest in this subject and his wish to "set the record straight" about Edward Bernays.


Our Guest: Joseph Malherek is a historian who holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was the Junior Botstiber Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Central European University, and he has been a Fulbright Visiting Professor of Austrian-American Studies at the University of Vienna. He has published widely on the topics of transatlantic migration, twentieth-century intellectual history, and the history of capitalism and consumer culture. His book, Free-Market Socialists: European Émigrés Who Made Capitalist Culture in America, 1918–1968, was recently published by Central European University Press.


Linked Paper:


Recommended Readings:

Freud’s American Nephew: Edward Bernays and the Selling of Psychoanalysis. 

Psychoanalysis and History 25, no. 1 (2023): 59–78.


Bernays, Edward L. (1923) Crystallizing Public Opinion. New York: Boni and Liveright.


Bernays, Edward L. (1965) Biography of an Idea: Memoirs of Public Relations Counsel Edward L. Bernays. New York: Simon and Schuster.


Freud, Sigmund. (1920) A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. New York: Horace Liveright.


Gay, Peter. (1988) Freud: A Life for Our Time. New York: W.W. Norton.


Lippmann, Walter. (1922) Public Opinion. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.


Roudinesco, Élisabeth. (2016) Freud: In His Time and Ours. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press