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Civilization and Its Discontents

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  21,062 Ratings  ·  568 Reviews
Freud’s seminal volume of twentieth-century cultural thought grounded in psychoanalytic theory, now with a new introduction by Christopher Hitchens.

Written in the decade before Freud’s death, Civilization and Its Discontents may be his most famous and most brilliant work. It has been praised, dissected, lambasted, interpreted, and reinterpreted. Originally published in 193
Paperback, 158 pages
Published August 9th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1930)
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André The whole book has 148 pages, but the main part is only 100 pages. This is followed by an appendix and notes on the following 31 pages. Then two pages…moreThe whole book has 148 pages, but the main part is only 100 pages. This is followed by an appendix and notes on the following 31 pages. Then two pages of references and 13 pages of closing remarks not by the author himself.(less)

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This book deftly delineates the dilemma in our civic society, where the struggle between our ethics and animal instincts continue, and the ‘prices’ we have paid in making our society safe and secure. It rejoins what Victor Hugo and Tolstoy and Steinbeck show in their works...

But, most of all, I think it acutely depicts the fate of our judicial system, conceived by men who thought punishment would be the detriment to crime, but which ironically turned out to be the incitement to more heinous crim
Nov 11, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone laboring under the illusion that they do not love freud
Shelves: groups-of-people
This may come as a surprise considering how much I complain about psychotherapy, but I LOVE SIGMUND FREUD. This is not just transference, and no, he doesn't remind me at all of my father; I believe Freud was a great genius, and far more importantly, that he was a fantastic writer and very interesting person. I also believe that Freud is one of the most unfairly maligned and willfully misinterpreted figures of the past hundred-or-so years.

If you haven't read him (HIM, not his theories), or if you
Oct 07, 2008 Mr. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
`Civilization and its Discontents' is Freud's miniature opus. It is a superficial masterpiece that stretches further than any of his other works; he is reaching for an explanation for human nature in terms of the id-ego-superego structure of the individual as he exists in civilization. For Freud, human beings are characterized by Eros (Sex Drive) and Thanatos (Death Drive), which remain in opposition to one another. This small book is filled with as many interesting ideas as any work of modern p ...more
Feb 22, 2009 Gary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The impact of Sigmund Freud on contemporary Western thought can hardly be underestimated. Many of the key "psychological" terms we employ can be traced back to his writing. Although fascinating and often insightful, much of his influence has been destructive, providing comfort and a scientific imprimatur for a large portion of the anti-Western diatribes of the last generation.

Let us first dispose of several misconceptions that have clouded the popular image of this brilliant thinker. To begin wi
Christian Clarke
Feb 23, 2016 Christian Clarke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book explains why the average man--someone like you--is always pissed off, as if there is a cauldron of anger boiling just beneath his--and your--clothes. This book explains why you could be standing behind that scruffy ponytailed hipster in the checkout lane at the grocery store, with his artisanal pickles in one hand, and his smoking hot girlfriend in the other, and suddenly feel the urge to lunge at him and tear the larynx out of this throat, but don't. Instead you grit your teeth and ca ...more
Mar 11, 2015 Stela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Undoubtedly, Sigmund Freud is a classic. Consequently, he shares the fate of any classic: everybody knows of and few read him anymore. After all, what is to discover we didn’t already learn? That he explained every evil or deviation in human behaviour by some repressed sexual urges generated mainly by the Oedipal complex. That he founded the science of psychoanalysis, but many of his theories and methods are obsolete today. That he influenced the Modernist movement, especially regarding some fam ...more
Jan 02, 2011 Belal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
أكثر استفادة لي من الكتاب ،أنه غير لي نظرتي السطحية ،لأطروحة فرويد الخاصة ،بعقدة قتل الأب الأصيلة ،فأنا كنت أردها دائما بالحجة العادية ،أنه إذا كان الذنب ،قد جاء من القتل ،فكيف تكونت هذه القابلية أصلا ،للشعور بالذنب ؟،ولكن تحليل فرويد لها ،وادماجها في منظومته التفسيرية كان أقوى من التعامل معها بصفتها خيال جامح
يقول جورج طرابيشي المترجم ،أن السؤال الذي يجيب عليه فرويد هو ""لماذا لا يحظى الإنسان بالسعادة التي ينشدها مهما قارب أن يكون الها؟"" ،يمكن القول بأن الإجابة على مدار الكتاب هي "لإن الإنسا
Mar 04, 2015 Lotz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s something unbelievable about Freud. If he was some ancient Greek or Medieval thinker, his ideas might not seem as strange. But the man was a contemporary of Albert Einstein, John Maynard Keynes, and F.D.R. He lived through the Great Depression and World War II—two events that continue to haunt the present day. Yet his theories seem so remote from our positivistic era, it’s difficult to even take them seriously.

