Manipulation theory implies a psychology, but this is all very well and good: Brecht taught us that under the right circumstances you could remake anybody over into anything you liked (Mann ist Mann), only he insisted on the situation and the raw materials fully as much or more than on the techniques. Perhaps the key problem about the concept, or pseudoconcept, of manipulation can be dramatized by juxtaposing it to the Freudian notion of repression.
The Freudian mechanism, indeed, comes into play only after its object – trauma, charged memory, guilty or threatening desire, anxiety – has in some way been aroused, and risks emerging into the subject’s consciousness. Freudian repression is therefore determinate, it has specific content, and may even be said to be something like a “recognition” of that content which expresses itself in the form of denial, forgetfulness, slip, mauvaise foi, displacement, substitution, or whatever. But of course the classical Freudian model of the work of art (as of the dream or the joke) was that of the symbolic fulfillment of the repressed wish, of a complex structure of indirection whereby desire could elude the repressive censor and achieve some measure of a to be sure purely symbolic satisfaction. A more recent “revision” of the Freudian model, however – Norman Holland’s The Dynamics of Literary Response – proposes a scheme more useful for our present problem, which is to conceive how (commercial) works of art can possibly be said to “manipulate” their publics. For Holland, the psychic function of the work of art must be described in such a way that these two inconsistent and even incompatible features of aesthetic gratification – on the one hand, its wish-fulfilling function, but on the other the necessity that its symbolic structure protect the psyche against the frightening and potentially damaging eruption of powerful archaic desires and wish-material – be somehow harmonized and assigned their place as twin drives of a single structure. Hence Holland’s suggestive conception of the vocation of the work of art to manage this raw material of the drives and the archaic wish or fantasy material. To rewrite the concept of a management of desire in social terms now allows us to think repression and wish-fulfillment together within the unity of a single mechanism, which gives and takes alike in a kind of psychic compromise or horse-trading, which strategically arouses fantasy content within careful symbolic containment structures which defuse it, gratifying intolerable, unrealizable, properly imperishable desires only to the degree to which they can again be laid to rest.
Fredric Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture,” Social Text, No. 1 (Winter 1979), pp. 140-1 (x)