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Totem and Taboo (The Standard Edition) (Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud) Paperback – September 17, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0393001433 ISBN-10: 0393001431 Edition: The Standard Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; The Standard Edition edition (September 17, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393001431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393001433
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

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.

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Customer Reviews

Easily the most accessible of his sometimes cryptic writings.
Dan Glover
"I should like to insist that ... the beginnings of religion, morals, society and art converge in the Oedipus complex."
Steven H Propp
This theory is highly controversial, albeit very interesting and thought-provoking.
Panagiotis Varlagas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Panagiotis Varlagas on August 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the first Freud book I have ever read. I am not a trained psychiatrist, or sociologist, or ethnologist, so I am going to review the book from a layman's standpoint.
In this work, Freud draws heavily on observations and theories of ethnology, emphasizing on studies of Australian aborigines and Frazer's work. He draws a parellel with his personal observations from treatment of "neurotic" patients and claims to have found common patterns in these two classes of subjects, which tend to explain certain social and psychological phenomena, as well as the "birth" of religion.
He focuses on the concepts of "Totem" and "Taboo". While familiar with taboo (although our understanding of the term is narrower than Freud's), totem is remote to us. Certain aboriginal peoples were grouped in social groupings, centered on the cult of and belief of descent from a certain animal. So, you are the "Kangaroo tribe", we are the "Ostrich tribe" etc. The topic most interesting Freud, to which he devotes the first essay in the book, is "exogamy", i.e. marriage outside one's group. This practice of exogamy seems to be in contradiction to what is pursued by some ethnic groups in America (Jews and Greeks come to mind) i.e. "endogamy" - a push to have children marry within their parents' ethnic group. This practice of exogamy in Australian aborigines is attributed by Freud to fear of incest, with quite convincing arguments.

What is challening is to concoct a theory that suggests totemism and exogamy are not orthogonal social institutions that just happenned to coexist, but intricately bound together. Freud accomplishes that through intricate reasoning that draws heavily on religion (in his 4th essay).
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Totem and Taboo, along with _The Future of an Illusion_, should be necessary reading for any serious student of social science. Of course, there are massive holes in Freud's arguments (such as his tendancy to make sweeping generalizations about other cultures from his armchair in Europe), but people who disagree with him for moral and ethical reasons tend to amplify those holes and simply ridicule Freud the man instead of intelligently approaching his arguments.
The fact is, his suppositions about parental relations (as they relate to "totem" cultures), about religion, and about sexuality are extremely relevant and have proven, over the years, to possess an extraordinary predictive power. Even if one disagrees with this literature, one should read it and know exactly what they disagree with.
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Format: Paperback
Freud published these four essays in 1912 and 1913. He states in the Preface, "It will be found that the two principal themes from which the title of this little book is derived---totems and taboos---have not received the same treatment. The analysis of taboos is put forward as an assured and exhaustive attempt at the solution of the problem. The investigation of totemism does no more than declare that 'here is what psycho-analysis can at the moment contribute towards elicidating the problem of the totem.'"

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

"We have arrived at the point of regarding a child's relation to his parents, dominated as it is by incestuous longings, as the nuclear complex of neuroses."
"Taboo is a primeval prohbition forcibly imposed (by some authority) from outside, and directed against the most powerful longings to which human beings are subject. The desire to violate it persists in their unconscious ... the fact that the violation of a taboo can be atoned for by a renunciation shows that renunciation lies at the basis of obedience to taboo."
"The original animal sacrifice was already a substitute for a human sacrifice---for the ceremonial killing of the father; so that, when the father-surrogate once more resumed its human shape, the animal sacrifice too could be changed back into a human sacrifice. The memory of the first great act of sacrifice thus proved indestructible."
"There was an alternative method of allaying their guilt and this was first adopted by Christ. He sacrified his own life and so redeemed the company of brothers from original sin."
"There can be no doubt that in the Christian myth the original sin was one against God the father.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Roberto P. De Ferraz on March 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
And this time trough those primitive manifestations performed by that very primitive peoples like aborigenes from Australia, North and South America indians and many others discovered by colonization european, manifestation that we are used to call by Totem and Taboo. This is the standard Freud's view on the subject and to understand this book is a necessary step to proceed to other important Freud's work like Moses and Monotheism, The Future of an Ilusion and many others, where he approaches with reluctance the idea of religion as an offspring of early animism.
The prior standard way of seeing these types of primitive manifestation was to see them trough the amount of dread the primitive men have against the manifestation of some praeternatural agency, to use a term used by Mr.Thorstein Veblen, a contemporary of Freud, in his magnificent book on the leisure class (The Theory of the Leisure Class). It is worthy to note that nobody can be sure on the origins of this type of tradition and that adds substance to Mr.Freud's arguments.
Sigmund Freud goes a step further to the classical view and says that totemism and taboo as animism are the manifestation of something not outside ourselves but rather inside human minds of the primitive people, where the unconscious played a good part to the forming of this kind of culture manifestation and where there is an intricate and unconscious and almost mathematical calculation in order to attribute to the priest-king, who typifies the carrier of this tradition, both the pleasures and the burden of the function.
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