The Mayfair Set

1999 ,    » 27 Comments
Ratings: 8.59/10 from 29 users.

The Mayfair SetUnreported and almost unseen approach that capital and capital markets have taken since 1945 to gradually take control of the political systems of the USA and the United Kingdom. Adam Curtis outlines several key points and analyses at great length various events and personalities.

These so called market movers were all members of the Clermont Club in Mayfair, London. What at first seemed to be an audacious and unrealistic strategy to take control of the market economy turned into something almost unstoppable, destructive, cruel and completely bereft of feeling or scruple.

What is so shocking is that the corruption and immorality did not start as commonly assumed in the 1980's with the ascent of Reagan and Thatcher to power but with the beginning of the global economy in the late 1950s. There is much material shown here that should be much more discussed and explained because it depicts aptly how moribund and fragile the economies of the developed world have become.

How they are built up on tenuous and shallow assumptions that market cycles are no longer applicable. The greed and deception of the business elite reaches far further and far wider than beyond anyone's common knowledge or understanding of politics.

1. Who Pays Wins - The opening episode, Who Pays Wins, focuses on Colonel David Stirling.

2. Entrepreneur Spelt S.P.I.V. - The rise of Jim Slater who became famous for writing an investment column in The Sunday Telegraph under the nom de plume of The Capitalist.

3. Destroy the Technostructure - This episode recounts the story of how James Goldsmith became one of the richest men in the world.

4. Twilight of the Dogs - By the 80s, the day of the buccaneering tycoons was over. Tiny Rowland, James Goldsmith and Mohammed Al Fayed were the only ones who were not finished.

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27 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Jonathan R.

    LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG but very interesting!

  2. Grand Science

    This was the first Adam Curtis Documentary that I had ever seen, maybe four years ago... and then I had to see all of his work. The style that this message is delivered in keeps the attention as well as dazzles the eyes! 9/10

  3. Anthony

    a insiders view of the evolution of the free market thank you once again Adam curtis. Perhaps they should change the name to the unfree markets.

  4. silkop

    A nicely done documentary. Slanted, but honest about it all the way through, and careful to inform the viewer.

    Now we know who the major enemy of the society is: the evil Western pensioners! Because they have nothing to lose they want to suck blood of the poor young people all around the world. ;-)

    Seriously, it all boils down to the basic fact that to create wealth you need to work (productivity), but if you just wish to redistribute wealth, it can be done in destructive ways (you benefit, while others lose and everyone is poorer after the fact). The principle been known since thousands of years (-> wars). The main question is whether "the markets" (that's you and me) have enough foresight and restraint to follow the long-term goal of increasing our common wealth rather than the short-term goal of "raiding" each other and rewarding "generals" for winning battles on our behalf.

    I think the proper way to address this issue is by looking into game theory (after all, that's pretty much where the modern market ideas come from). The new buzzword is "mechanism design". It has been the subject of 2007 Nobel prize in economics and there's interesting, useful stuff in it, much more so than in any political commentary.

  5. Peter

    Funny how politicians of any decade seems entirely corruptible. I wondered why even my favourite current politicians all seem to love the European Union, even though it makes them expendable. Its the markets. They must realize that they already are, and long since have been set a side for the European oligarchy to roam free.

    If there is anything to learn in here, its the simple fact, that government must be COMPLETELY separated from private interests. They have no power to limit or control them any more, and even with good intentions, greed always will prevail as sole victor.

    Its scary to behold a world, even feared by a corporate chop shop banker, and know your elected representatives are utterly powerless to produce any real change.

  6. CestRealist

    The comments here seem to miss the larger point, interjecting skewed rationale and believing it to be an objective analysis.
    (I can't stand i***** who throw around "absolutes" [utterly powerless, always will prevail, NOW WE KNOW!!!] to describe issues of inherent discretion or asymmetric understanding or exposure to first-hand information.)

    People are corruptible, not just "the politicians". People are irrational. So if "the market" (at any other time, "god" or "destiny" would substitute) is a function of human systems, is there such a thing as a perfect market system?

  7. Peter


    Did you sit on your balls before writing? If not, you need to adjust your attitude.If I'm not mistaken, you really sound like an American who's proudest achievement is figuring out the jesus/santa claus secret, giving you a false sense of superiority.

    Who ever did mention it being objective? It's TV.

    In any case, the markets needs governing in the times of irrational temptation. Or are you a believer of, the markets regulating themselves? Hopefully not. Labour helping vultures downsize a country, and knighting them for it, leaves a pretty large gap between current and perfection.

    What was your point again?

  8. Tjo

    Dang - I really wanted to see this - no window shows up for the doc.

