Civilization: A boon or curse?

Within the piece Civilization and its Discontents, Freud tries to highlight the different aspects within civilization itself that lead to humans being unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. Freud points towards the fact of how civilization is built to tame the natural state of human, which he contends is driven by aggressiveness, sexual drive and in certain cases violence, by putting in place certain rules within the society to govern them. However, Freud deems that putting restraints on these natural inclinations prevents humans to completely function in their natural state leading to greater issues of discontent within them as controlling these tendencies often requires high expenditure of energy and resolve. Furthermore, civilizations apart from introducing rules of governing interactions with one another imposes several roles onto us which further lead to more resentment within people as this makes civilization all the more demanding. Freud initially proposes the idea of going back to primitive ways of life, away from technological advances as he believes all the issues within human life are rooted in the attempt to find solutions to certain problems, however, rather than doing that it created more problems as all this power over nature through technology still couldn’t give humans the desired pleasure. But then he contradicts his own idea by stating how it is not definitive that humans back in the day were also any happier so this might not be a plausible idea after all.

With Freud criticizing the imposition of certain roles onto human beings within the framework of civilization as a plausible cause of their displeasure within his book, Civilization and its discontents , he on the other hand himself seems to be emphasizing some of these very roles as  conventional and to a certain degree required within human life particularly gender roles. While discussing natural tendencies of human beings among which he refers to aggression and sexual needs, Freud indicates towards how “Women represent the interests of the family and of sexual life. The work of civilization has become increasingly the business of men, it confronts them with ever more difficult tasks…” which depicts this emphasis. Although I might not agree with his viewpoint on this firstly because I find it hardly applicable to present times and secondly for the fact of how while looking after the interests of the family itself women contribute to the civilization as they nurture and handle most of the upbringing of the children who eventually would directly contribute to the development of civilization, it is still understandable as to where Freud is coming from. Back in the early 1900’s when this book was written, gender roles were still strictly enforced and adhered to where women were deemed as only there to nourish and look after the family or for fulfillment of the sexual needs of men so Freud was bound to follow and believe the conventions of that time to be true, unless he was progressive or revolutionary enough to go against the norms which he clearly was not, and that is reflected within his writing as well. However, this does not really change one’s opinion about the work itself, the reflection in terms of historical or cultural context only makes it understandable in the sense of one realizes why the author said a particular thing or the reason behind the method opted to describe that particular thing. And I understand that if I oppose some of the things he elaborates, it is again because I belong from a different time period and a much more progressive society where I see women standing shoulder to shoulder with men striving to contribute to the society coupled with some who with all of this also follow conventional roles attributed to women, so my thoughts are bound to differ. Furthermore, as Freud mentions going back to primitive times in aspect of living, as a probable solution to the unhappiness within the world partly came up because of the fact of how the materialistic and technological advances were still new to the people within the 1900’s as the age of industrialization had just begun a few years back so they were still to a certain degree connected to the primitive ideals of life and skeptical to what the future ahead with these new advancements might look like. With technology not having advanced as much as present times, it was a conceivable idea to go back to the old ways of living. In contrast to this, however, in modern day society we are already so far down the line in terms of innovation and materialistic advancement that to imagine a world without it seems improbable.

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