Nonetheless, he remains one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th centu
Mar 30, 2013 Omneya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A tedious read, Freud's essay is mundane at worst, general knowledge at best.
Freud had this tendency to make pretty obvious and minor premises and then jump to big and somehow unrelated conclusions depending on said premises.

It's already known that Freud and his disciples were treading a deserted land which is psychoanalysis in their times, which calls for far more caution and far more-in this case, very welcomed-pedantry.

Nevertheless Freud writes with uncalled for confidence, mixing facts with
Léonard Gaya
Nov 29, 2014 Léonard Gaya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Freud rédige ce petit livre quelques mois avant la grande crise économique de 1929. Il s'agit, au départ, d'une étude sur la souffrance, qui tire son origine de la relation de l'homme à la nature et à autrui, et sur les moyens de ne pas la ressentir : stupéfiants, méditation, sublimation, religion, amour, beauté...

Mais assez vite Freud s'interroge sur le rôle de la civilisation dans l'économie libidinale. Ce que l'homme obtient à travers la culture, c'est précisément de se prémunir contre les ag
Aug 05, 2010 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Intellectual Historians, Psychology students, Freudians
Recommended to Michael by: Richard Beyler
This is one of those "seminal" books that shows you why so much of Western thought is totally screwed up. The premises and logic of Freud's argument are utter nonsense from beginning to end, yet he somehow taps into a vein of unconscious imagery within the contemporary Zeitgeist that still resonates 80 years later. Certainly, for anyone studying the early 20th century, the ideas in here will seem eerily familiar; Freud isn't so much creating a new argument here as speaking aloud what was in ever ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was interested in reading this short work at this time because Freud herein addresses, inter alia, the creation of art as sublimation of libido in society. In this text Freud addresses several issues and introduces or expands on concepts that he introduced elsewhere, and it is interesting to see the evolution of his own thinking. Among other things he discusses ego differentiation and the development of religion as a means of addressing the fear that the superior power of fate brings, but that ...more
Erik Graff
Feb 15, 2016 Erik Graff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Freud fans
Recommended to Erik by: Edward Erickson
Shelves: psychology
Many high school friends were a couple of years older. One of them, Ed Erickson, was particularly admired for his erudition, radicalism and interesting mother and sister. When he went away to the University of Illinois' flagship campus, I, still in high school, was honored to be invited to visit him on what amounted to a first overnight trip to a college.

Taking the Illinois Central downstate was an adventure in itself, another first. So, too, were the experiences of the ugly but enormous campus

I've got nothing against Freud, really, but whatever it was I was looking to find I didn't find it here.

It may have been a bad translation but the prose was leaden, uninteresting and seemed way to weighed-down with self-importance and near-myopic pedantry.

I read it because of course its a seminal classic and one of his central texts but was mildly disappointed to see that there wasn't all that much "there" there.

I've always been intrigued by Freud and I would like to get some of the finer points
May 14, 2008 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with an intrigued reaction to its title
It's impossible to read "Civilization and Its Discontents" and not come away with the impression that Freud is a genius. His ability to trace out cause and effect in human psychology is unparalleled. Most of his conclusions are convincing, and even the ones that aren't are at least thought-provoking.

