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Civilization and Its Discontents (The Standard Edition) (Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud) [Paperback]

Sigmund Freud , James Strachey , Peter Gay
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)


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Book Description

September 17, 1989 0393301583 978-0393301588 The Standard Edition

During the summer of 1929, Freud worked on what became this seminal volume of twentieth-century thought.

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 the last of Freud's books, written in the decade before his death and first published in German in 1929. In it he states his views on the broad question of man's place in the world, a place Freud defines in terms of ceaseless conflict between the individual's quest for freedom and society's demand for conformity.

Freud's theme is that what works for civilization doesn't necessarily work for man. Man, by nature aggressive and egotistical, seeks self-satisfaction. But culture inhibits his instinctual drives. The result is a pervasive and familiar guilt.

Of the various English translations of Freud's major works to appear in his lifetime, only one was authorized by Freud himself: The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud under the general editorship of James Strachey.

Freud approved the overall editorial plan, specific renderings of key words and phrases, and the addition of valuable notes, from bibliographical and explanatory. Many of the translations were done by Strachey himself; the rest were prepared under his supervision. The result was to place the Standard Edition in a position of unquestioned supremacy over all other existing versions.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“Newly designed in a uniform format, each new paperback in the Standard Edition opens with a biographical essay on Freud's life and work—along with a note on the individual volume” (Peter Gay, Sterling Professor of History at Yale)

About the Author

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is one of the twentieth century's greatest minds and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. His many works include The Ego and the Id; An Outline of Psycho-Analysis; Inhibitions; Symptoms and Anxiety; New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis; Civilization and Its Discontent, and others.

Peter Gay is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the National Book Award winner The Enlightenment, the best-selling Weimar Culture, and the widely translated Freud: A Life for Our Time. He lives in New York City.

