Eros and Death as the Origin of Aggression in Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud portrays the evolution of civilization as an ongoing war between two instincts: “Eros and Death”. Death drives people towards destruction, and it’s the origin of aggression, As aggression adapts to civilization, new forms emerge. Aggression first appears in the primitive man subjugating weaker men. Because men continued this aggression after families formed, the children’s first object of aggression was their father. Society attempts to repress aggression with Eros, but this effort leads to large—scale atrocities Society is more successful when it encourages the repression that children instinctively undergo, but this leads to the creation of an abusive superegol Aggression has its origins in the death instinctr Although the aim of the death instinct is self-destruction, aggression directs this instinct externally so that it could be “pressed into the service of Eros”.

In the primitive mart, aggression targets weaker merit For instance, the primitive man does not direct his aggression against a more powerful force such as nature in response to the “misfortunes” brought by nature, primitive man blames “his fetish, which has obviously not done its duty, and gives it a thrashing”.

Get quality help now
Verified writer

Proficient in: Books

4.7 (657)

“ Really polite, and a great writer! Task done as described and better, responded to all my questions promptly too! ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Here, aggression allows him to redirect his frustration to something he can control. Aggression also helps the primitive man deal with the suffering that others inflict on him, Primitive man lived in a world where “the physically stronger man would decide them [social relationships] in the sense of his own interests and instinctual impulses”. He would have to use brute force to satisfy his desires and avoid being the object of other men’s aggression After primitive humans formed families, the father became the children‘s first object of aggression.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

The children resent the father for forcing the rest of the family to live in “slavish suppression“. Because the father is the authority figure and provider, aggression comes into conflict with love This prevents the children from gaining satisfaction from acting on their aggression. Freud supposes that the brothers would band together to kill the father, and feel remorse afterward.

Consequently, they became motivated to place restrictions on themselves to prevent another patricide. Aggression no longer serves as a means of self—preservation, At this point, it becomes a threatening force that must be controlled. In society’s attempt to suppress aggression through Eros, aggression has escalated to the level of nations and races, The commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” is supposed to “libidinally” bind men together, and prevent violence. It demands people to identify with other people in their community and form a collective. Freud observes that people only accomplish this when “there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness”. Because people can act on aggression as a collective, wars and genocides become possible. By promoting similar precepts, society has created a more destructive form of aggression than the one it originally tried to suppress. Instinctual renunciation counteracts aggression better than Eros, but it creates another aggressor called the superego. instinctual renunciation occurs when children identify with their parent out of love. As a result, the child internalizes the parent as the superego, which turns the child’s aggressivity into guilt. The superego successfully prevents Violent behavior and punishing aggressive inclinations. By encouraging the superego, institutions such as religions can enforce their ethics. A problem with the superego is that it has standards impossible to satisfy. The superego creates many “people who have carried saintliness furthest who reproach themselves with the worst sinfulness”. Although the superego benefits society, it is destructive to the individual. Freud presents an evolutionary model of aggression to explain its origins. In the beginning, aggression manifested as an externalization of the death instinct. Over the course of civilization, other forms of aggression developed, In modern society, the superego is the most pervasive source. Unlike the other forms of aggression, it targets the self. The superego is a lot less dangerous to society, and it even protects society from the other forms of aggression, Yet, the struggle between Eros and Death still persist. The superego overstrains the ego, which could lead to the ego having an outburst Will the ego rebel and repeat the killing of the father?

Cite this page

Eros and Death as the Origin of Aggression in Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud. (2022, Jul 07). Retrieved from

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment