Analysis of Freud’s “Civilization and Its Discontents”

Amelia Saad


July 21, 2023

I think that Civilization and Its Discontents is a modern classic for good reason, and I know I am not alone. Freud's contributions to the school of psychoanalytic theory are impossible to ignore as well as his ideas on the realms of consciousness. The social contract that we must give up is indeed a set of rules and regulations we have to adhere to. Our misery stems from being a part of civilization but it is nearly impossible to live alone. As humans, we are social creatures who thrive off of collaboration and connectivity. Removing one source of our discontentment, other people bring in a new source of discontentment; loneliness. I really appreciate that, even as a scientist, Freud includes many stories and examples that are steeped in Enlightenment-era ideas. Because these emotions like guilt and sadness deal so much with the mind and the body, Freud makes tremendous efforts to deal with these as objectively as possible, despite not being comfortable dealing with emotions and science together. In the end, my takeaway from his book is that it is impossible to live any remotely “good” life without some level of discontent. Everything that’s worthwhile in life requires some level of sacrifice.

Amelia Saad