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Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund…

Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)

by Sigmund Freud

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2013, 2018, nonfiction
  Queenofcups | Jan 16, 2018 |
It is quite clear that Freud was so far ahead of his time that some of his theories may still prove to be correct, in spite of what "modern" evidence suggests. Freud resonates with so many unspoken thoughts it would seem that psychoanalysis provided his laboratory of the unspoken, enabling him to grasp what others had or could not. Given the context of the times, Freud appears to me to have seen through the veneer of the Victorian era, and even grasped the problems of the present era. It is more than obvious he was well-read in art and literature and rightly deserves the title of "genius". I went to Freud after reading Andy Warhol (despite the seemingly disparate connection it made sense to me) and now I am compelled to explore Voltaire and Kant. Voltaire to comprehend the context of the sublime and Kant to try to discover how one could articulate so much from so little observation. ( )
  madepercy | Nov 7, 2017 |
Civilization and Its Discontents presents itself as a direct sequel to Freud's Future of an Illusion. Where the earlier text was chiefly concerned with the irrational adherence to religious ideas, this one starts out inquiring into the "deepest sources of religious feeling" (9), what might in more sympathetic hands be termed the psychology of mysticism. In section II of the essay, Freud at first tries to relate such sources to the chief means of palliating life's suffering: i.e. "powerful diversions of interest, ... substitutive gratifications, ... and intoxicating substances" (10), which three may be taken as another iteration of the chief Platonic frenzies (dropping the Muses as was done by Ficino and his successors): oracular, erotic, and mantic. (In the writings of Aleister Crowley these become the musical, sexual, and pharmaceutical methods of inspiring ecstasy.) At the end of this section, Freud seems to imply that a chief function of religion is to guard against the abusive individual indulgence in the frenzies, and to supply a deferred substitute in the form of metaphysical guarantees. (As Crowley wrote, "No religion has failed hitherto by not promising enough; the present breaking up of all religions is due to the fact that people have asked to see the securities.")

In the third of the essay's eight sections, Freud pivots to concentrate on the business indicated by its title. He begins to explore the tensions between individual gratification on one hand and social growth and welfare on the other. In particular, he focuses at first on the occasional hostility toward cultural development as such, and the idealization of a pre-lapsarian state. As the discussion continues on to the etiology of culture generally, it becomes distinctly androcentric ("Women represent the interests of the family and sexual life; the work of civilization has become more and more men's business," 33) and culminates with a presentation of 1930s family life and sexual discipline that seems positively Victorian in the most pejorative sense of the term.

Returning to religion, Freud identifies the social instrumentality of the religious "love of neighbor," as well as the insupportable demands that it makes of individuals. This context is the one in which he develops an outline of the conflict between Eros and Thanatos, the life-instinct and the death-instinct. The instinctual bind is what he then hypothesizes as the motive force in the development of the super-ego (i.e. conscience) in the individual.

In the closing passages, the idea of the super-ego of a community or of "an epoch of civilization" is introduced, and Freud proposes that such super-egos take their particular forms in reaction to perceived human figures, such as Jesus bestowing the "love of neighbor" fixation on the collective super-ego of Christian culture. The possibility to personify such a collective psychic function makes it provocatively similar to the "Aeon" as used in Thelemic parlance, especially when Freud posits the derangement and replacement of such a super-ego. And in this final section, while disclaiming "any opinion regarding the value of human civilization" (70), he does seem to come full circle to the critique of culture, suggesting that the survival of humanity itself may be dependent on the arrival at a new covenant between Eros and Thanatos at the collective level.
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Jul 21, 2017 |
Freud sort of responds to Rousseau (Discourse on Inequality) and Marx (Dialectical Materialism) here, but as always, Freud does not do a good job of differentiating between Freud-the-Psychologist, and Sigmund-the-Philosopher. On one hand, Freud tries to be scientific, but at the same time he uses ill-defined philosophy (see "Oceanic Feeling") to convey his ideas. If you want psychoanalytic theory's discussion on (literally) civilization and its malcontents, perhaps a reading of Žižek or Lacan is in order.

However, if you came for Freud, here he is in all his....err.....glory? I suppose that truly, this work is beyond a real rating system due to the enigma that is the works of Freud and psychoanalytic theory. It is hard to rate this book alone when it carries the baggage of a shunned theory and theorist with it, and then perhaps I am sad for Freud. ( )
  MarchingBandMan | May 31, 2017 |
Eye opening stuff. I know a very large amount of the stuff that Freud wrote has been discredited, but if you have never been exposed to his theories then this is definitely the best way to get into it, as it covers most of the major touchstones of his work. ( )
  hickey92 | Jan 24, 2016 |
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This, written in 1930, on the eve of destruction as it were, is a summary of Freud's beliefs, the potted essence of his system as applied to the broad picture. Those who decry the Freudian technique as far as our interior mental landscapes go would do well to remember that, whatever his flaws as a scientist, he was a first-rate essayist.

» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Freud, Sigmundprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Šuvajevs, IgorsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLintock, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riviere, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strachey, JamesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Civilization, therefore, obtains mastery over the individual's dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393301583, Paperback)

During the summer of 1929, Freud worked on what became this seminal volume of twentieth-century thought.

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 Freud's 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 man's place in the world, a place Freud defines in terms of ceaseless conflict between the individual's quest for freedom and society's demand for conformity.

Freud's theme is that what works for civilization doesn't 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 Freud's 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:07 -0400)

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A translation of a 1929 text in which Freud summarized his views on culture from a psychoanalytic perspective.

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W.W. Norton

3 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393301583, 0393059952, 0393304515

Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141018992, 0141182369, 0141194987

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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