Sigmund Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents

             In Sigmund Freud's book, Civilization and Its Discontents, his explanation of society's drive towards violence and death helps signify the importance of the book's title. Freud believes that people have a deep desire for violence and death and that society uses any opportunity to satisfy those desires. Those desires, since they are not always fulfilled, are what keep civilization from being content.

             Freud points to the history of human life and sees a huge amount of violence and destruction. He believes the reason that society puts so many restrictions on sexuality is that it is trying to take sexual energy and convert it to a more general love for humans, which can then help counteract our destructive drives and thus make us more content. But he thinks that these efforts to counteract our violent tendencies have had very little success. .

             Freud further explains his reasoning about civilization and its discontents by saying that it is our struggle for life over death that keeps society going. He writes, "and now, I think, the meaning of the evolution of civilization is no longer obscure to us. It must present the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instincts of life and the instincts of destruction, as it works itself out in the human species. This struggle is what all life essentially consists of, and the evolution of civilization may therefore be simply described as the struggle for life of the human species.” What this means is that civilization will always be fighting between life and death. Freud therefore suggests that since civilization will never win the fight of Eros, people will always be discontent.

             In conclusion, Freud's book explains his thoughts on how civilization will never reach an absolute happiness because of its struggle against its own primitive nature. The struggle that Freud describes is circular: civilization wants to be moral, so they fight against their instincts of violence and destruction, but in order to fight against these desires, one must use the same desires.

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