The main weakness of this book is its desultory style. The first seven of its eight chapters read like an anthology of things Freud was thinking about this week, very loosely themed around the source
[Name Redacted]
How this book manages to be so popular, I'll never know. Then again, I have the same problem with Marx's polemics cum evangelical tracts. Like "The Future of an Illusion", this is basically a faux-dialog between Freud and an absurdly credulous strawman. I recommend comparing his fascinating (but unintentionally hilarious) "Moses & Monotheism" with Emile Durkheim's "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life" if you want some actual insight into the same topic.

My verdict? He was far more successf
Yazeed AlMogren
الكتاب غير مفيد وغير مفهوم لسبب لا أعلم ماهو، هل هو سوء الترجمة أم أن أسلوب فرويد التحليلي هو السبب
Jul 21, 2013 Monte rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
First and foremost, The Standard Edition of this book does not have 160 pages. Sigmund Freud's psycho-analytical thoughts begin on page 10 and end on 112. The pages after that are the Bibliography. So in the 102 real Freud pages, I have decided that he is not quite as much of an "inspiration" as I thought he was. Beginning on page 70, he begins to analyze the pros of the Communist System in which I regard is a means to destroy the exact definition of civilization that Freud portrays: that it dep ...more
Arjun Ravichandran
A penetrating (no pun intended) masterpiece of pessimism, by that great seer of the human soul, written in his depressed and fed-up old age. Civilization is always a compromise between our instincts for freedom (in all senses of the world) and the need for order that will at least guarantee some measure of human flourishing. Thus, civilization (for the individual human being) necessarily involves pain, sacrifice and neurosis. To put it in Freud's language, there is always going to be a tension b ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Classic book of Freud with the pessimistic conclusion that living in civilization which is necessary for our survival will tragically make us unhappy. Our desires and our civilization are not compatible and it is inevitable that a certain amount of misery comes with modern life. Short book.
May 03, 2015 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do love me some Freud. His theories seem too speculative at times, but his insights on basic human psychology are enlightening. Although he spent most of the time trying to disabuse his readers of that ultimate "delusion," religion, I'm afraid it had the opposite effect on me. His expert construction of the ultimate human dilemma only strengthened my belief in and need for God, for which I thank him.
Aug 09, 2012 Stacie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, non-fiction
I read this in undergrad, and decided I wanted to do a re-read. As dated as it seems, it doesn't really seem all that dated.
Margaret Robbins
Sep 27, 2015 Margaret Robbins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a fascinating read, even though I disagreed with some of his ideas. He did an excellent job of explaining how romantic/sexual love, aggression, and the desire for community motivate people. Also, he addressed some of the potential flaws of Marxist theory, which is that human beings by instinct want to own their own property and strive for success. I am surprised that he did not address another major element of human nature, though, which is the desire for humans to feel that they a ...more
Apr 28, 2015 Ashkan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
گاهی فرد، واقعیت را تنها دشمنی میداند که سرچشمهٔ همهٔ رنجهاست، ... و از این رو آدمی اگر بخواهد سعادتمند باشد باید همهٔ روابطش را با واقعیت قطع کند... میتوان از این هم پیشتر رفت، میتوان جهان را دوباره ساخت، ... و خصوصیات دیگری که با آرزوهای فرد تطابق داشته باشد جای آنرا بگیرند... چنین فردی دیوانهای میشود که در تحقق هذیانش غالبا یاوری پیدا نمیکند... گاهی تعداد زیادی از افراد چنین راهی را برمیگزینند و واقعیت را با وهم درمیآمیزند. دینهای نوع بشر را نیز باید از شمار این هذیانهای جمعی دانست. طبیعتا کس ...more
Bogdan Liviu
despre inutilitatea cartilor si in genere a culturii in fata aviditatii de agresivitatie si impulsul spre distrugere prezente in structura fiecarui individ in parte. cultura e doar o unealta prin care suprimam omul primitiv, necrutator si barbar din fiecare din noi. "Oamenii care nu citesc sunt brute", constata cu o aroganta indecenta Eugene Ionesco. Da, intr-adevar sunt brute cei care nu citesc, insa si cei care o fac sunt - in strafundul structurii lor neslefuite de cultura - la fel de brute. ...more
A must read. (Read this paragraph in a snobbish elite voice...fine dont do it, whatever....)

