Civilisation and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud *****

2 August 2019 | , , ,

Reading dates: 25 July – 01 August 2019

Neil suggested I chose this book for our Dialectical Materialism Book Group. Being a Freudian, and an admirer of his style, I thought it was a good call. It was very interesting to re-read it after so many years and to think current politics through it. The zoomed out, far reaching perspective, the clarity of his writing and the lucidity of his exposition did not disappoint me. It is not a cheerful book. It is a rather pessimistic view, but well argued, written with humility, humour and many good references, even if at times it feels a bit dated. At others, especially around his views on non-heteronormative sexuality and perversion, it still feels it has something to teach us.

We discussed the impossibility of empathy and of loving one’s neighbour, perversion, his idea of yoga and of communism (a bit naive), what civilisation actually is, guilt, remorse and the super-ego, unbehagen, kultur, easy and difficult ways of expressing things, translations (we had tree different ones), and repression, among other things. I cooked bangers and mash and also had a Viennetta, but no one made anything obscene with the food (a missed opportunity) .

Freud’s ideas and his dialectical arguing style are very relevant today, in academia and outside. I will not tire of saying this. The only thing an opposer to this view needs to do to debate me (which I am open to do) is to actually read Freud – not secondary writing on his ideas, but the great man himself.


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