Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Civilization and Its Discontents” as Want to Read:
Civilization and Its Discontents
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Civilization and Its Discontents

by
3.79  ·  Rating details ·  37,241 ratings  ·  1,427 reviews
It stands as a brilliant summary of the views on culture from a psychoanalytic perspective that he had been developing since the turn of the century. It is both witness and tribute to the late theory of mind—the so-called structural theory, with its stress on aggression, indeed the death drive, as the pitiless adversary of eros.

Civilization and Its Discontents is one of th
...more
Paperback, 127 pages
Published September 17th 1989 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1930)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Civilization and Its Discontents, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Marcelo Galuppo Freud is a great writer, a very clear scholar. Most of his books, although intended for the scholar, can be understood by anyone. This one is speciall…moreFreud is a great writer, a very clear scholar. Most of his books, although intended for the scholar, can be understood by anyone. This one is specially an easy one (besides part VI, when he discussed narcisismus). You could profit of reading "Introduction to Narcisismus" before you read this one, but it is not necessary.(less)
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)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  37,241 ratings  ·  1,427 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Civilization and Its Discontents
Ahmad Sharabiani
Das Unbehagen in der Kultur = Civilization And Its discontents, Sigmund Freud

Civilization and Its Discontents is a book by Sigmund Freud. It was written in 1929 and first published in German in 1930 as Das Unbehagen in der Kultur ("The Uneasiness in Civilization").

Exploring what Freud sees as the important clash between the desire for individuality and the expectations of society, the book is considered one of Freud's most important and widely read works, and one of the most influential and stud
...more
C C
Apr 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book helps explain one of life’s enduring phenomena: rage. It explains why standing behind that scruffy, ponytailed, mustachioed gentleman in the checkout lane (let’s call him “Gerard,” for good measure), can trigger paroxysms of homicidal fury. Something deep and ancient roils inside as you do a quick comparison: Gerard, with his sensationally attractive girlfriend in tow, (let’s call her “Melanie”); and you, with just you. You stand there fronting a twitching half-smile that conceals the ...more
Fergus
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
THE MAN THAT HATH NO MUSIC IN HIMSELF,
NOR IS MOVED WITH CONCORD OF SWEET SOUNDS,
IS FIT FOR TREASON, STRATAGEMS AND SPOILS;
THE MOTIONS OF HIS SPIRIT ARE DULL AS NIGHT,
AND HIS AFFECTIONS DARK AS EREBUS.
LET NO SUCH MAN BE TRUSTED.
Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice.

No one in entre-deux-guerres Vienna of prim and proper upbringing really trusted the man Sigmund Freud. For his affections, as the Bard says, seemed as dark as the world of Erebus, the dwelling place of the Dead.

What business was it of any
...more
Roy Lotz
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 died during World War II—two events that continue to haunt the present day. Yet his theories seem so remote from our positivistic era that it can be difficult to even take them seriously.

Nonetheless, he remains one of the most influential think
...more
Corinne
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jessica
Nov 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jan-Maat
the discrete joys of cultural pessimism

This volume consists of two of Freud's essays Civilisation & its discontents (1930) and the far shorter 'Civilised' sexual morality & modern nervous illness (1908).

The latter essay is the simple one , it points out that conventional (in turn of the century Vienna) sexual morality is a cause of mental ill health and even when it isn't, the focus on marriage as the only socially acceptable forum for the expression of sexual love in practise causes frigidity
...more
Prerna
This book was sent to its publishers right after the great crash of 1929, but of course, it was written earlier. In the coming decades of wars, economic recessions, nuclear weapons, colonialism and unchecked capitalism, Freud became a preacher sort of figure despite his disdain for religion. His view that civilization with its laws and morals prevents us from gratifying a primitive human aggressiveness was seen to represent the general antagonisms of the twentieth century and the violent human c ...more
Mr.
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
`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
Ipsa
Jan 01, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is more of a rant:

While reading a different book, it just dawned on me: this book excessively echoes the centuries of the Western hatred of the self. The book is haunted by the ghosts of not only Hobbes and Augustine but also Thucydides and Hesiod. The role of culture is to suppress and/or sublimate the pre-social animalistic nature of human beings. The primitive anti-social instincts of the child are put down by a super-ego representing a father and more largely a civilised society --- tak
...more
jeroenT
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-non-fiction
Studying psychology I never cared much for Sigmunds insights into the human psyche and dreams. They seemed interesting from a cultural, maybe even literary or intellectual perspective -but not from a scientific point of view.
His sociological ideas and writings however impressed me deeply in my student years. I read this book cover to cover in two days. One of the points that stuck was that humans not only have an innate drive to survive, but also to self destruct.
Fascinating book and very well
...more
Stela
Nov 06, 2009 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
Omneya
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Blair
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Price of Civilized Security

“Civilized man has traded in a portion of his chances of happiness for a certain measure of security.”

Sometimes it is worth reading the original source of an idea that now should be taken for granted in our culture. Not this time. While there are a few gems in this work, I am mainly reminded why Freud is no longer taken seriously. Here we receive his view of an entire civilization based on his experience with those few neurotic patients who can afford his services.
...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At one time it was wrongly believed that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (i.e. the embryonic stages mirrors the development stages of the species). Similarly Freud thinks the phases that an individual goes through mirror the same phases that civilizations have gone through. Freud uses that theme to explain his psychoanalysis in describing individuals and the societies in which they live as mirror images of each other.

