‘Not Just Washed but Dry-Cleaned’: Korea and the ‘Brainwashing’ Scare of the 1950s

  • Susan L. Carruthers

Abstract

The fear that our thought processes may be infiltrated by external agents, human or extraterrestrial, has permeated postwar popular culture. The ‘brainwashing’ theme has flourished as Enlightenment confidence in humans as autonomous exercisers of ‘Free Will’ has waned. In the 1950s, the increasing technologization of society, the rise of mass communications media, and particularly the growth of commercial advertising all helped fuel anxiety that individuals were mere cogs in ‘the system’:‘hidden persuaders’ had burrowed under the skin of modern ‘mass society’.1 Terms such as ‘brainwashing’ gave graphic expression to this ‘loss of confidence in our capacity as individuals to master our world’, as one social scientist wrote in 1959.2

Keywords

Depression Europe Propa Briton 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The title of an influential study of advertising: Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders (London: Longmans, Green, 1957).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Edgar Schein, ‘Brainwashing and Totalitarianization in Modern Society’, World Politics 11 (1959), 430–41 (430).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    Denise Winn, The Manipulated Mind. Brainwashing, Conditioning and Indoctrination (London: Octagon Press, 1983), p. 2.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    E. Hunter, Brainwashing (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Cudahy, 1956), p. 4.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    See A. Gleason, Totalitarianism. The Inner History of the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 94–5.Google Scholar
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    Albert Biderman, March to Calumny. The Story of American POWs in the Korean War (New York: Macmillan, 1963), p. 1.Google Scholar
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    Edward Hunter, Black Book on Red China (London: Friends of Free China Association, 1958) p. 125.Google Scholar
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    Chapter 2 of Brainwashing is devoted to Pavlov. See Meerloo, Mental Seduction pp. 38–53; W. Sargant, Battle for the Mind. A Physiology of Conversion and ‘Brainwashing’ (New York: Harper & Row, 1957)passim;Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan L. Carruthers

There are no affiliations available

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