What is civilization and its discontents about

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what is civilization and its discontents about

Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

It 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.
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GREAT BOOKS 12: Sigmund Freud's Civilization and its Discontents, with Peter Brooks

Civilization and Its Discontents

Civilization and Its Discontents is a book by Sigmund Freud , the founder of psychoanalysis. Exploring what Freud sees as the important clash between the desire for individuality and the expectations of society, the book is considered one of Freud's most important and widely read works, and one of the most influential and studied books in the field of modern psychology. Freud enumerates what he sees as the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. The primary friction, he asserts, stems from the individual's quest for instinctive freedom and civilization 's contrary demand for conformity and repression of instincts. Freud states that when any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it creates a feeling of mild contentment. Many of humankind's primitive instincts for example, the desire to kill and the insatiable craving for sexual gratification are clearly harmful to the well-being of a human community.

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Civilization and Its Discontents

Here is a very classy new imprint from Penguin: 20 short non-fiction works, chosen for the inordinate influence they have had on the cultures that produced them. Not only are the texts themselves important, but the books are beautifully produced, and slim enough to slip into a pocket. I choose Freud's Civilization and its Discontents to be the book that accompanies me in this way.

Civilization and Its Discontents , which Freud wrote in the summer of , compares "civilized" and "savage" human lives in order to reflect upon the meaning of civilization in general. Like many of his later works, the essay generalizes the psycho-sexual theories that Freud introduced earlier in his career - the Oedipal conflict, the theories of sexual impulses, repression, displacement and sublimation. Whereas before Freud was interested in specific neurotics, one might say that in Civilization Freud expands his interest to identifying the neurotic aspects of society itself. He extends his inquiry from man-in-particular to man-in-general. The work is frankly pessimistic in tone, and many commentators have attributed this dark view to the devastating experience of the First World War.

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