Freud Civilization And Its Discontents Essay

2414 words - 10 pages

In Civilization and its Discontents Freud asks, "What does man wish for and aim to achieve in life?" The answer that he gives is; "Most immediately men strive to be happy, and their behaviour in the outside world is determined by the pleasure principle." Shortly after this statement he says man realises this is not a possible state of affairs and thereafter accepts and is regulated by the "reality principle" . This book essentially explains why man cannot ever be fully happy in civilized society and will continue to live with underlying anxiety.In order to fully understand his reasoning why civilization causes discontent for man his argument must be followed from the beginning. Freud postulates two opposing instinctual drives: the libido and the death drive. Within each of these areas are the instinctual drives, contained within the libido the drives that we consider positive, for example love. The death drive contains the drives that society would consider negative, for example aggression. Civilization, Freud contends, is built on harnessing the libido and sublimating the death drives. Harnessing the libido and sublimation of the death drives results in unfulfilled expression and desires within man, therefore the outcome is anxiety and discontentment for man within civilized society. Focusing on Freud's reasoning and how society exerts power over the individual to conform, causing this scarcity of happiness, is what this essay will examine.Freud outlines three areas in which man will derive suffering and pain, "...the three sources of suffering: the superior power of nature, the frailty of our bodies, and the inadequacy of the institutions that regulate people's relations with one another in the family, the state and society." The first two are unavoidable, he says, but "Our attitude to the third source of suffering, the social source, is different. We refuse to recognise it at all; we cannot see why institutions that we ourselves have created should not protect and benefit us all." This assumption leads him towards the speculation that "...here too an element of unconquered nature may be at work in the background - this time our own psyche."The concept of psyche and the forces that work within it to promote civilization are also the causes of discontentment within man, this is the crux of his argument. The psyche, Freud proposes, has a particular structure that comprises of three parts: the id, the ego, and the super-ego. The id contains initially our most primitive instinctual desires; here resides the libido and the death drive, while still a child. The ego results after the realisation of the impossibility of the "pleasure principle" , and maturation towards the "reality principle" . The ego is the conscious self. Finally there is the super-ego; this is a construct of the psyche and perhaps not a natural state but resultant from living and dealing with primal instincts in a civilized society. The super-ego is our conscience and the site that...

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