Sigmund Freud's Book 'Civilization and its Discontents' is First Published in America

Sigmund Freud's Book 'Civilization and its Discontents' is First Published in America

Sigmund Freud, 1936

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Sigmund Freud's book Civilization and its Discontents (Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, "The Uneasiness in Culture") is first published in America.

One of Freud's most important and widely read books, it's an exploration of what he perceives as fundamental tensions between a civilization and an individual — in particular, a civilization's need for conformity vs. an individual's desire for freedom.

According to Freud, individuals have all sorts of desires which would create problems for civilization (such as killing) and which must therefore be suppressed. This necessarily leads to discontent, even though individuals are better off for it.

This of course relies on the premise that all humans share certain immutable characteristics, and one of the most common critiques of Freud's arguments is to challenge this premise.

Given the context in which the book was written, the aftermath of World War I and the looming start of World War II, it's not hard to understand why Sigmund Freud — a Jew in Austria — would find such a premise appealing.

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Freud - Civilization and its Discontents

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