Yes, Freud does believe some weird things and he restates them in this book su
...more
Michael
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
Matt
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok

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
...more
Morgan Blackledge
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Freud’s brilliant (if anything underrated) investigation of the conflict between the desire for individuality and the expectations of society.

The essay represents a long form exploration of the tension between the needs of the group (promoted via civilization) and the needs of the individual, which for civilized people plays out in a conflict between survival and sex drives.

Freud’s primary claim, in a nutshell is, people need civilization to keep from ripping each other to shreds, but it’s als
...more
André
“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”

Civilization and Its Discontents, written in 1929, is an important work within the range of Modern Psychology. Freud, in this book, explores the conflict that exists between the individual and society.
In the first part of the book, it's presented how Religion affects different pathological and healthy states of an individual. If the "purpose of life is simply the p
...more
Jafar
Mar 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The price that we pay for the comforts of civilization is our happiness.
Zadignose
Jul 29, 2019 added it
Shelves: 20th-century
Freud is a fascinating and provocative philosopher. I believe, in attempting to understand him, it is correct to regard him as a philosopher while it is an error to regard him as a scientist--and this is an error which he seems to have made several times himself. Freud seems to have greatly influenced my own thinking, and I believe he has also significantly influenced human culture so that his ideas are not easy to escape. This book in particular, it seems, contains many profound probable truths ...more
Paul H.
Jan 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
I think that people have generally misunderstood Freud; he is not anything remotely resembling a scientist, but rather a deeply untalented moral philosopher and cultural critic who inexplicably tried to use anecdotes from psychotherapy sessions as a quasi-‘scientific’ basis for his terrible ideas.

It’s sort of like Paul Krugman trying to dress up his half-assed political commentary under the mantle of “prize-winning economist”; one of these things has nothing to do with the other.

To be sure, Fr
...more
Chrisl
Mar 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1900-1939, dew01-499
'Liked' Pete's observation:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
"This book shouldn't be taken as a definitive book on psychology but instead more the opinion of a wise old man as Christopher Hitchens explains in the forward."
***
One of the contributing factors causing me to drop out of college first time. Part of the 'Growing Up Absurd' phenomena. (Had just finished bowling in Seattle for OSU team. Five hour drive in van one way ... Was working at university bowling alley and drafted as subst
...more
Goatboy
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first 50 pages are some of Freud's clearest and most straight forward writing, and also some of his darkest. Want a matter of fact summary of why Freud believes that we who exist within a civilization that we ourselves built around us will never find happiness? Want to understand how this trap we built around ourselves (both necessary and also fated to make us discontented) pretty much defines us as humans who need to live with each other? Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard pla ...more
Christopher
Aug 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Read in 2000. Too long ago for me to review, but I will say that the impression I'm left with is that Freud may be more relevant today outside of his discipline than in it. ...more
Supreeth
Except the stages of psychosexual stages I didn't know much about Freud, and what I knew was pretty sick and unacceptable. In this particular book, Freud talks about Society as a whole entity capable of thinking and gives the treatment similar to that of an individual. While it is accessible and straightforward, I still feel like some stuff just went over my head. This means I probably have to fill my brain with prerequisite readings and finding the shortest one isn't going to work. ...more
Zack Clemmons
Reading Freud is like reading Aristotle, if Aristotle had been an idiot.
Shyam
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: freud
Here one can bring in the interesting case in which happiness in life is sought mainly in the enjoyment of beauty, wherever it presents itself to our senses and out judgement—the beauty of the human forms and gestures, of natural objects and landscapes, of artistic and even scientific creations., this aesthetic approach to the purpose of life affords little protection against the sufferings that threaten us, but it can make up for much. The enjoyment of beauty has a special quality of feeling th
...more
Olivia Combs
Feb 10, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gb
It’s so bad I wish I could give you a zero…
Colby
Apr 09, 2022 added it
This man is deranged.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Merge new edition with to corresponding book 3 9 Sep 05, 2022 02:04PM  
Goodreads Librari...: link editions 10 18 Jun 10, 2022 12:58PM  
Goodreads Librari...: add edition 2 13 Jun 09, 2022 12:32PM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 9780141395890 4 15 Apr 18, 2022 05:38PM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 9780141395890 2 419 Apr 18, 2022 07:37AM  
What does he mean by this: 2 16 Mar 18, 2019 09:26AM  
Goodreads Librari...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Please correct page count 4 27 Jul 26, 2017 05:48PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Memories, Dreams, Reflections
  • On the Genealogy of Morals
  • Man and His Symbols
  • Beyond Good and Evil
  • The Art of Loving
  • Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
  • The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
  • The Gay Science
  • Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud
  • The Birth of Tragedy
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra
  • The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
  • The Communist Manifesto
  • The Sweet Flypaper of Life
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR
  • The Social Contract
  • The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
See similar books…
See top shelves…
6,732 followers
Dr. Sigismund Freud (later changed to Sigmund) was a 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.

In 1873, Freud began to study medicine at the University of Vienna. After graduating, he worked at the Vienna General Hospital
...more

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
25 likes · 6 comments
“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” 1638 likes
“It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.” 477 likes
More quotes…