Product Details

  • Series: Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud
  • Paperback: 127 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; The Standard Edition edition (September 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393301583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393301588
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 5.2 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is one of the twentieth century's greatest minds and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. His many works include The Ego and the Id; An Outline of Psycho-Analysis; Inhibitions; Symptoms and Anxiety; New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis; Civilization and Its Discontent, and others.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freud as psychoanalytic sociologist. January 5, 2004
Format:Paperback
Sigmund Freud, whatever the variations in his posthumous reputation, remains the most compelling, daring, and persuasive analyst of the human condition we have. His psychoanalytic theories of sexuality, sublimation, repression, etc., offer original insights that profoundly influenced the course of Western consciousness in the 20th century. In addition to his gifts as a thinker, Freud was a master stylist, a man whose luminous prose and skillful argumentation make reading him a genuine pleasure.
"Civilization and Its Discontents," one of Freud's last works, remains one of his most vital and important. Don't be fooled by its brevity; this is a deeply complex and wide-ranging examination of Western civilization and its tensions. Freud speculates about the origins of our modern societies, the difficulties of assimilating ourselves to them given our own individual psyches, and ends the book with a rather pessimistic look forward. Clearly, Freud felt that civilization's "discontents" were an unresolvable fact of life.
What makes "Civilization and Its Discontents" so fascinating is Freud's application of psychoanalysis to Western society as whole. He examines how the factors at play in our own psyches--family conflicts, sexual desire, guilt, the "death instinct," and the eternal battle between our own self-interest and the interests of the human species at large--cause the problems that human beings encounter on a daily basis. As always with Freud, his ideas are put forward not as a final statement, but as a tentative first step.
This is one of Freud's indispensable texts, and its accessible and absorbing style make it an ideal introduction for those who are seeking to discover this colossal mind for the first time. A must read.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultimate Summation of Freud's Thought July 11, 2007
Format:Hardcover
`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 philosophy. Freud adopts (perhaps a bit hastily), a Nietzschean position with regard to the role of religion and institutions of social morality which curb and shape primordial human drives. As a result, human beings, and civilizations as a whole remain unsatisfied and suffer from neuroses. He concludes with a discussion of human aggression, which manifests itself in the form of communalized human aggression. He wonders as to whether or not human beings will be able to overcome this drive. It seems to me that this question remains the most important for human beings in the 21st century. Will we be able to overcome our Thanatos and survive the destructive powers that we have created? I suspect that Freud will be better remembered as a thinker and philosopher than as an analyst or doctor precisely because he asks the questions that remain relevant for civilization today, and are likely to remain imperative in the future.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book changed my life January 6, 2010
Format:Paperback
I read this book at age 18 after getting interested in psychiatry by an author named Karl Menninger. Freud's essay, Civilization and Its Discontents, has had the greatest impact on my life out of any book or experience. Within this short book he had taken my whole view of the world, turned it upside-down, and added an exclamation point. To understand this book doesn't require great intellectual power but rather mental capacity i.e, a capacity to receive a massive dose of pessimism! I would add almost as a warning that Freud's implied philosophy is almost conducive to depression in a maladjusted mind! If you want hope or faith, this is not for you. Regardless, everybody should read this book.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprise: Freud is actually an effective writer! April 14, 2003
Format:Paperback
Many people today believe that Sigmund Freud was obsessed with sex. However, most of these assumptions are based upon what another person said of Freud and almost never upon a careful reading of Freud's work. These people do not see the fact that Freud writes on more than sexuality, he also analyzes and researches the study of mankind. Sigmund Freud attacks the question why we do things the way we do head on and answers to the best of his reason. Therefore, Sigmund Freud was truly a man of his time and his debate on mankind was a very innovative method to answer mankind's most serious issues.
Man is an aggressive being and civilization is the means which humanity withholds its primal urges in check. At least Freud believes so and shows support for this thesis by referring to mankind's constant need to restrain its inherent passions despite all of the controls placed by society. I believe that Freud was definitely on to something with this point. He is right when he states that man is essentially an anti-social, anti-cultural being. One could look down through the pages of history and see war after war, violent act after violent primarily as a result of the inherent greed for power and a passionate thirst for more than one's own. This is one of the many reasons why communism is impossible, man is a selfish being and always desires more than he possesses. He will do what is necessary to increase his holding at the expense of his fellows. I believe that Nietzsche and Freud are in agreement at this point. However, Nietzsche believes that the masses attempt to quell this passion and label that as noble. I believe that Freud does not think it is possible to restrain this aggressiveness and mankind is only able to cover it up in a semblance of control which we label civilization.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking
This is a very thought provoking book by Fried and all though it was written in the years ago and parts are dated, it is still relevant even in today's society perhaps even more.
Published 1 month ago by surfn
3.0 out of 5 stars Liked it in college
This was hot stuff for me back at U of Arkansas (circa 1964). Now, not so much. Historical value I guess, but I'm no longer willing to make my way through it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Joseph Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars If only the rest of the world had the patience to understand
This is the last of Sigmund Freud's writings. It is very short compared to his other books. I've read this one several times and It has greatly influenced how I see Individuals and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Chad M Reed
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
In love with Freud more than ever!
Really interesting content!
Great for independent reading or for class. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ivanna Cacho
5.0 out of 5 stars Pow!
The first work by Freud that I've ever read. I found his writing clear, precise. I now have great respect for his groundbreaking work. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Phyllis Le Chat
5.0 out of 5 stars Great deal
I was pleased to find this book at such a good price. I need it for a course I am taking and wanted to keep it after the course had finished.
Published 5 months ago by Ashley
4.0 out of 5 stars Meandering, but brilliant.
I thought it was just me, in my studies of psychology, who tended to prefer to understand Freud through the writings of others. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Phillip Victor
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex but thought-provoking
A bit complex as an introduction to Freud but a great look into his ideas. Civilization and its Discontents covers what Freud believes to be the psychological origins of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Imran Lorgat
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex but thought-provoking
A bit complex as an introduction to Freud but a great look into his ideas. Civilization and its Discontents covers what Freud believes to be the psychological origins of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Imran Lorgat
3.0 out of 5 stars Pomp and Circumstance?
Typically Freud: why say something in a hundred words when you can say it in a thousand. Some genuinely brilliant ideas in here mired in gross assumptions and no small amount of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Christian Allen
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