  9. princeton

    "In any case, the markets needs governing in the times of irrational temptation. Or are you a believer of, the markets regulating themselves? Hopefully not"

    and whom do you presume will do that governing ( who is not corruptible that is ) ?
    Actually, those placed in the position of "regulating" the market are the most corruptible of them all, for they have the most power. and absolute power, corrupts absolutely.
    its like this, if we assume people are corrupt/greedy/whatever and need to be regulated, then we must assume those who are doing the regulating are of the same caliber, and the only way to minimize this corruption is to leave everyone on an even playing field where different interest have the same level of influence (free market). giving one small group power over everyone else is guaranteed Fail.. markets/people have to be left to regulate themselves (supply & demand)

  10. T-roy

    If the natural order of the world were restored, the UK and the USA would not be influencing the world, because they don't have the resources to do it. If the world were correctly balanced, the continent of Africa and the West Asia (the middle east) would run the world. It might end up happening before it's all over.

  11. Anthony

    @ CestRealist you asked the question, is there such a thing as a perfect market system? so I'll give you an answer, no.

    If I believe in anything, I believe in political awareness, (we if we want or value our freedom)should understand politics and vote for what we believe in.

    Sadly the term, "people have become disillusioned with politics" is usually thrown at you the moment you turn on a television. the concept of a free-market is in essence a utopian fallacy, brilliant but it is an illusion.

    The word free is such a powerful little word.

  12. wpsmithjr

    It's simple really. You want the free market to work properly?

    You follow the U.S. Constitution.

    In the Constitution, the federal government was supposed to butt out of ALL of our affairs. They were just supposed to supply the 3 branches, including the high courts, and the military. Everything else was supposed to be taken care of at the state level... or even more locally. Government was supposed to be as close to the people as possible, and the federal government was supposed to be a small, unifying body with 3 branches, each branch's power checked by the other two.

    As far as "regulation" goes, there shouldn't be any. That's why we have the courts. To right wrongs when someone gets screwed. If the individual states want to regulate and tax the heck out of the people, so be it. People will vote with their feet and they do already. Look at how many people have moved out of CA and NY... and into TX... over the last decade. The states should handle most matters that the fed gov is handling now. This creates 50 "laboratories of democracy", each competing to attract citizens by providing low taxes, fair regulation and courts, and individual civil rights.

    What we have now is a massive, overbearing federal government, with it's hands in everything, bought and paid for by large corporations and special interests. When the government is involved in writing THOUSANDS of laws, regulations and tax codes... they can affect EVERYTHING in the market. That's not a free market... but instead the exact opposite.

    In our case here in the U.S....

    The media has been allowed to consolidate and churn out nothing but propaganda... by the gov.

    The multinational corporations have been allowed to take our jobs overseas... by the gov.

    The tax code allows corporations to leave their money overseas so they don't have to pay taxes on it... done by the gov.

    The corporations have been allowed to pollute our environment... by the gov.

    The banks have been allowed to destroy the value of our money... by the gov.

    The housing market crashed because of Freddie and Fannie backing the loans...again, by the gov.

    I could go on... but you get the picture.

    If the government simply got out of the way... but were there to try, convict and punish people and corporations who screw us over... then we wouldn't be in the mess we're in right now.

    Just as an example...

    The environment is screwed because we don't respect property rights. Instead of simply allowing a property owner to sue a major corporation if they pollute his/her land, we set up a huge bureaucracy that established tens of thousands of laws and regulations... that in the end... after all the bribes and kick-backs to the politicians... allows the corporation to pollute our environment as long as they do it "within acceptable levels". These levels being high enough to pollute our entire planet in less than a century. Dow Chemical, for example, should have been put out of business by lawsuits a long time ago. Instead, the EPA lets companies like this operate. The corporations pay millions to the politicians campaign... the politician stays in power and passes the favorable laws for the corp... the corporation benefits to the tune of billions. And our environment... even after all that money is spent... still gets polluted and there is nothing the property owner can do about it because it's all within the law.


    The federal government wouldn't be so crooked if it didn't have it's hand in every single cookie jar.

  13. wpsmithjr

    Amen brother. Corporations aren't bad. Government isn't bad. It's just when you allow them to collude... that is REALLY BAD.

    The government should be there to right the wrongs... and that's it. They shouldn't be micromanaging the private sector. That's when the corruption takes over.

  14. Brad

    It's simple really. I don't want 'the market' dictating my life, I want 'the market' off my back. When markets work 'properly' the economy nearly collapses. Then governments have to rush in to save the whole system from total annihilation.

