‘Civilization and Its Discontents’ by Sigmund Freud

It was written in 1929 and first published in German in 1930 as ‘Das Unbehagen in der Kultur‘, this edition published by Penguin in 2002.

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In what remains one of his most seminal papers, Freud considers the incompatibility of civilisation and individual happiness, and the tensions between the claims of society and the individual. We all know that living in civilised groups means sacrificing a degree of personal interest, but couldn’t you argue that it in fact creates the conditions for our happiness? Freud explores the arguments and counter-arguments surrounding this proposition, focusing on what he perceives to be one of society’s greatest dangers; ‘civilised’ sexual morality. After all, doesn’t repression of sexuality deeply affect people and compromise their chances of happiness?

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