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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and prophetic, but limited by psychoanalytic dogmas
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...
Published 3 months ago by T. D. Welsh

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original ideas, but lacking evidence and depth
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...
Published on 18 Oct. 2011 by Adam Tzur


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and prophetic, but limited by psychoanalytic dogmas, 17 Nov. 2014
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T. D. Welsh (Basingstoke, Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Civilization and Its Discontents (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. In a passage that is startlingly prophetic of 1960s thinking, he declares that society systematically forbids a whole range of pleasurable activities, ranging (in the case of sex, naturally) from incest through homosexuality to sexuality among children and even between the unmarried - thereby, he implies, taking most of the fun out of it. After briskly demolishing the Christian ideal of loving everyone (even one's enemies) as hopelessly unrealistic, he comes to one of his central points: that human beings can be made to cooperate and even treat one another decently; but only when they are given an external, alien enemy on whom to vent their aggression. This conclusion could have come straight out of "Mein Kampf".

Since Freud's death (1939), science has discovered a great deal about our animal origins and how we have evolved. We understand that human beings are, from one point of view, apes and nothing more (although we are the only apes that are at once naked and well-dressed, to cite the titles of two successful books on the subject). Whereas Freud and all his contemporaries imagined that human beings were qualitatively different from apes, we understand that this is not so. It's interesting, nevertheless, how far Freud managed to go in freeing himself from the shackles of his "psychoanalytic" attitude and working out logically how human relationships arise. Although it is odd, to say the least, to read his theory that a man who puts out a fire by urinating on it is symbolically asserting "masculine potency in homosexual rivalry"!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original ideas, but lacking evidence and depth, 18 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: Civilization and Its Discontents (Paperback)
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:

1. In a side-note on the bottom of a page, Freud states that the flames of a fire resemble phallic shapes, and therefore, men of old times spent their time getting homosexual dominance-gratification of peeing on the fire, and putting it out...

2. In old times, Freud theorizes, that all the male children of a man (the father), would gang up on him and kill him, as he monopolized the women, and this was the root of/explains modern day anxiety, remorse, and guilt. Somehow, Jesus is a symbol of this; we fear him and love him, but kill him.

3. Neurotics are sexual deviants (they became neurotic from a lack of sexual gratification).

Examples of interesting ideas:

1. An external enemy strengthens the bond of a culture.

2. Man has inherently aggressive tendencies, and is in need of systems (physical and mental) to suppress his impulses & behaviour.

3. The individual develops an ego to cope with the fact that an outside world exists. In childhood, the child experiences the world as one, until its excrement is removed by parents, and its mothers breasts needs to be called for to subdue a desire for feeding.

4. Religion exists to explain (God) the early underlying ego-feeling of boundlessness & wholeness, and to soothe the individual from the hardships of the world. Even though it might be a false soothing.

5. One time in the book, he claims that repression of guilt leads to a subconscious desire to be punished. That's interesting, but he only claims this in passing, and moves on to another subject.

In conclusion, Freud's biggest mistakes are that he does not provide enough supportive evidence for his claims, makes too many analogies (and apologizes for them), he dwells too long on the insignificant parts of the book (the common sense part - he apologizes for this, too), and has not written comprehensively about the parts that matter (I.E. all his original ideas).

This work feels unfinished, it could easily be 400-500 pages long if Freud went deeper into the issues he is discussing. It seems that Freud is constantly apologizing throughout his book, instead of critically reflecting on his concepts. I would love to be swayed by his weird ideas, but he needs to provide more material & evidence, or at least a logically reasoned argument.
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Civilization and Its Discontents
Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud (Paperback - 18 Oct. 2010)
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