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Penguin Great Ideas : Civilisation and Its Discontents Mass Market Paperback – 2 Sep 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Rev Ed edition (2 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141018992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141018997
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 1 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 and died in exile in London in 1939. As a writer and doctor he remains one of the informing voices of the twentieth century.


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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Civilization and its Discontent was first published in 1930 and despite all the criticism of Freud over a long period of time the essay contains profound truths and is still relevant today. The essay's range is broad as it goes beyond Freud's psychoanalytic theory and delves into the process of socialization, culture, and the struggle between natural human instincts and the mechanisms in society, such as religion, work and the arts, to keep them at bay.

The main concern of Freud is how people find and maintain happiness. Freud thinks that life is so hard to bear that human beings need a palliative. Palliatives could take the form of religion, the arts or work. In order to sustain his argument about the reasons that keep us happy, Freud uses a wide array of concepts. Many of these concepts such as the Id, the Ego, the Superego, the Libido, the Pleasure Principle, and the Reality Principle are to be found elsewhere in Freud's great oeuvre but ironically it is these very concepts that make for a difficult read, in some passages, of this great little book.

Many of Freud's views has long been criticised as lacking empirical evidence, as being sexist and/or Eurocentric. Some of that criticism stands. However, on the other hand, I think some of that criticism has been over stated. For example, take the issue of Eurocentricism, what Freud stated all those years ago I now see many non European people striving to achieve in the search for happiness - for example, the palliative of materialism.

I began by stating that the book is still relevant today so let me conclude by giving two examples as to why it is relevant. Some 80 years on from publication human beings are still faced with a lot of aggression and wars.
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Only 83 pages for £1.76, but you will not find a more satisfying read in such a small space.

Religion is 'so patently infantile.' Voluntary loneliness: 'the happiness found along this path is that of peace.' I have never put so many Bookmarks or Underlined so much as I have in Sigmund Freud's 'Civilization and Its Discontents.'

I had started on my exploration of 'civilisation' in Henri Charriere's Papillon when the word was so clearly dirty and untrustworthy when compared to the purity involved in 'crime' and the 'underworld.' From there I enjoyed A Brief Guide to Classical Civilization with its analysis of Greek and Roman literature as illuminating as its insights into architecture and politics.

So I could not resist a television documentary made in the 1960s called Civilisation : Complete BBC Series (4 Disc Box Set)Lord Clark won me over with his report of capitalism's 'monstrous proportions.' I want to watch this documentary right through a couple of times before I consider reviewing it.

With Freud civilisation and culture are overlaid. It is a straight fight between the individual and civilisation. The sexual urge and the community. 'Civilised man has exchanged some part of his chances for happiness for a measure of security,' very sad. He analyses the quest for something we call happiness.
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By A on 22 May 2017
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Very good...arrived on time.
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Provides a complete, thorough understanding of our instinctive drives and their manifestations in our behaviour within society.
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Must read/have from Freud!
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By MJ on 21 April 2017
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Incredible book and in great condition
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old edition...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is Freud's Leviathan in which he sets out to illuminate the relationship between the individual and the state. Like Hobbes, and for that matter Plato, Freud, as one would expect, seeks to ground his social speculations in his account of human nature. Unlike Hobbes or Plato, Freud's account of human nature is developmental, dynamic and based on thousands of hours of interaction, observation and analyses of people. Unlike Plato or Hobbes, Freud has no desire to impose something draconian on his fellow human beings - on the contrary he has nothing but sympathy for the difficult predicament in which we find ourselves.

According to Freud our happiness is in constant jeopardy from our bodies (inevitable decline, pain, anxiety), the external world (overwhelming, implacable destructive forces) and our relations to others (the unpredictability and capriciousness of others being perhaps the cause of the most pain). In response to such exigencies we need palliative measures - distractions, substitutions, intoxicants. Moreover we are constitutionally incapable of maintaining states of permanent happiness as happiness is largely the satisfaction of pent up frustrations and needs. To make matters worse many of our strategies for avoiding suffering are double edged swords that can create greater long-term suffering - as Jung wisely said elsewhere 'the cause of neuroses is the avoidance of legitimate suffering ' - and this is particularly evident in 'the archaeology of the mind' in which our early stages of our developmental psychology uneasily coexist with our more adult states often causing us to behave in less than rational, subtle and difficult to understand ways. At the root of all this is also a tendency towards aggressiveness.
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