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The Writings Of Sigmund Freud Essay

3068 words - 12 pages

The Writings of Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud remains a figure whose influence it is hard to
over-state. While many of his ideas in the field of depth psychology,
a field he largely created, have been compromised and challenged over
the course of the 20th century his influence remains palpable. We
continue to use terms that Freud originated almost unthinkingly -
concepts of frustration, aggression, guilt, anxiety, projection,
defence mechanisms and the unconscious remain dominant. Few of
Freud’s writings touch on matters of direct interest to international
relations but those that do have not only provided compelling
arguments on the origins of war, society and violence but continue to
be of importance. Civilization and Its Discontents [which was itself
an expansion of Freud’s paper Future of an Illusion] and Freud’s brief
correspondence with Albert Einstein on Why War? form the basis for
most of these arguments. Works like Totem and Taboo are more relevant
to sociology and anthropology but are from the same period of study
and so are guides to Freud’s thinking. Freud provides highly complex
and complete explanations not only for human nature and its
predisposition to violence but also for how civilisation monopolises
legitimate violence. He understands, despite the contentions of his
critics, the complex interplay between differing aspects of human
nature and how the community does much to dictate the boundaries of
acceptable behaviour. Most importantly Freud confronts the elements
of human existence which thinking in international relations has
oversimplified, rationalised or avoided since the enlightenment.

Freud’s later work is concerned with international relations
principally in terms of human nature, society, nationalism and war.
He recognised the conflict between the freedom of the individual and
the order imposed by society. The emergence of civilisation is
dependent on the repression of our instinctual drives. Like religion,
society institutionalises systems of rules which affect us from our
youngest days and imbue us with a counter-instinctual sense of
‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The denial of our urges leads to the
accumulation of aim-inhibited libinal energy which provides the
necessary potency to bind individuals together in a social group and
counter-acts their violent desires. What is important for Freud is
that the drive to aggressiveness is as natural and immutable in human
nature as the sex drive. He observed that individuals can, and do,
derive satisfaction from violent action when circumstances conspire to
remove social restrictions*. The internalisation of aggression
produces guilt and discontent which can only be mitigated by directing
aggression outwards against another as violence. He writes that for
individuals “their neighbour is…not only a...

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