‘A frankly brilliant book’ The Guardian
‘An extraordinarily engrossing and wide-ranging analysis of a word and a concept. I fell under its spell immediately’ Simon Garfield
In 1953, a group of prisoners of war who had fought against the communist invasion of South Korea were released. They chose – apparently freely – to move to Mao’s China. Among those refusing repatriation were twenty-one American GIs. Their decision sparked alarm in the West: why didn’t they want to come home? What was going on?
Soon, people were saying that the POWs’ had been ‘brainwashed’. Was this something new or a phenomenon that has been around for centuries? The belief that it is possible to marshal scientific knowledge to govern someone’s mind gained enormous attention. In an era of Cold War paranoia and experimentation on ‘altered states’, the idea of brainwashing flourished, appearing in everything from critiques of CIA research on LSD to warnings of corporate groupthink, from visions of automaton assassins to conspiracy theories about ‘global elites’. Today, brainwashing is almost taken for granted – built into our psychological and political language, rooted in the way we think about minds and societies. How did we get to this point – and why?
Psychoanalyst and historian Daniel Pick delves into the mysterious world of brainwashing in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from The Manchurian Candidate to ISIS, TV advertising to online algorithms. Mixing fascinating case studies with historical and psychological insights, Brainwashed is a stimulating journey into the mysteries of thought control.
A frankly brilliant book -- Kathryn Hughes * The Guardian * Daniel Pick has done the most wonderful, engaging and compelling job in tracing the roots of this particular strain of post-war anxiety in all it's forms, from totalitarian tyrannies and espionage, right up to today's fears of fake news and ubiquitous algorithms. And [he] has terrific range: whether discussing the delicacy of democracy or psychiatric hospitals, Pick's account is mesmerising and generous, [leaving] you continually wondering about your own power to resist. -- Sinclair McKay * Mail on Sunday * Dizzyingly fluent ... a reminder that, in the matter of thinking for ourselves, cages come in all sizes and shapes -- Anthony Cummins * The Observer * Daniel Pick has here taken a great step toward answering a great preoccupation of the twentieth century -- Professor Eli Zaretsky, The New School for Social Research and author of Secrets of The Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis Mixing insights from his practice as a psychoanalyst, Daniel Pick takes us on a gripping ride through the history and makes us ponder how, in a digital economy that moves ever faster, we can ever think for ourselves. A thought-provoking must read. -- Professor Lyndall Roper, Oxford University An extraordinarily engrossing and wide-ranging analysis of a word and a concept. I fell under its spell immediately -- Simon Garfield Lively ... stimulating [and] hugely entertaining ... a clarion call for better ways of thinking and better politics -- David Aaronvitch * The Times * Daniel Pick's new book is a fascinating exploration of brainwashing, advertising and other mind manipulations. Focusing on the second half of the 20th century but bringing the story right up to date with a penetrating consideration of recent conspiracy theories, it is absorbing, accessible, scholarly and of profound contemporary importance -- Stephen Frosh, Professor of Psychology at Birkbeck College A great preoccupation of the twentieth century was the suspicion that our minds were being manipulated through hypnotism, advertising, fake news, brain washing and the like. Importantly, this suspicion arose in democratic as well as totalitarian societies. Where did it come from and why has it been so hard to shake? Daniel Pick, who is both a psychoanalyst and an historian, has here taken a great step toward answering this question. -- Eli Zaretsky, author of Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis and Professor of History at The New School for Social Research Daniel Pick takes us on a gripping ride through the history of fears of brainwashing that date from the 1950s and its links to ideals of anti-communism and personal freedom. But as he shows, 'coercive influence' is alive and well today, one of the major challenges we now face. Mixing insights from his practice as a psychoanalyst, this thought-provoking book makes us ponder how, in a digital economy that moves ever faster, we can ever think for ourselves. A must read. -- Lyndal Roper, Professor of History, Oxford University Fabulous - both brilliant as history and penetrating about the present -- Lisa Appignanesi, Royal Society of Literature A guide to the frightening place where the science of the mind and the politics of paranoia come together -- Vassili Christodoulou * How To Academy * Praise for Daniel Pick's previous books -- : Daniel Pick is an intelligent, thoughtful, well-read psychoanalyst who is always worth reading. His 2012 book, The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind, has an honoured place on my bookshelves. -- David Aaronvitch * The Times * Pick scrupulously examines the scientific background to Garibaldi's obsession ... stimulating, often ingenious approach ... a clever and illuminating study * Independent on Sunday * Tremendous ... Pick tells the story of Garibaldi's failed Tiber venture with flair, mingling psychological speculation with biography and history * Sunday Telegraph * A fascinating dissection of a slice of European history * Economist * A fascinating exploration * Daily Telegraph * Richly absorbing, perceptive, often funny and moving * Literary Review * Intelligent, discriminating, subtle, dispassionate, sensitive to context, and to nuance ... provides the indispensable perspective for further discussion and reasoned argument * Times Literary Supplement *
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