    The market is an 18th century English invention forced on people by governments and business ideologues. Markets were supposed to be utopian systems of checks and balances and mutual obligations that would lead to prosperity, peace and protection for all. Instead, free markets led to the food riots of the 18th century, the Dickensian poor houses of England, the economic collapses throughout Europe in the 19th century and the Great Depression and 2008 economic collapse more recently.

    Free markets, like socialism or the second ammendment is a great idea in theory, not in practice.

  15. Lucy Saw

    The old industrialists who created wealth for themselves AND their nations actually produced things, they employed people sometimes over generations. Now you have people who have no loyalty to nationstate and make money just for themselves and the governments are now cannot control it nor rebuild the previous system. Creating money through 'creative destruction' is simply the dismantling of society, allowing wall street to dominate politics is to allow them to influence government enough to de-regulate the market further, to remove the restraints government had set to protect society. This idea that we all could get in on the game is rubbish, a lot of nonsense which distracts us long enough with dreams of wealth while the sharks become more powerful and wealthy. Some of the old landed gentry had more of a sense of duty to their society than these new types of tycoons. They're globalists and they have to level great nations in order to control the wealth.

  16. Lucy Saw

    I don't think you fully grasp what they are outlining in the documentary. When your government, parties on both right and left are co-opted, admitting that they do not control the markets, that they are subordinate to the markets then it doesn't matter whom you vote for because both parties have no control. Globalization means no one anywhere can be free and your vote means nothing. Look at what Obama for example was saying while campaigning and what he's done since he's been in office. He promised to change wall street culture and instead brought in Summers and Geithner and Bernanke, all the men who under Clinton and Bush de-regulated and brought about financial ruin. Why would he bring them in unless he had to? They've been running things ever since Bush and before that was their daddy Greenspan. Political awareness means understanding that the system itself no longer works for the common man. If you don't understand that you will vote this way and that and wonder why there is still no change and why you continue to lose more wealth. An example of this is in the beginning in the film where labor was voted in and then there was a run on the pound because they were afraid of what changes labor would introduce, the unions were strong and making a fuss. Later with Blair, labor run and the announcer says 'this time there was no run on the pound' because those with money knew that it didn't matter that labor had won, labor would never be able to institute anything that could threaten their wealth. This is why Blair announced that globalization was something unavoidable, because he knows that neither him, nor his party nor that of the other party are in control and so are unable to change it. Government for the people by the people is dead.

  17. dion kelly

    First wpsmithjr says that there shouldn't be any regulation. He then goes on to blame the government for all the current ills of the nation--because it failed to effectively regulate corporate off-shoring, corporate polluting, corporate tax loopholes........
    Regulations protect the citizen from the corporation. The libertarian would simply hand the nation over to the corporation.

  18. Rainmaker

    The UK has NOT be influencing the world already for many decades. Even among other European countries, Germany and France are WAY more politically and economically influential than Britain. The United States consider the UK to be their strong ally in Europe simply because it follows ALL commands from Washington without any questioning. This is not an ally, but a servant.

  19. wpsmithjr

    You are correct... I am blaming the government for all that stuff... because it IS regulating all that stuff. Can't you read?

    The government allows Dow Chemical to do what they are doing to the environment. If they were doing their job, they would be prosecuting Dow for destroying the environment. The government makes up the regulations... and then enforces them.

    Aren't they doing a great job??

    What if, instead of making all these laws and regulations... with tolerances for this... and allowances for that... all controlled by politicians with corporate money constantly being fed into their pocket... why doesn't the government simply prosecute the people who are doing the destruction??? Because... the politicians don't make $$$ that way... and stay in power.

    There's a difference between free market capitalism with a government there to simply be a mediator when there are disputes... and corporatism, more appropriately called FASCISM, which is the collusion of state and corporate power... which is what we have.

  20. Anthony Williams

    I understood the documentary.

    Are you making a point or just being arrogant? thank you for the synopsis, I would have to be deaf and blind not to have understood that Curtis was trying to show how power was given away to the markets, that's precisely what the documentary is about and why I watched it.

    My point about political pressure being put to use in restoring the influence a nation has over its own economy is accurate and is in fact likely to happen, unless Greece is entirely suicidal.

    I'm afraid it is yourself that doesn't entirely grasp what this documentary is about.

    If the economies of the world where likened to trees of some forest canopy, then it could be said that just as in nature all are locked in fierce competition, striving therefore one against the other for access to sunlight. When one giant inevitably falls those who had previously been in its shade strike out, racing to supplant the overlord and establish for themselves a place in the sun.

    In this era, the power of technology has intensified the competition and it has widened the forest to the point perhaps where none could see the woods for the trees.

