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Totem and Taboo Paperback – October 25, 2010
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Original Language: German --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
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).Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
everything that had to be said and written is right here...a MUSTPublished 10 months ago by Marc Levy
These four essays contain the essence of Freud's philosophy. Easily the most accessible of his sometimes cryptic writings. Highly recommended!Published on March 13, 2014 by Dan Glover
I had to read certain pages from this book for a class. It got a bit confusing because the teacher occasionally went off on rants and i didn't fully read the book but the parts i... Read morePublished on July 26, 2013 by Araceli
I am referring to the Thaisunset edition in this review (black cover with slightly incongruous topless native woman illustration). Read morePublished on October 1, 2011 by A. M Samsky