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Civilization and its Discontents

In his book Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud examines the cultural frustrations which are brought about by the conflicts between the demands of the instincts of man and the prohibitions of civilization. The structure of culture, Freud finds, is designed to restrict the instinctive life of man, the instinctive life being one of egoistic self-satisfaction and aggression or destruction. To delve into every aspect of this antagonism that Freud studies would be too great a task for a paper of this length, therefore, I would like to focus my attention on the sections of Civilization and its Discontents dealing with suffering, love, happiness and the pleasure principle, and aggression and guilt, since these were the most valuable to me in understanding Freud's theory. In dealing with any of these, one undoubtedly overlaps principles which deal with the others and it is precisely this aspect of Freud's analysis that renders his theme comprehensible and interesting, though I do not claim full understanding nor agreement with Freud's theory.

Freud views man's existence as a conflict between nature and culture. Man creates fences to his own desires and this is the dilemma of social action in history. The theme of this conflict is id vs. ego, but more, this must be translated into cultural reality. The id, as Freud calls it, is the extension of nature in the human being. It is the origin of all energy. All life forces and drives, whatever their nature, are inborn. As a result, any wish is the persecution of the organism until it is fulfilled. The operation of the id is the pleasure principle.

... what decides the purpose of life is simply the programme of the pleasure principle. This principle dominates the operation of the mental apparatus from the start. There can be no doubt about its efficacy, and yet its programme is at loggerheads with the whole world, with the macrocosm as much as with the microcosm. Ther...

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Civilization and its Discontents. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:35, August 03, 2020, from