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Civilization and Its Discontents [Paperback]

Sigmund Freud , James Strachey
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2010 Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud
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 alternate Paperback edition.

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

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 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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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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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 small town newspaper. This book is exemplifies the irrational foundation of psychoanalysis above all others. Poorly reasoned arguments and absolutely fantastic assertions fill this rather rambling volume from cover to cover. Another rather disturbing aspect to this book is it's reliance on Lamarckian evolutionary theory which was completely discredited long before Freud began his writing. Freud certainly knew about this, so is he being deceitful?
However, Freud's prose is something to be admired. I suspect his writing ability (and the bizarre but energetic cult of personality that surrounded Freud during his life) was the main reason for the success of the psychoanalysis movement. It certainly wasn't the arguments for they simply lack intellectual merit.
Once you peer behind the psuedo-scientific veneer of his theories, you cannot help but to feel Freud was yet another nihilistic hedonist attempting, not only to rationalize his degeneracy, but also foist his error onto a civilization that he found so dispicable. If you read this book with a sharp analytical mind, it will go a long way in helping to destroy the cult of psychology's greatest fraud. Otherwise, Civilization and Its Discontents remains strictly a historical curiosity, not unlike the idiotic screeds of Karl Marx.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Weak arguments, and a poor introduction to Freud Oct. 22 2000
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 thought. I do not know if, in his longer works, Freud actually supports any of his statements with more than the weak ancedotal proofs he gives here; nor do I know if he actually works through his arguments to a logical conclusion instead of relying on sensationalistic statements with no basis in his evidence. Suffice to say he does not meet the minimum requirements, in my opinion, for philosophical or scientific excellence, in this book. Furthermore, the rambling, vague, and disorganized nature of this book makes its usefulness as a mere introduction to Freud extremely weak. I would only suggest using it as a companion to such other works as Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis, or as an immediate overview and introduction to The Future of an Illusion (which, though written earlier than Civilization, more fully elucidates many of the principles Freud touts here). As a long-time student of classical thought, philosophy, and ethics, not to mention the fundamental principles of logic, I found myself highly unimpressed with this work, and saw no great haven of Truth within it. Further, having been raised by Secular Humanists, I am less than convinced of the practical merits of Freud's ideas. Read it if you like, but don't expect to find salvation or much enlightenment out of these few pages...
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great condition.
Published 2 months ago by Jesse
5.0 out of 5 stars Freud as a philosopher ...
With his culture theoretical documents Freud had essentially share at the development of the philosophical self-determination of mankind. Read more
Published on Oct. 4 2005 by FrizzText
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
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
3.0 out of 5 stars badly translated
If you can find another translation of this seminal book (see my review of Freud's Gravida), then do so. Read more
Published on Dec 20 2001 by Craig Chalquist, PhD, author of TERRAPSYCHOLOGY and DEEP CALIFORNIA
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
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
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