Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930, by Sigmund Freud
Civilization and Its Discontent was Freud's last major work. It also happened to be the most influential of his works. In this work, Freud expounds on his earlier work on the sense of guilt of the superego. He postulates that this sense of guilt is the source of all human civilization. He claims that human beings have a natural desire to belong to a group. For instance, Freud claims that a young child does not understand the difference between themselves and the society. However, this instinct disappears over the development of the person. It does not disappear completely and reappears later in the life of an individual. This natural instinct to belong to a group, Freud argues, is the cause of civilization.
The general nature of Freud's work on civilization is riddled with pessimism. The first chapter of Freud's book begins with a criticism of religion. Freud views religion as a way in which human being deal with psychological issues that constantly face them. In the book, Freud views civilization as emerging form the destructive and constructive nature of man. Two opposing forces that Freud names Eros and Thanatos take center stage in this book. In the book, Freud proposes that civilization is a way for individual human beings to deal with his violent and destructive nature.
Freud argues that civilization emanates from the superego. He argues that man's drive to be civilized comes from the superego that is driven by guilt and remorse. Consequently, Freud argues civilization emerges from this delicate balance to fulfill individual desire and the sanctions from the superego. Freud is also very critical of religion in this work. He argues that at childhood, a person has a strong urge for protection from the father. Consequently, Freud argues that religion comes from this primal desire for protection by a father. Consequently, Freud argues that religion emanates from this primal desire in order to deal with the harsh realities of the external world.
In this book, Freud also looks into the conflicting nature of civilized man. Freud views civilization as a way which modern man deals with the extremities of realities. Despite this fact, civilization brings man a lot of grief. Consequently, Freud argues that the reason for most mental illness is man's inability to deal with the realities of civilized society. This is because, for some, dealing with the restrictions that society places on their primal nature becomes too much. Essentially, Freud argues that civilization emanates from a desire by man for achieving individualistic goals.
In his book, Freud argues that civilization is driven by aggression. Furthermore, he explains that civilization does not exist because of the love man has for fellow men. Rather, it is driven by the desire to oppose this primal aggressive nature of man. Freud's argues that man's destructive drive is especially strong, this theory gained traction due to the advent of the First World War. Freud argues that for man to share in the joys of civilization, feelings of aggression are turned towards oneself. This results into the development of the superego. Consequently, the superego allows the individual to share in society. However, these feelings may be turned outwards, which results in war.
In his book, Freud argues that guilt and shame are some of the primary drivers for man to inhibit his primal urges. In addition to that, he firmly states that guilt is derived from the individuals desire to fulfill these urges. Thus the superego of an individual, through conditioning in the earlier stages of life cause an individual to self-sanction. To explain the development of the conscience as abase for civilization. Freud draws on some of his earlier work. Freud argues guilt, and hence the conscience derives from the primal man's murder of the original father figure.
In his earlier work, Freud argued that primal man murdered killed his father in order to fulfill his sexual desires with females of his tribe. He viewed his father as an obstacle to fulfilling this desire. However, the overwhelming guilt experienced afterwards led primal man to develop guilt, which led to development of civilization. Freud argues that this is the premise of modern civilization. The desire not to repeat the original crime of hostility towards the father is the driving force behind civilization. Consequently, the opposing force of guilt is the only way civilized man can keep their death instinct in check.
In his work, Freud argues that there is only one way for modern man to stay civilized. The only way is to ensure a balanced between man's individualistic need and those of society. Consequently, it is necessary for man to forego some of his personal pleasure in order to share in the joys of civilized society. These joys include health and security. Besides that, it is quite clear that the horrors of the First World War had a great influence on Freud.
In the book, Freud concedes that human life is hard. Consequently, human beings try to look for solace in destructive behaviors such as drug abuse. It is quite clear that the advantages of modern civilization far surpass the pleasures of uncivilized man. Even today, the freedoms that primitive societies are dampened by the struggles they have to face.
The book is one of Freud's most widely led work. Although it contains many flaws, many of which have been disapproved, it does hold some insight for human civilization. It is also of great significance to note that Freud's work was written during one of humanities lowest point. The First World War was a sad state of affairs for human civilization. In essence, Freud viewed war as a neurosis. This can explain why he was so critical of humanity. For one, the war forced him to move from his native country. Human beings may not be perfect; however, since the time of Freud, they have proven that civilization is capable of good. The modern technological advances that human societies have managed to make since the century when Freud lived are a testament to this.