When this text was introduced, I will admit, I was skeptical. I have heard a lot about Freud, his psychoanalytic theory, the Oedipus complex, and the ID, Ego and Super Ego. However, a lot of Freud’s theories are highly critized and not accepted.
After reading Civilization and its Discontents I agree with some of the points Freud made. Once you pull back the layers of sexism and psychoanalytic jargon, he kinda makes sense. If I inturpreted the text correctly, Freud believes we are unhappy because society confines us. Sexually, we have little freedom. We are confined to heterosexual realtionships that must show “solitary” and an “indissoluble bond”. We are discouraged from using pleasure for anything outside of love and incouraged to be sexually monogamous. I agree that society has placed humanity and human sexuality in a box which can lead to unhappiness.
Freud brings up another good point about society. We are constantly subjected to comparison with the people around us which then makes us aware of the things we do not have. I keep going back to the quote at the beginning of Iris Young’s Five faces of Oppression. You don’t know what you are missing until you know what you are missing. He states that this leads to agression and to get rid of it one would need to abolish private property.
I agree that getting rid of private property might help with human agression and unhappiness that comes from jealously. Where I disagree is his solution for love. He thinks that by abolishing “the family” and providing ourselves with sexual freedom this will make us happy. In his perfect utopia this might seem logical, but people will always have something to be unhappy about. Freud’s “fix” for happiness is definitely wishful. It would not stop jealousy and aggression completely. Freud has some valid ideas in this text but he is ultimately too focused on the male perspective, sex, and agression when there are so many other factors that contribute to human unhappiness.