How does Freud set up the conflict between our needs and the demands of the world in Civilization and Its Discontents?

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Freud argues that civilization is a form of control that is able to ensure compliance through repression and social shame.  The idea of being able to assimilate or to be accepted into social orders is predicated upon the idea that the individual must repress their instinctual desires, the very essence of what Freud sees as their humanity, in order to be accepted.  For Freud, full acknowledgement and understanding of what it is to be human has been offset in society through marginalization and dehumanization.  The world in which Freud writes is one in which repression in order to fit into a conformist vision has taken a toll on what it means to be human.  The needs of the individual are set aside in this realm, where "acting out" is more likely and forms the basis for neurotic behavior.  The demands of the world are cast in a non- understanding light, and come at the cost of the needs of the individual.  At his best, Freud can only hope for individual understanding and embracing of the need for therapy as not something damaging, but rather as something liberating.  Yet, given the gloominess of the time period and the fact that there was little in way of social acceptance of his psychological vision of the individual and their relationship for society, there is a definite note in his work that the demands of the world will come at the cost of the fully understood and psychologically actualized individual.  As the rise of Hitler becomes more of a reality, this notion of socially repressive demands becomes more of a reality.


We’ve answered 317,597 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question