Term Paper: Civilization and Its Discontents

Pages: 3 (925 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Psychology  ·  Buy This Paper

Freud's Civilization and its Discontents is the father of psychoanalysis' most broadly philosophical work. Over the course of Freud's extended essay, he asks why human beings agree to give up some of their liberties in the service of civilization. Freud comes to the conclusion that there is a utilitarian reason for doing so: to maximize pleasure and to minimize pain. Fear is at the root of the need for civilization: fear of natural and man-made disasters and the fear of harm from other human beings. However, as a result of the process of organizing into a civilization, citizens are forced to put aside some of their personal desires and instincts in the service of the community. Although Freud was well aware of the potential psychological negatives of suppressing personal desires, ultimately he argued that reigning in the libido was vitally necessary to preserve the whole of humanity.

Just like the 'macro' experience of civilization, every individual within his or her own life goes through the process of conceding certain liberties, in exchange for the safety of relationships. The young child begins as a complete egotist, and believes the world revolves around him or herself. At first, the child desires the mother, but when the child realizes that he or she cannot 'have' the mother (in line with the boy's Oedipus Complex) or that the mother has 'deprived' her of a penis (as in the case of a girl's penis envy or Electra Complex) he or she must conform his or her immediate desires to more socially acceptable dictates. The boy tries to be like the father, and marry a replica of the mother in the form of another woman; the girl tries to resemble her mother to 'have' the authority of the penis in the form of a replica of her father as a husband. Within a civilization, individuals sacrifice the impulses of their ids to accommodate the desires of others, and are governed by their super egos (what might colloquially be called a conscience). When the individual child or the collective understands that it cannot have all that it wants and totally satisfy its personal pleasure principle, it must take into consideration the need to avoid pain (such as the pain of displeasing a parent or solitude). Accommodation to the will of others may be necessary to reduce the likelihood of pain, or to obtain other, more lasting pleasures. The pleasure of satisfying every sexual desire is sacrificed for the pleasures of being safe and protected by a government and enjoying the moderate pleasures of marriage.

Civilization thus provides us with some pleasure, but it also provides us with pain, when it limits the exercise of our desires. This fact has been concealed by the force of religion, which suggests a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Civilization and Its Discontents.  (2010, May 16).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/civilization-discontents/488268

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"Civilization and Its Discontents."  Essaytown.com.  May 16, 2010.  Accessed July 23, 2019.