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Civilization and Its Discontents Paperback – Aug 9 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 186 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Re-issue edition (Aug. 9 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393304515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393304510
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Augustus Caesar, Ph.D. on Jan. 5 2004
Format: Paperback
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 By FrizzText on Oct. 4 2005
Format: Paperback
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 By Craig Chalquist, PhD, author of TERRAPSYCHOLOGY and DEEP CALIFORNIA on Dec 20 2001
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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