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date: 02 August 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), who trained as a neurologist and general psychologist, pioneered psychoanalysis, the technique of encouraging free association. From his practice he developed the theory of repression, the idea that certain thoughts were held back from both oral expression and the patient’s conscious mind. His work also developed the notion of the unconscious, which he suggested was behind much of our thoughts and actions. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud argued that to be civilized is to be unhappy, because it was civilization itself which forced us to repress out natural instincts—those most notably of aggression and sexuality. In this excerpt he discusses how aggression is a primal instinct and looks at how this instinct, along with the instinct for sex, is controlled and repressed in “civilized” society, to the detriment of ultimate human happiness.

From Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents. Trans. and ed., James Strachey. New York: W. W. Norton, 1961, pp. 58–63.

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