What are the main points in Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents?

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

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One of the fundamental ideas in Freud's work is the social interpretation of Freud's theory of the subconscious.  Given the time of its writing, with the rise of Hitler in Europe, there is a ominous tone to the work in its articulation of the subconscious and conscious, Eros, the force of love, and Thanatos, the death instinct.  The work also discusses how society and social orders are forces that seek to artificially control the subconscious through its acceptance and practice of repression.  Freud's analysis of individual dreams as well as social practices help to bring this idea out in full force.  It is through this that the notion of guilt develops, and Freud's analysis calls for a more thorough approach to how the individual addresses their own needs of the understanding of the subconscious as well as acknowledging what society demands and wants.  In the end, the work forces individuals to better understand themselves, but also does so in better articulation about the direction of society.  With the emergence of Hitler and the Nazis, the work becomes even more relevant to the times.

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