Jamie's Reviews > Civilization and Its Discontents

Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud
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's review
Dec 02, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: philosophy-theory, read-in-2010
Read from November 18 to 23, 2010 — I own a copy

I've been scarfing down Freud this semester, for no evident reason. I've never been one much enamored with psychoanalysis, and I think that inclination is beginning to become a more active aversion in general. At any rate, Freud can be pretty fun to read--he's much more accessible than you'd expect, he uses the strangest effing analogies and descriptions, and the assholery of his authorial voice tends to be fairly entertaining when it's not infuriating.

I suppose with a few of his books under my belt now, my question is: why did his work come to spawn one of the greatest intellectual paradigm shifts in the modern world? I suppose I'd have to know what it was like to read Freud in the early 20th century, but my understanding of it basically lies in the fact that Freud suggested that people don't know themselves--the formulation of the unconscious generated a hugely radical change in the way we think about subjectivity and experience.

Ok, ok, I get this. Nevertheless, his books simply don't feel particularly strange, even intellectually jarring. I thought "Civilization and Its Discontents" could easily have been boiled down to its seven-page conclusion and still gotten the points of the book across without compromise. Maybe what confuses me after having finally read Freud's texts (as I spent most of undergrad reading him *through* feminist and queer theorists) is that I'm not quite certain where all the apparent 'fodder' in Freud comes from for many 20th century thinkers. The ideas seem so basic, so easily undermined, and are presented in a way that makes Freud look like a lazy scholar. By the time I read this book ('Dora' pissed me off, 'Three Essays' bored the holy jesus out of me), I almost started feeling bad for Freud**. He seems like a real sad old man who sees little hope in humanity. Anyway, I guess you can't live with him; you can't live without him. Anyone thinking about identity and sexuality today has to reckon with Freud, so I imagine I've got many many more encounters ahead of me.

**Though anytime Freud mentions women, I wanna puke. Wonder if Martha Freud ever puked on him...

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