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Civilization and it's Discontents

The fame of Sigmund Freud surrounds several of his writings and theories covering a range of topics from aspects in civilization to the sexual inclinations of individuals. Gersh Kuntzman, writer for New York Daily News comments on the relevance of Freud in the relation to the current events of 2014. Stating, “If you remember Freud 1929 essay from when you didn’t read it in college, the father of psychoanalysis argued that aggression is not only humanity’s natural instinct — but that this “inclination to aggression constitutes the greatest impediment to civilization’” (Freud qtd. In Kuntzman). But with 2014 resulting of violent acts from Ferguson to Eric Garner to beheadings to school shootings, Freud’s “Civilization and its Discontents,” impend as pertinent to the modern society and the issues we face today.

This evaluation of Freud’s theories are far from a minor fraction covering the array of topics Freud indulges in “Civilization and Its Discontents”. The primary topic Freud engages with is the reasoning for why we as societies create the restrictions for ourselves that we are bound to be unhappy within. Noting “it shows us how far we are from mastering the characteristics of mental life by representing them in pictorial terms” (Freud 33) is one instance of how Freud argues the choice between peace of city and peace of mind within individuals of a civilization or society. Similarly he asserts that “life, as we find it, is too hard for us, it brings us too many pains, disappointments, and impossible tasks. In order to bear it we cannot dispense with palliative measures” (Freud 41) which is the beginnings of his explanations for why individuals choose to be part of this collective misery we call civilization in order to maintain stability for ourselves. This self restriction can be seen as an echo of game theories within economics where self-interest is acknowledged by an individual but awareness of mutual benefits pushes one to create self-restricting situations such as contracts that result in self punishment if disobedience occurs. Additionally, the atrocious events such as rape, murder, and capital offenses are explained by Freud as natural human instinct that has been suppressed by self-restraint imposed by society and laws of civilization to ensure the repetitive events of a functioning community. Hence, Kuntzman’s brief description of Freud’s book “Civilization and Its Discontents” is accurate in nature.

Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. W.W. Norton Company Ltd. 2010.

Kuntzman, Gersh. “Marathon reading of Sigmund Freud’s ‘Civilization and its Discontents’ will

shed light on human violence”. New York Daily News. 18 December 2014.


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