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Civilization and Its Discontents (International Psycho-Analytical Lib) Paperback – 22 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 146 pages
  • Publisher: Martino Fine Books (22 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891396625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891396625
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,222,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 in Moravia; between the ages of four and eighty-two his home was in Vienna: in 1938 Hitler's invasion of Austria forced him to seek asylum in London, where he died in the following year.

His career began with several years of brilliant work on the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system. He was almost thirty when, after a period of study under Charcot in Paris, his interests first turned to psychology, and another ten years of clinical work in Vienna (at first in collaboration with Breuer, an older colleague) saw the birth of his creation, psychoanalysis. This began simply as a method of treating neurotic patients by investigating their minds, but it quickly grew into an accumulation of knowledge about the workings of the mind in general, whether sick or healthy. Freud was thus able to demonstrate the normal development of the sexual instinct in childhood and, largely on the basis of an examination of dreams, arrived at his fundamental discovery of the unconscious forces that influence our everyday thoughts and actions.

Freud's life was uneventful, but his ideas have shaped not only many specialist disciplines, but the whole intellectual climate of the last half-century.

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. D. Welsh TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback
Written in 1930, when the great man was 74 and universally acknowledged as one of the geniuses of the age, this is the third last of Freud's 22 books. It is often said to express his feelings of despair, following the Great War, as to whether human beings could be well governed at all. After all, the powerful subconscious drives of aggression and sex militate against any form of subordination, even to laws and customs. According to the well-established principles of psychoanalysis, he traces the religious impulse back to the infant's early feeling of "universality" before he is forced to understand that there is an outside world that is not subject to his will. In contrast to this harsh, ineluctable "reality principle" the adult mind, according to Freud, continues to be fuelled by the "pleasure principle" - the pursuit of enjoyment. And he admits that social constraints force the dilution of the pleasure principle, because a person acting out of pure selfishness is apt to be resented, disciplined, or shunned by other people. It's possible, Freud remarks, to gain a kind of satisfaction by taming the instincts - a plan he identifies with Buddhism - or to sublimate them into intellectual and artistic pursuits (although at the cost of a certain attenuation).

Civilization and culture, then, are essential to a balanced life. Without them, we would have chaos. Yet we cannot help resenting them, feeling oppressed and caged by them. Freud argues that individual liberty is not a benefit of culture, but a value that culture actually threatens to extinguish.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Adam Tzur on 18 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This review regards the Pober Publishing Company-version of the book.

The technical aspects of the book design:
+ The book cover is good-looking.
+ The size & measures of the book are appropriate; the book fits well in the hand.
+ Text size is good.

- There is too much empty space in every page.
More text per page, and fewer pages, would improve this product.

Regarding the content of the book:

*The title is somewhat misleading; this book is not mainly about society and its discontents, but more about the individual, and how he connects to society at large in some aspects.

Freud spends much of the book (maybe 3/5) conversing about common sense ideas and concepts.
E.G. Men are inherently unhappy because of conflicting desires and fears (of nature, himself, parents, etc.) so they bond in societies in an attempt to control nature and create a safe environment. However, the society needs rules to tame our wild impulses, so man feels trapped and has to balance his desires and impulses in fear of punishment.

This is nothing new, and Freud even admits this three (!) times in the book. He even goes so far as to apologize for it. And apologize he should, because even though all this chatter is interesting, he rarely digs deep beneath the surface.

So, when Freud eventually does dig more beneath the surface, there is a split of interesting, and non-interesting (far-fetched/unrealistic) ideas and concepts. This is the reason I am somewhat ambivalent to the book.