More philosophical than psychological I would say, though it borderlines both. Really interesting on the creation of art and science and the libido interconnected. Also his discussion that people who lack a drive in art and science (lay people) tend to be drawn to religion.

What a pompous asshole. I dont know, maybe im reading this shit wrong.....anyway

Overall pretty good, except the last 20 pages I got
Jun 09, 2008 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much of what Freud has to say in this book would be different had he done his thinking/writing with the knowledge that the field of psychology now possesses. For example, he talks at length about cleanliness and a decrease in the reliance of olfactory cues in sexual relations among humans, although today there is compelling evidence that olfactory cues play a major role in sexual behavior (see Geoffrey Miller's work). Also, Freud's work was coming just at the heels of Darwin's revolutionary theo ...more
Laura McNeal
I like to imagine someone saying to Freud, "You can't call it that! It's only 143 pages long!" Or maybe his superego says that but his ego fights back (and wins because this is Freud's ego we're talking about). And of course it's the perfect title for this worrisome but also extremely illuminating glimpse into the problems of the conscience, the origins of all family dramas and romantic dilemmas, the reason I'm happy but incredibly anxious all the time, and for definitions to terms we throw arou ...more
Ignacio Irulegui
Nov 27, 2012 Ignacio Irulegui rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aplicando las herramientas que implementa el psicoanálisis, Freud lleva a cabo un elaborado diagnóstico de la cultura humana sobre cómo ésta aglomera a los individuos generándoles un malestar que es inherente a la propia idea de cultura, cuya naturaleza resulta paradojal: al tiempo que augura el progreso, reprime al individuo en la serie de normas que la regulan.
Freud conduce al lector a través de su periplo clínico con una prosa literaria que cede lugar en algunos instantes a la jerga psicoaná
Matthew W
Being a Judaic, Freud was an outsider to Occidental civilization and he certainly was discontent (or more like, despised it) with it. Freud added an extra sentence to the conclusion of this book years after it was originally published in fear of Uncle Adolf and his Aryans which gives this book an extra comedic ending.

If you're European or of European descent, read C.G. Jung's masterpiece Modern Man in Search of a Soul instead of this slim book.

Freud is a tool used by culture-distorters and his
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Civilization and its discontents 1 13 May 12, 2015 07:20AM  
CHAPTER 3 6 149 Jul 25, 2013 02:02AM  
  • Écrits
  • Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud
  • The Sublime Object of Ideology
  • The Human Condition
  • On the Genealogy of Morals/Ecce Homo
  • The Sane Society
  • The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance
  • Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason
  • Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
  • Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History
  • The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  • Studies in Hysteria
  • The Marx-Engels Reader
  • Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays
Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, who created an entirely new approach to the understanding of the human personality. He is regarded as one of the most influential - and controversial - minds of the 20th century.

Sigismund (later changed to Sigmund) Freud was born on 6 May 1856 in Freiberg, Moravia (now Pribor in the Czech Republic). His father was a merchant. The
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“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” 1013 likes
“It sounds like a fairy-tale, but not only that; this story of what man by his science and practical inventions has achieved on this earth, where he first appeared as a weakly member of the animal kingdom, and on which each individual of his species must ever again appear as a helpless infant... is a direct fulfilment of all, or of most, of the dearest wishes in his fairy-tales. All these possessions he has acquired through culture. Long ago he formed an ideal conception of omnipotence and omniscience which he embodied in his gods. Whatever seemed unattainable to his desires - or forbidden to him - he attributed to these gods. One may say, therefore, that these gods were the ideals of his culture. Now he has himself approached very near to realizing this ideal, he has nearly become a god himself. But only, it is true, in the way that ideals are usually realized in the general experience of humanity. Not completely; in some respects not at all, in others only by halves. Man has become a god by means of artificial limbs, so to speak, quite magnificent when equipped with all his accessory organs; but they do not grow on him and they still give him trouble at times... Future ages will produce further great advances in this realm of culture, probably inconceivable now, and will increase man's likeness to a god still more.” 339 likes
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