The Cost of Civilization

One of the main points of Sigmund Freud’s “Civilization and Its Discontents” is that all forms of government are repressive of human nature. While this may seem controversial, I believe he makes a compelling argument about the nature of power in society and the roles individuals hold within it.

One of the points that Freud discusses is that individuals must suppress their natural desires in order for society to be more functioning. However, even though this may lead to a better society, this leads to negative repercussions for individuals. Freud says that this repressive nature is most clearly represented by the government; therefore, any government is repressive because they require individuals to sacrifice their natural desires for the “greater” society.

Freud also recognizes the roles that civilization plays in human happiness. Despite civilization’s importance for society through various developments, he says that repressing civilization by the government yields negative outcomes. I believe that just having a body of power, such as a government, is inherently oppressive, therefore I agree with Freud. The government, he says, should not be viewed as a power that is in favor of the individual’s well-being, and I agree because I believe the government’s primary function is to keep society in order. In order to comply with these societal norms originally set forth by the government, individuals are forced to give up their desires in order to conform to them.

Although I agree with this, I also believe that there are many limitations to Freud’s view. Despite Freud’s assertion that individuals can challenge these ‘repressive’ governments, he fails to acknowledge the different degrees of repression that different forms of government possess. Identifying these oppressors and challenging them could be crucial to creating a society where individuals have greater freedom.

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