Civilization and Its Discontents
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The greatest contention in Sigmund Feud’s Civilization and Its Discontents lies in the sheer hypothesis that what we today call civilization (kultur) actually is the sole cause of human misery in the present day world. The psychologist author of this seminal book recommends that humankind should consider giving up the new ways of civilization and instead revert to the primitive conditions if at all they have to live a happier life in the present day world. According to Sigmund Freud, civilization is necessitated by the human super-ego, determination to derive utmost happiness from the surrounding and pain avoidance.
First and foremost, I am in total agreement with Sigmund Freud that the so called civilization had its origins deeply engraved in the individual innate concept of egoism. From time immemorial man has always demonstrated an inherent urge and undying fulfillment to conquer and subjugate the world around him for his own gain and comfort. This particularly quest for egoism has been realized through manipulation of the physical environment round him, displacement of other species of animals from their natural habitats, construction of man-made structures such as road and railway network, and other communication channels worldwide. Subsequently, the perceived control by man over the earth and other creatures therein, as necessitated by ego, grants him high feelings of power and authority over the environment as befit his egoistic status.
In the same perspective, quest for an increased happiness and incessant banishment of pain by the humanity is another motivation for humankind to pursue civilization. This followed the principle that each and every individual not only strive to avoid pain in the best way possible but does everything in his/her power to create the most of personal happiness in a world marred with hostility from the external forces. Some of the dangers that prompt mankind to master the world around him so as to survive and further lead a happy life through civilization include diseases, extreme heat, extreme cold, earthquakes, floods and storms among others. It goes without saying, therefore, that the whole mankind would it be at the greater stake of distinction had it not been for their (men) civilization related evolutionary developments.
In regard to the origin of civilization, I tend to differ with the psycho-analytic psychologist in the sense that ego and happiness alone cannot be the driving force behind the greatest human developments that culminated into what we today call civilization. Other factors such as adaption and conformation to the ever changing physical and social environments around them both have an equally greater hand in civilization. As the environment around mankind changes from time to time, man is prompted to adopt new ways of counteracting sudden that would otherwise threaten their survival in their respective locations world over. As such, man has come up with various technological innovations such as modernized architectural designs of houses fully fitted with heating and cooling devices, variety of cloth designs, earth moving machines and a broader network of infrastructure in a bid to overcome challenges emanating from their respective surroundings. Human and physical developments similar to these constitute the precinct of civilization.
That mankind turns to primitive conditions devoid of technological and social advancements that are necessary for them to thrive in the modern world, as suggested by Sigmund Freud in the Civilization and Its Discontents, is a retrogressive move that can readily lead to the extermination of humankind from the surface of earth considering the raging external factors working to their peril. Suffice it to say, civilization and its components are an integrated part of humanity and that an individual cannot exist in the absence of civilization.
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