Civilization and Its Discontents

Freud: The Impact of Psychology on Our Understanding of Civilization

Sigmund Freud, author of Civilization and Its Discontents, is widely regarded as the father and originator of modern psychology. Through the formation of his now-famous four divisions of the human brainthe ego, the id, the libido, and the super-egoFreud changed the way man views himself and his actions forever. How, then, could such a great psychologist also write a work that questioned and explained western civilization? Through his discovery (or invention) of those four divisions of the human brain, Freud was able to better understand the formation and existence of western civilization as it is now.

Freud begins his work by explaining the formation of the "ego," that "division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality." By the time a human is adult, the lines of demarcation between it and the rest of the world are strong and definitewith the exception of one case, in which a person in love considers himself and the person with whom he is in love to be one. These definite lines take time to develop, however, and Freud points out that an infant learns this slowly; that there are outside factors over which he has no control,...

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