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Civilization and Its Discontents [Paperback]

Sigmund Freud , James Strachey
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2010 Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud
Freud's seminal volume of twentieth-century cultural thought grounded in psychoanalytic theory, now with a new introduction by Christopher Hitchens. Written in the decade before Freud's death, Civilization and Its Discontents may be his most famous and most brilliant work. It has been praised, dissected, lambasted, interpreted, and reinterpreted. Originally published in 1930, it seeks to answer several questions fundamental to human society and its organization: What influences led to the creation of civilization? Why and how did it come to be? What determines civilization's trajectory? Freud's theories on the effect of the knowledge of death on human existence and the birth of art are central to his work. Of the various English translations of Freud's major works to appear in his lifetime, only Norton's Standard Edition, under the general editorship of James Strachey, was authorized by Freud himself. This new edition includes both an introduction by the renowned cultural critic and writer Christopher Hitchens as well as Peter Gay's classic biographical note on Freud.

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Newly designed in a uniform format, each new paperback in the Standard Edition opens with a biographical essay on Freud's life and work along with a note on the individual volume--Peter Gay, Sterling Professor of History at Yale --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), an Austrian psychiatrist and the founder of psychoanalysis, isconsidered the most influential psychological theorist of the twentieth century and the author of The Interpretation of Dreams.