Some examples of weird ideas:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 0 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Very wise about what it really means to be disatissfied and why we secretly need to be 5 Mar. 2012
By jafrank - Published on
Format: Paperback
I found this really interesting, Freud takes his theories about the psyche and stretches them as far as they can go, asking what, if anything is the mental state of civilization. What its components are, how they interact with each other and what happens when they clash with one another. A lot of these observations seem really obvious, but he approaches them in a way which shows how so much of how we live our day to day lives is based on this weird sense of dissatisfaction with the world that we might ultimately need in order to really function as people. And, as with Moses and Monotheism, he's got enough humility and appreciation for how huge his tasks here are to admit that he might not have it all figured out. It's a really great sociological book to read if you don't care for sociology per se
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
a must read in your lifetime 4 Dec. 2011
By ilovebridge - Published on
Format: Paperback
Excellent thought provoking book that casts a new light on your perception of civilization and the individual's love/hate relationship with it. Not to nit pick, but the death instinct and the libido are not in "constant" opposition, but a bit of both can always be found in each one's expression. For example, the cold pleasure of self destruction and the aggressiveness of the sexual act. This is not my "take" on it so to speak, but discussed extensively by Freud himself in his other works, where he even gives eating as an example. (The destruction of outside organic matter to sustain life.) Regarding libido and death instincts as polar opposites is a simplification that, oddly enough, makes things more confusing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Blueprint for Psychobabble 4 April 2015
By John Agar - Published on
Format: Paperback
How could anyone ever take this seriously? Yes, a hard-minded view of religion, but encased in a history of society (and even the family) that is far more simplistic, and even unscientific (if something can be more unscientific than something that was completely unscientific to begin with) than even Hobbes; with a theory of human evolution driven, not by natural selection, but by “anal erotism,” something so idiotic that I forbear to discuss it, except to note that Freud views Augustine’s obscene bon mot about birth as the norm for this evolutionary impetus. Many additional insights seem drawn entirely from introspection of a very peculiar personality, e.g., the Oedipus notion, where Freud says that a band of brothers overthrows and kills the tyrannous father. In what society did this happen? The Bible seems to be a better guide here - indicating that the rivalry is between the young bucks (Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, Jacob . . . ). One must also mention the retarding influence of women, who suffer hurt feelings when men go off to build civilization. And children - Freud seems never to have watched or understood young children, who, he thinks, live in natural terror of, if not both parents, at least of the Father.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Dangerous and Subversive Eye-Opener / CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS -- by Dr. Sigmund Freud (1930/2010) 13 Aug. 2012
By T. Prentice - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

[Why wasn't THIS on anyone's high school, college or graduate school reading list?]

I thought Freud only wrote about sex and psyche. Here he takes on the "discontents" of civilization which has always been praised and beatified to us as the highest embodiment of Homo sapiens sapiens accomplishment. Freud does buy into that, but he is also pretty clear-eyed about the 'discontents' that befall human civilization.

And, yes, there is also sex and psyche within.

It is a very readable and accessible book. 144 pages. (I wonder why "THEY" didn't want us to read this?)]


"The bit of truth behind all this - one so eagerly denied - is that men are not gentle, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if attacked, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as part of their instinctual endowment. The result is that their neighbor is to them not only a possible helper or sexual object, but also a temptation to them to gratify their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without recompense, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and kill him. Homo hominine lupus; who has the courage to dispute it in the face of all the evidence in his own life and in history?

"This aggressive cruelty usually lies in wait for some provocation, or else it steps into the service of some other purpose, the aim of which might as well have been achieved by milder as savage beast to whom the thought of spring THEIR OWN KIND is alien. Anyone who calls to mind the atrocities of early migrations, of the invasion by the Huns, or by the so-called Mongols under Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, of the sack of Jerusalem by the pious crusaders, even indeed the horrors of the last world war, will have to bow his head humbly before the truth of this view of man". (pp. 85-86)

[Mini-Deconstruction: Written in 1930, one wonders at the absence of mention of the specific cruelties of the White, Christian, Capitalist European Empires invading and occupying the Western Hemisphere and committing genocide on the AmerIndians - from Cristobal Colon and the Spanish to the Portuguese, English, Dutch, French, German, Belgian; as well as noting the absence by Freud of the mention of slavery. But he covers it elsewhere.]

"...we cannot see why the systems we have ourselves created should not rather ensure protection and well-being for us all...(however sometimes) we come across a point of view which is so amazing that we will pause over it...our so-called civilization itself is to blame for a great part of our misery and we should be much happier if we were to give it up and go back to primitive conditions." (p. 44)

"As a result of came into contact with primitive peoples and races. To the Europeans, who failed to observe them carefully and misunderstood what they saw, these people seemed to lead simple, happy lives - wanting for nothing ----such as the travelers who visited them, with all their superior culture, were unable to achieve." (p. 45)

" can hardly go wrong in concluding that the idea of a purpose in life stands and falls with the religious system" (p. 26)

[I much prefer living life and The Pursuit of Happiness (that doesn't hurt any others, including animals.]

(1930/2010). CIVLIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS by Dr. Sigmund Freud; (Joan Riviere, tr); c 2010; Mansfield Center, CT: Martino Publishing. 144 pp.
Complex but thought-provoking 23 Nov. 2013
By Imran Lorgat - Published on
Format: Paperback
A bit complex as an introduction to Freud but a great look into his ideas. Civilization and its Discontents covers what Freud believes to be the psychological origins of civilization as well as its costs and benefits.

Full review linked here: [...]
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