Some of 20th-century thinkers and their works of literature had a profound influence on contemporary media, including cinema and fine arts, and on the way societies and individuals perceive themselves as a whole. One of such fundamentally defining pieces is Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents. The book, written in 1929 and published in the following year, is considered one of Freud’s most significant creations. He compared how a person is conflicted by deep narcissistic drives for freedom and social boundaries and expectations and investigated the effects of social pressure on one’s ego, id, and superego. As an atheist, Freud also examined the impact of religion on both society and an individual. Civilization and its Discontents is a book that shaped modern psychology, and this essay will analyze its contents, the effect on society, and personal impressions.
Firstly, to correctly assess why this book has such a profound effect on both the contemporaries of Freud and psychologists now, it is essential to inspect its meaning. Following a fluid organization with no particular structure, Civilization, and its Discontents follows an idea of the dual dynamic between a person’s conflicting motivations and society as a whole (Freud, 1930). While individuals strive for ultimate freedom and appear to be narcissistic, society pressures people to repress their self-absorbed nature, conform to the rules, and contribute to the common good. Through the prism of that outlook, ideas of atheism, egoism, neuroticism of countries as singular entities, Oedipal complex, and others are explored (Freud, 1930). One of the primary themes is also the instinctive human desire for destruction and aggression which has been influenced by World War I. Furthermore, one of the most prominent themes of the book is religion: Freud (1930) argues that while religion was important in containing the aggressive drives of humanity by imposing moral rules that prohibited narcissistic urges, such framework is irrelevant to the modern individuals who seek freedom.
Given the wide variety of themes and ideas relevant to the 20th century’s history, Civilization and its Discontents became one of the most important works of Fd. Firstly, Freud’s theory of the inherently aggressive and destructive nature of humanity became increasingly popular in the light of World War II. After experiencing the conflict, psychologists found the explanation of the human attraction to destruction in the “death instinct” theory (Freud, 1930, p. 35). With the spread of industrialization and the decline of religion, the more critical view of the organized belief as a socially limiting and repressive structure became influential in abolishing faith-based happiness. As a result of distancing from the church, contemporaries of Freud became more interested in psychoanalysis and how the internal world of one person rather than large groups functions. Thus, the ego, superego, and id put in a cultural and group context became pertinent and shaped the perception of individuality at the time. In conclusion, the effect of Freudian beliefs can be regarded to the popular and consistent themes of religion, violence, and the internal world that Freud explored and theorized about.
As itasoncit concernsrsonal impressions and the impact of the literary piece, it has historical significance as the psychoanalysis’s foundation and, for me, acts as an explanation for many contemporary phenomena. Although the “death instinct” concept is not as relevant as it initially was at the time of creation due to the war-related violence, the current political, social, and cultural contexts prove that the theory persists (Freud, 1930, p. 35). Freud presented an idea that societies as singular entities can also be neurotic and seek destruction for pleasure. Thus, the view of an unstable nation with its needs and desires, perhaps its ego, superego, and id, reflects the modern world and influences people. For instance, as countries exploit the planet’s resources for a monetary benefit at the expense of ecological destruction, the majority of people sacrifice their relationships and significant others for money. This dynamic is true for religion’s limitations: without a dominant power of the primal figure such as God, people feel free to pursue their aggressive and instinctive wishes. This interrelation between the community’s destructive desires and individuals’ death instincts is one of the most significant discoveries I made when reading the book.
In conclusion, Civilization and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud is a foundational work of literature that had a profound influence on the development of the field of psychology and remains relevant to the modern world. At the time of the creation, it reflected many anxieties of the early 20th century and fit the experiences of individuals, as well as societies, in the context of psychoanalysis. Freud explained the duality of the ultimate desire for freedom and its clash with society’s limitations to contain humanity’s destructive desires. The theory remains applicable to the modern realities of neurotic communities with their instinctive, yet harmful motivations. Therefore, the book is foundational both as a historical piece of psychological literature and as a relevant psychological theory.
Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and its Discontents. (J. Strachey, Trans.). W. W. Norton & Company.