An Explanation of the Eternal Struggle Between Human Instinct and the Constraints of Civilization in Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

Freud delivers exactly what his title promises in Civilization and Its Discontents by carefully explaining the eternal struggle between human instinct and the constraints civilization forces upon it, In this book, Freud uses his insight into the human psyche to help explain why civilization developed into the form we see today. Freud‘s ideas can easily be applied to almost all aspects of civilization for a better understanding of the way in which humans form groups and keep those groups together.

Humans, according to Freud, are caught in a struggle between the instinct of destruction and the instinct to maintain life by forming social groups Freud goes on to explain how the development of the super-ego and a sense of guilt is, “the most important problem in the development of civilization”. The super-ego develops early in life and implants a conscience into the mind of the individuali The conscience gives a sense of guilt for things that are considered morally wrong to the individual, Moreover, not even thoughts can be hidden from the super»ego so an individual can feel guilty just by thinking of something that the civilization considers wrong.

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It is through the use of our sense of guilt that the civilization is able to control, to a certain extent, the human instinct of destruction; encouraging people to treat others well. From studying Freud’s work on civilization it becomes apparent that the super-ego and the sense of guilt are powerful tools that are employed by society to keep a check on the instinct of death and destruction Freud‘s work gives an important understanding of the psychological themes that have directed the evolution of civilization and are still at the core of civilization These are extremely important concepts for the field of anthropology, With Freud‘s work, anthropologists can gain a better understanding of the way in which civilization has developed from small groups of nomadic foragers into large industrialized cities.

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In addition to the sociological concepts discussed in this book, anthropologists can also gain a greater understanding of the human psyche and its role in the formation and preservation of society. Freud‘s ideas play into every aspect of a civilization, and only with a solid grasp of these concepts can an anthropologist hope to understand the culture that he or she is studying. The theories presented in Civilization and Its Discontents should constantly be in the back of every anthropologist’s mind when studying a particular culture. However, when reading any work it‘s important to consider the background and biases of the author, and this is most certainly the case with Freud’s works. Most of Freud‘s career revolved around developing the psychoanalytic model for diagnosing and treating psychological problems While psycho-analysis is still a popular method of psychiatry, it’s important to note that many modern day psychologists disagree with pans of this method and even the supporters disregard some of the specifics in his theories, For example many psychologists now disagree with Freud‘s idea of penis envy and his idea that physical symptoms often linked to unconscious feelings, In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud is forced to assume that his ideas are true in order to make certain connections possible. For example when introducing the idea that the destructive instinct is in a constant struggle with the instinct of the survival of the species, Freud makes a series of assumptions linking ego-instinct and object-instinct to these larger ideas. While many of Freud’s larger ideas are widely considered correct, it’s important to remember that his theories do have biases and that they are not necessarily true. Civilization and Its Discontents is a look into Freud’s ideas about the origin and evolution of civilization. It contains important theories that every anthropologist should have a grasp on to properly put human behavior into the context of a particular civilization and to understand the psychological checks a civilization has on human behavior, Freud’s work on civilization teaches us how civilization has developed into what it is today and how important psychology is for a proper understanding of human civilization.

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An Explanation of the Eternal Struggle Between Human Instinct and the Constraints of Civilization in Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud. (2022, Jul 07). Retrieved from

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