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Kindling the fire of knowledge

We can think of its fundamental forces as physical forces, and we can compare its attributes to features of the physical world we inhabit, but the liquidity and civilization and its discontents of the mind, as evidenced by dreams and obsessions, is more difficult to visualize than something like a city.

Active Themes Freud argues that different religious civilization and its discontents, like yogic meditation and Christian prayer, all relate to a desire for the ego, the self, to join to a world external to it.


Thus the father of childhood becomes, in adulthood, God the Father, or His equivalent. He argues, in particular, civilization and its discontents prayer and meditation are different manifestations of the same impulse: And while the love instinct eros can be commandeered by society to bind its members together, the aggressive instinct runs counter to this tendency and must either be repressed or be directed civilization and its discontents a rival culture.

Thus, Freud acknowledges there is irrevocable ill-will within the hearts of man, and that civilization primarily exists to curb and restrain these impulses. In the sixth chapter, Freud reviews the development of his concept of libido to explain why it must now be separated into two distinct instincts: Freud admits it may be difficult to accept his view of human nature as being predisposed towards death and destruction, but he reasons that the suppression of this instinct is the true cause behind civilization's need for restrictions.

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Life and civilization, then, are born and develop out of an eternal struggle between these two interpersonal forces of love and hate. Freud begins the seventh chapter by clearly explaining how the repression of the death instinct gives rise to neurosis in the individual: These aggressive energies develop into the super-ego as conscience, which punishes the ego both for transgressions committed remorse but also for sins it has only fantasized about guilt.

All individuals must submit themselves to forming these feelings of guilt, for their aggressive instincts must civilization and its discontents repressed if they hope to share in the love which civilized society has appropriated for its members.

Guilt and the neurotic repression of instinct are simply the price we pay in order to live together harmoniously in families and communities.

The guilty conscience is the price paid by the individual to belong to civilized society, but often this guilt is left unconscious and is experienced as anxiety or 'discontent'.

Civilization and Its Discontents - Wikipedia

Civilization and its discontents also considers that in addition to the individual super-ego, there may exist a 'cultural super-ego' that sets itself up as a conscience for society, and that his recommendation for it is the same as his recommendation for many of his neurotic patients: These things are undoubtedly indispensable.

According to them, man is wholly good and as well-disposed to his neighbor; but the institution of private property has corrupted his nature. The ownership of private wealth gives the individual power, and waited the temptation to ill-treat his neighbor; while the man who is excluded from possession is bound to rebel in hostility against his oppressor.

If private property were abolished, all wealth held in common, and everyone allowed to share in the enjoyment of it, ill-will and hostility would disappear among men.

Since everyone's needs would be satisfied, no one would have any reason to regard another as his enemy; civilization and its discontents would willingly undertake the work that was necessary.

I have no concern with any economic criticisms of the communist system; I cannot inquire into whether civilization and its discontents abolition of private property is expedient or advantageous.

But I am able to recognize that the psychological premises on which the systems based are an untenable illusion. In abolishing private property we deprive the human love of aggression of one of its instruments, certainly a strong one, though certainly not the strongest; but we have in no way altered the differences in power and influence which are misused by aggressiveness, nor have we civilization and its discontents anything in its nature.

Aggressiveness was not created by property. It reigned almost before property had given up its primal, anal form; it forms the basis of every relation of affection and love among people with the single exception, perhaps, of the civilization and its discontents relation to her male child.

Freud - Civilization and its Discontents

If we do away with personal rights civilization and its discontents material wealth, there still remains prerogative in the field of sexual relationships, which is bound to become the source of the strongest dislike civilization and its discontents the most violent hostility among men who in other respects are on an equal footing.

If we were to remove this factor, too, by allowing complete freedom of sexual life and thus abolishing the family, the germ-cell of civilization, we cannot, it is true, easily foresee what new paths the development of civilization could take; but one thing we can expect, and that is that this indestructible feature of human nature will follow at there.


It is clearly not easy for man to give up the satisfaction of this inclination to aggression. They do not feel comfortable without it.

Civilization and Its Discontents

The advantage which a comparatively small cultural group offers of allowing this instinct an outlet in the form of hostility against intruders is not to be despised.

It is always possible to bind civilization and its discontents a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.


I once discussed the phenomenon that is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other -- like the Spaniards and Portuguese, for instance, the North Germans civilization and its discontents South Germans, the English and Scotch, and so on.

I gave this phenomenon the name of "the narcissism of minor differences", a name which does not do much to explain it. We can now see that it is a convenient and relatively harmless satisfaction of the inclination to aggression, by means of which cohesion between the members of the community is made easier.

In this respect the Jewish people, scattered everywhere, have rendered most useful services to the civilizations of the countries that have been their hosts; but unfortunately all the massacres of the Jews in the Middle Ages civilization and its discontents not suffice to make that period more peaceful and secure for their Christian fellows

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