Civilization and Its Discontents

Historical context

This work should be understood in the context of contemporary events: World War I undoubtedly influenced Freud and his central observation about the tension between the individual and civilization. In a nation still recovering from a particularly brutal war, Freud developed thoughts published two years earlier in The Future of an Illusion (1927), wherein he criticized organized religion as a collective neurosis. Freud, an avowed atheist, argued that religion has tamed asocial instincts and created a sense of community around a shared set of beliefs, thus helping a civilization. Yet at the same time, organized religion exacts an enormous psychological cost on the individual by making him or her perpetually subordinate to the primal father figure embodied by God.[9]


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