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Civilization and Its Discontents is a book by Sigmund Freud. Written in 1929, and first published in German in 1930 as Das Unbehagen in der Kultur ("The Uneasiness in Culture"), it is one of Freud's most important and widely read works.
In this seminal book, Sigmund Freud enumerates the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. The primary friction stems from the individual's quest for instinctual freedom and civilization's contrary demand for conformity and instinctual repression. Many of humankind's primitive instincts (for example, the desire to kill and the insatiable craving for sexual gratification) are clearly harmful to the well-being of a human community. As a result, civilization creates laws that prohibit killing, rape, and adultery, and it implements severe punishments if such rules are broken. This process, argues Freud, is an inherent quality of civilization that instills perpetual feelings of discontent in its citizens.
Freud's theory is based on the notion that humans have certain characteristic instincts that are immutable. Most notable are the desires for sex, and the predisposition to violent aggression towards authoritative figures and towards sexual competitors, which both obstruct the gratification of a person's instincts. Human beings are governed by the pleasure principle, and the pleasure principle is satisfied by the instincts.