    None the lesswe are still very much in the jungle and if you want a place in the sun your going to have to fight for it.

    We shall see just how strong the illusion of the "free markets" is in the coming months, the EU will likely disintegrate if Greece Disembarks.

    "Government for the people by the people is dead." That's a pretty grand statement, it may be static, dull, authoritarian or non-democratic but it will never be dead.

    At least not until that asteroid with our name on it shows up. In the mean time what party would you vote for? the radical pessimists?

  21. Lucy Saw


    I see no evidence that 'government by the people for the people' is a reality and not an empty slogan giving the apparition of real democracy. You mention Greece, well look at the recent referendum. If Greece were a real democracy the referendum would have been put on the table from the very beginning since it is the people who are going to have to pay for this odious debt just to keep the bankers happy. What you have is a threat of a referendum by the Greek government to upset the opposition who pretend they are against austerity measures (which is the dismantling of the public sector for private interests) but freak out the moment a referendum is suggested. Democracy? In a true democracy the people would be able to demand a referendum before government can enact such major decisions but it is government that decides, that gives them that choice which is evident by how quickly the referendum was pulled from the table. The Greek people will continue to lose their sovereignty in favor of foreign banks.

    In the US you have the Occupy movement which is testing the boundaries of this so called democracy. It has become evident that the moment they threaten the system in any significant way government clamps down hard. At the moment they are allowed to voice their concerns in the street but the media which is owned by large corporations regularly try to sully and misrepresent the movement. OWS is still trying to convince the working middle-class to join them in meaningful revolt but even though the movement is popular it is still only being fought by a handful of people. This fight you mention will only happen when things get so bad that the people have no choice but then their choice is nothing more than forging a complete collapse of the status quo, the financial & government sector respectively, something that the everyday person isn't really prepared to have happen. They would rather be comfortable slaves than radically free so long as the illusion of democracy is held before their eyes. This illusion if personified by the belief that 'government by the people for the people' is still a reality when in truth it is not and hasn't been so for a long time.

    If you see any signs that grass roots activism is actually threatening the system then please go ahead and give the examples. In the meantime the EU stands because it is able to fiscally threaten peripheral nations into servitude towards banks and the undemocratic process of the EU. Most people will not fight as long as they still have food on their table, a job and a roof over their heads, even if it means they remain in servitude to the banks in order to keep these 'privileges'.

    Go and goole the privatization of the US postal system on Democracy Now and you'll see how far the financial sector is scrapping public services in favor of privatization. As I said government by the people for the people is dead' the public just isn't prepared to accept this, they prefer to fantasize about control they never exercise. What is being built around us is a global servitude and the introduction of radical feudalism, and i see no signs that this is being threatened in any meaningful way. So do you see that gaping hole in your yard? That's the asteroid. Its already hit!

  22. Matthew Standley

    Some interesting points here.
    Too few people blamed for too many problems though, as though they are useful scapegoats. Although the narrative was clear, I don't see how these few, as they are presented, could have been so influential when older interests (I mean old-money, old-money families who...) would not have been remotely unaware of, or themselves innocent of, some the things mentioned here.

  23. laalana

    The outcome also depend on who are the executing the ideas. For example, socialism is working well in Scandinavian countries so far. (Although, the rapidly increasing refugee populations may finally make their welfare systems collapse.)

  24. planckbrandt

    Yes, like the banks. They are hardly mentioned, but they are the ones financing everything in this story. There are a few lines. "He had to pay the interest" and "Goldsmith forgot he was a creature of the banks", "They were using Goldsmith's bullying nature to break down the corporations". That line really reveals all. But, it is interesting how these systemic stories are put down to a few individuals. This is the way the real inner workings of the system remain hidden and unexplored or unexplained.

  25. DG

    Soft power was first pioneered by shamans and witchdoctors, later by priests. Religion was the primary source of soft power until the modern era.
    Then, it became politics.
    Now, it is becoming economics.
    But nothing much has really changed ...

  26. Jack

    DG's got it right. Living in a country where the powerful and wealthy few control the lives of the masses? Feel as though you get little to no input in respect to your government's policies? Is the majority (race, religion) taking advantage of the minority? Are immigrants viewed with suspicion and hostility while they are taken advantage of in the market? Is there wide spread corruption with wealth being distributed, not according to merit, but according to family/political ties?

    Well, you could be living in any civilization from 3000 B.C. until now. Technology brings the general standard of living up, but the game remains the same and the bigger the empire, the bigger the divide. Now everyone get back to work.

  27. flybow

    Remember, that thatcher's mate, Pinochet, was a regular at the Carlton club. There in the late 70s The ruling classes were planning a coup if thatcher did not win in 1979.

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