Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund FreudIt stands as a brilliant summary of the views on culture from a psychoanalytic perspective that he had been developing since the turn of the century. It is both witness and tribute to the late theory of mind—the so-called structural theory, with its stress on aggression, indeed the death drive, as the pitiless adversary of eros.
Civilization and Its Discontents is one of the last of Freuds books, written in the decade before his death and first published in German in 1929. In it he states his views on the broad question of mans place in the world, a place Freud defines in terms of ceaseless conflict between the individuals quest for freedom and societys demand for conformity.
Freuds theme is that what works for civilization doesnt necessarily work for man. Man, by nature aggressive and egotistical, seeks self-satisfaction. But culture inhibits his instinctual drives. The result is a pervasive and familiar guilt.
Of the various English translations of Freuds major works to appear in his lifetime, only one was authorized by Freud himself: The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud under the general editorship of James Strachey.
Freud approved the overall editorial plan, specific renderings of key words and phrases, and the addition of valuable notes, from bibliographical and explanatory. Many of the translations were done by Strachey himself; the rest were prepared under his supervision. The result was to place the Standard Edition in a position of unquestioned supremacy over all other existing versions.
Civilization and Its Discontents
Freud, S. Civilization and Its Discontents. Riviere Trans. The Hogarth Press. This introduction to the text discusses some of the main themes. View a summary of Civilization and Its Discontents here. Civilization and Its Discontents pursues, among other things, the thesis that there is a close connection between civilization, in this sense, and certain commonly observed psychological problems and experiences of malaise.
Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. And yet, in making any general judgement of this sort, we are in danger of forgetting how variegated the human world and its mental life are. There are a few men from whom their contemporaries do not withhold admiration, although their greatness rests on attributes and achievements which are completely foreign to the aims and ideals of the multitude. One might easily be inclined to suppose that it is after all only a minority which appreciates these great men, while the large majority cares nothing for them. One of these exceptional few calls himself my friend in his letters to me. I had sent him my small book that treats religion as an illusion, and he answered that he entirely agreed with my judgement upon religion, but that he was sorry I had not properly appreciated the true source of religious sentiments. This, he says, consists in a peculiar feeling, which he himself is never without, which he finds confirmed by many others, and which he may suppose is present in millions of people.
Instead of being "episodic" and appearing by chance, pleasure can be managed and controlled--like having a full cupboard or pantry to which you can turn whenever you have a need to be stilled. In the economy of pleasure, we sacrifice intensity binge drinking! Civilization itself as a mechanism or tactic for the re-distribution of pleasure ; -- not only in economy of individual pleasure, but also -- more equal distribution of pleasure among individuals; -- demands compromises in our innate ego-centrism.
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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Ernest Jones and Mr. James Strachey for their careful revision of the MS. I T he impression forces itsdf upon one that men measime by false standards, that everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself and admires others who attain them, while undervaluing the truly precious things in life. And yet, in making any general judgement of this kind one is in danger of forgetting the mani- fold variety of humanity and its mental life. There are certain men from whom their contem- poraries do not withhold veneration, although their greatness rests on attributes and achieve- ments which are completely foreign to the aims and ideals of the multitude. One might well be inclined to suppose that after all it is only a minority who appreciate these great men, while the majority cares nothing for them.
Link to text of Civilization and its Discontents. For Spenser, too, carries out an analytic reflection on the questions of how and why human beings act as they do in confronting or avoiding the internal, driving forces of their emotional lives, and it should thus be no surprise that the two works—so different in mode, so different in scope, so different in language—should run on lines of thought so strikingly parallel. Chapter I. What is it that human beings feel that make them want to construct religion? But why does Freud raise this issue at all?
The question of the purpose of human life has been raised countless times; it has never yet received a satisfactory answer and perhaps does not admit of one. Some of those who have asked it have added that if it should turn out that life has no purpose, it would lose all value for them. But this threat alters nothing. It looks, on the contrary, as though one had a right to dismiss the question, for it seems to derive from the human presumptuousness, many other manifestations of which are already familiar to us. Nobody talks about the purpose of the life of animals, unless, perhaps, it may be supposed to lie in being of service to man. But this view is not tenable either, for there are many animals of which man can make nothing, except to describe, classify and study them; and innumerable species of animals have escaped even this use, since they existed and became extinct before man set eyes on them.