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Totem and Taboo Paperback – Dec 8 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (Dec 8 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048640434X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486404349
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #186,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From the Back Cover

In this brilliant exploratory attempt to extend the analysis of the individual psyche to society and culture, Freud laid the lines for much of his late thought, and made a major contribution to the psychology of religion. Primitive societies and the individual, he found, mutually illuminate each other, and the psychology of primitive races bears marked resemblances to the psychology of neurotics. Basing his investigations on the finding of anthropologists, Freud came to the conclusion that totemism and its accompanying restriction of exogamy derive form the savage's dread of incest, and that taboo customs parallel closely the symptoms of compulsion neurosis. The killing of the 'primal father' and the consequent sense of guilt are seen as determining events both in the misty tribal pre-history of mankind, and in the suppressed wishes of individual men. Both totemism and taboo are thus held to have their roots in the Oedipus complex, which lies at the basis of all neurosis, and, as Freud argues, is also the origin of religion, ethics, society, and art. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is one of the twentieth century's greatest minds and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. His many works include The Ego and the Id; An Outline of Psycho-Analysis; Inhibitions; Symptoms and Anxiety; New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis; Civilization and Its Discontent, and others. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Format: Paperback
I am working from vol 13 of the works of Freud published by Hogarth and this work will be for those interested in
ancient culture, especially today as culture due to globalization/industrialization, looks all too similar to most people especially as we pick up the same phones, dvd's, tv shows, and the whole modern hitech atmosphere...especially with mass communication today is one world..although some as a reaction, wanting to maintain their individuality and break from the hitech develop a unique persona and set of experiences, and this can also be part of a modern psychotherapy. Before religion there was culture, human beginnings, a set of rules and customs, and taboo. If primitive people were capable of obeying all commands, there would be no prohibitions. Read an old book like leviticus(ch 25 year of jubilee and freeing of slaves) and numbers you will see an ancient culture predating Moses and all these ancient cultural laws being subsumed into the new yhwh religion..all books ascribed to Moses. So ancient cultural rules and prohibitions..made their way in forming a new religion..Freud knows this but incest interests him its origin, which is an ancient cultural taboo. Incest was a taboo of "excessive avoidance"(p7)..this later developed into prohibition against intercourse between near relations"(p 11). These communities bear strict rules among family relations among them son/mother in law ..and family organization "no longer subject...white peoples of Europe and America"(p 14). Incest is probably the most cardinal rule of ancient culture which found its way into religion. Regarding religion belief in demons is probably older than belief in God, or perhaps polytheism developed into monotheism, even among the ancient jews who constantly were unfaithful toward other divinities..
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This book is amazing because in relatively few words Freud has the ability to explain how mankind developed its belief in a higher power, most often referred to in the western world as God. For some readers his theory may be difficult to accept, for in many respects this explanation forces its readers to question the stories and myths that form the basis of Western Religion. I find it fascinating that such a simple explanation can so effectively explain as complex a subject as the belief in God.
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This is the first Freud book I have ever read. I am not a trained psychiatrist, or sociologist, or ethnologist, so I am going to review the book from a layman's standpoint.
In this work, Freud draws heavily on observations and theories of ethnology, emphasizing on studies of Australian aborigines and Frazer's work. He draws a parellel with his personal observations from treatment of "neurotic" patients and claims to have found common patterns in these two classes of subjects, which tend to explain certain social and psychological phenomena, as well as the "birth" of religion.
He focuses on the concepts of "Totem" and "Taboo". While familiar with taboo (although our understanding of the term is narrower than Freud's), totem is remote to us. Certain aboriginal peoples were grouped in social groupings, centered on the cult of and belief of descent from a certain animal. So, you are the "Kangaroo tribe", we are the "Ostrich tribe" etc. The topic most interesting Freud, to which he devotes the first essay in the book, is "exogamy", i.e. marriage outside one's group. This practice of exogamy seems to be in contradiction to what is pursued by some ethnic groups in America (Jews and Greeks come to mind) i.e. "endogamy" - a push to have children marry within their parents' ethnic group. This practice of exogamy in Australian aborigines is attributed by Freud to fear of incest, with quite convincing arguments.

What is challening is to concoct a theory that suggests totemism and exogamy are not orthogonal social institutions that just happenned to coexist, but intricately bound together. Freud accomplishes that through intricate reasoning that draws heavily on religion (in his 4th essay).
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And this time trough those primitive manifestations performed by that very primitive peoples like aborigenes from Australia, North and South America indians and many others discovered by colonization european, manifestation that we are used to call by Totem and Taboo. This is the standard Freud's view on the subject and to understand this book is a necessary step to proceed to other important Freud's work like Moses and Monotheism, The Future of an Ilusion and many others, where he approaches with reluctance the idea of religion as an offspring of early animism.
The prior standard way of seeing these types of primitive manifestation was to see them trough the amount of dread the primitive men have against the manifestation of some praeternatural agency, to use a term used by Mr.Thorstein Veblen, a contemporary of Freud, in his magnificent book on the leisure class (The Theory of the Leisure Class). It is worthy to note that nobody can be sure on the origins of this type of tradition and that adds substance to Mr.Freud's arguments.
Sigmund Freud goes a step further to the classical view and says that totemism and taboo as animism are the manifestation of something not outside ourselves but rather inside human minds of the primitive people, where the unconscious played a good part to the forming of this kind of culture manifestation and where there is an intricate and unconscious and almost mathematical calculation in order to attribute to the priest-king, who typifies the carrier of this tradition, both the pleasures and the burden of the function.
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