Steven Crossley is one of a select group of narrators who have recorded over two hundred audiobooks. He has won multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie and Sharpe's Fury by Bernard Cornwell. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freud as psychoanalytic sociologist. Jan. 5 2004
Sigmund Freud, whatever the variations in his posthumous reputation, remains the most compelling, daring, and persuasive analyst of the human condition we have. His psychoanalytic theories of sexuality, sublimation, repression, etc., offer original insights that profoundly influenced the course of Western consciousness in the 20th century. In addition to his gifts as a thinker, Freud was a master stylist, a man whose luminous prose and skillful argumentation make reading him a genuine pleasure.
"Civilization and Its Discontents," one of Freud's last works, remains one of his most vital and important. Don't be fooled by its brevity; this is a deeply complex and wide-ranging examination of Western civilization and its tensions. Freud speculates about the origins of our modern societies, the difficulties of assimilating ourselves to them given our own individual psyches, and ends the book with a rather pessimistic look forward. Clearly, Freud felt that civilization's "discontents" were an unresolvable fact of life.
What makes "Civilization and Its Discontents" so fascinating is Freud's application of psychoanalysis to Western society as whole. He examines how the factors at play in our own psyches--family conflicts, sexual desire, guilt, the "death instinct," and the eternal battle between our own self-interest and the interests of the human species at large--cause the problems that human beings encounter on a daily basis. As always with Freud, his ideas are put forward not as a final statement, but as a tentative first step.
This is one of Freud's indispensable texts, and its accessible and absorbing style make it an ideal introduction for those who are seeking to discover this colossal mind for the first time. A must read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freud as a philosopher ... Oct. 4 2005
With his culture theoretical documents Freud had essentially share at the development of the philosophical self-determination of mankind. After the Christian conception of the world had shattered, and human beings lost their feeling of being in security, after philosophers like Kierkegaard told, that only the fight for a pure individuality (and no common religious feelings) would be a help in the future, after Immanuel Kant had recognized the one-sidedness nature of academic scientifical points of view - a Nietzsche became famous, hammering out, that the power of will and lust (like Dionysos) should be focused - since the contrary, the Apollonian world of law and order had surpressed too much of important emotional horizons. Freud delivered more details of this conflict between sex and aggression and - on the other hand - sublimation, the capability to listen to the routes of correctness: a "super-ego" (like an inner police, living in every human being) is fighting against an ego, wishing childishly to love or to fight, often in the wrong moment and at the very wrong place. While an Arthur Schopenhauer still constituted the will as driving force of the world, but assigned only a role of an onlooker to the intellect, Freud drilled in greater detail: The destruction strength of human beings, their desire to meet death, their lust of aggression is the core of all driving inner-forces (Freud's opinion). This driving energy arduously sublimes in good behaviour, but then often dumps in self aggression or in an outside aggression. It is Freud's contribution to have made us examine an anthropological basic constant: the perpetually endangering human aggression instinct. Freud is therefore completely congruent with Schopenhauer, concerning the pessimistic prevailing mood. Read more ›
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars badly translated Dec 20 2001
If you can find another translation of this seminal book (see my review of Freud's Gravida), then do so. Strackey translates "kultur" (culture) as "civilization," "I" as "ego," and in general makes Freud seem so lifeless and cold-blooded that it's nearly impossible to get an accurate feel for his thought.
Without defending Freud's obvious reductionism, it needs saying that it was he who prompted us to ask: do the demands of modern life encourage or pathologize our innermost strivings? What do they do to our eros, our capacity for loving and feeling solidarity? And how do they stimulate our frustration and aggression?
While I disagree with Freud's conclusion that the total psychic repression of powerful passions is a necessary evil for the existence of culture, I do think he challenges us to wonder about just how high a price we pay for what we believe to be the "higher" and "nobler" achievements of the mind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Surprise: Freud is actually an effective writer! April 14 2003
Many people today believe that Sigmund Freud was obsessed with sex. However, most of these assumptions are based upon what another person said of Freud and almost never upon a careful reading of Freud's work. These people do not see the fact that Freud writes on more than sexuality, he also analyzes and researches the study of mankind. Sigmund Freud attacks the question why we do things the way we do head on and answers to the best of his reason. Therefore, Sigmund Freud was truly a man of his time and his debate on mankind was a very innovative method to answer mankind's most serious issues.
Man is an aggressive being and civilization is the means which humanity withholds its primal urges in check. At least Freud believes so and shows support for this thesis by referring to mankind's constant need to restrain its inherent passions despite all of the controls placed by society. I believe that Freud was definitely on to something with this point. He is right when he states that man is essentially an anti-social, anti-cultural being. One could look down through the pages of history and see war after war, violent act after violent primarily as a result of the inherent greed for power and a passionate thirst for more than one's own. This is one of the many reasons why communism is impossible, man is a selfish being and always desires more than he possesses. He will do what is necessary to increase his holding at the expense of his fellows. I believe that Nietzsche and Freud are in agreement at this point. However, Nietzsche believes that the masses attempt to quell this passion and label that as noble. I believe that Freud does not think it is possible to restrain this aggressiveness and mankind is only able to cover it up in a semblance of control which we label civilization.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A very thought Provocative text
I would have to definitely say that this is one read that has helped change my perception on reality, as well as give me deeper insight. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2003 by James Carr
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Most Important Books of 20th Century
No, you don't have to agree with Freud. But this is one of those books that a person who wants to be, or to be seen by others as, well educated does need to know.
Published on Nov. 27 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars The vastly overrated intellectual core of fraud ...er, Freud
Freud's works, although lavishly praised as a giant advance in human understanding, have proved themselves no more useful, verifiable or objective than the horoscope section of a... Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2002 by Jason Eubanks
5.0 out of 5 stars Civilization finally contented
This book was a short one, but a difficult one. This book gives one the oppurtunity to start taking a critical look at where one's life is and the people around it. Read more
Published on July 29 2002 by A. Gorilla
5.0 out of 5 stars This is great.
There have been times in my life when I doubted that the ability to convince people that they are crazy was ultimately of any benefit. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2002 by Bruce P. Barten
5.0 out of 5 stars Freud peaks through the curtins
Utopian and dysutopian thought pervade modern culture. Freud here wrote a book that attempted to bisect the horns of this dilemma by preserving a commitment to the Enlightenment... Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Weak arguments, and a poor introduction to Freud
While I agree that Civilization and Its Discontents has some kernels of truth within it, I cannot recommend it either as a persuasive piece or as an introduction to Freudian... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2000 by Sarah Marie Parker-Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars My conception of Frued's "Civilization and It's Discontents"
To whoever is interested in Freuds "Civilization and It's Discontents" I SAY READ IT! An excellent book which depicts civilization for what it is. Read more
Published on March 4 2000 by Missy
5.0 out of 5 stars A Kernel of Truth
As a staunch member of the class of people Freud addresses, I recommend this work to anyone on the path of self-realization, man or woman. Read more
Published on June 30 1999
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