Free «Civilization and Discontent» Essay Sample

Discontent in the American Civilization

Freud presents a link between the individual’s libidinal development and the evolution of civilization. Discontent is part of the people’s libidinal development process alongside the character formation and sublimation. Discontent is also referred to as the individual’s renunciation of instincts (Freud & Strachey, 2010). As a civilised society, America has well-established rules that govern the people’s mode of behavior. However, people often get into conflict with the rules due to their restrictive nature. The human nature makes one to constantly seek freedom, which is only attainable when there are no restrictive rules established to govern human behaviour. Certain laws restrict people’s choices and actions. Therefore, it is evident that the presence of law and its enforcement agencies in the American civilization has resulted much discontent among the citizens of the civilised society.

In his attempts to explain what man wishes to achieve, Freud states that men often seek to be happy. It is the principle of pleasure that determines people’s behaviour. In civilised societies like America, possibilities to attain a state of happiness and pleasure are restricted, which results into a consistent feeling of unhappiness. Freud suggests that unhappiness originates from the people’s body, their external world, and interpersonal relations (Freud & Strachey, 2010). In an attempt to avoid displeasure, people use several strategies, including voluntary isolation, identifying with the human community, or deciding to influence the individual (Freud & Strachey, 2010). Freud acknowledges the importance of religion, as it provides a simple path to happiness, thereby it spares the masses from their personal neuroses (Freud & Strachey, 2010).

Freud & Strachey (2010) state that civilization aimes to bind people’s libidinal impulses together so that they are common. However, in most cases love and civilization come into conflict with one another. Freud explains this occurrence by stating that the isolation of family units presents an obstacle for people, which prevents them from isolating themselves and maturing on their own (Freud & Strachey, 2010). In the modern world people’s sexual energy is reduced and diverted into the cultural endeavors. Civilization also results in discontent, as it restricts people’s love object choices based on the formulated taboos, laws, and customs. The American civilization has created a set of rules to facilitate the establishment of a communal bond based on relations of friendship.

Principle Sources of Discontent

Freud identifies the principal source of discontent. It is the friction that originates from people’s thirst for instinctual freedom and the need for conformity (Freud & Strachey, 2010). Civilization also presents instinctual repression that plays a role (Freud & Strachey, 2010). According to Freud, prolonging a situation called for by the pleasure principle results a feeling of mild contentment (Freud & Strachey, 2010). Civilization asserts that people’s primitive instincts like the desire to kill and the thirst for sexual gratification are harmful to the stability and morality of the human community. In a move to restrict the vices, civilised societies formulate laws to help them prohibit unacceptable behavior such as killing, rape, and adultery. The societies establish harsh penalties to those who violate the rules. As such, people’s ability to experience happiness is limited by the existance of law. Therefore, Freud argues that the process of law formation is an inherent characteristic of civilization, which causes a perpetual feeling of discontent among the citizens (Freud & Strachey, 2010).

Technology and Discontent

Technological advancements are meant to improve the way of doing things and to make the society more suitable for living. Basically, the advent of technological advancements should bring the promised better life and greater happiness for man. Several scientific discoveries and technological innovations are taking place and forcing culture to constantly redefine itself. The goal is to catch up with the pace of modernity without appering anachronistic. With the emergence of modern technology, people developed a feeling of a tremendous creative energy that made them think of the creation of a new theory. The civilized societies developed a sense of consistent anticipation for better living standards and happiness. The main reason behind innovations is to come up with the systems, structures, and tools that can help alleviate survival and promote a sense of comfort and happiness. As a result, technology would help to eliminate discontent that exists in the civilized societies.

Contrary to the credit given to technology for eliminating discontent, Freud suggests that technology cannot automatically improve the quality of life (Freud & Strachey, 2010). According to him, technological advances have increased people’s power against nature (Freud & Strachey, 2010). Also, people’s capacities of sensory perception through inventions of photography and the telephone have been enhanced (Freud & Strachey, 2010). Hapiness is a subjective status that it difficult to gauge. Those who are at the extreme level of happiness may also have some unhappy instances. With this regard, it is difficult to make a conclusive decision about the extent to which technology can end the feeling of discontent.

Handmaid's Tale Solves the Struggle between Instinct and Culture

Handmaid’s tale presents a situation where there is conflict between what is culturally acceptable and the people’s secretive desires. The tale questions whether it is right for the needs of society to be given priority over the rights of individual citizens (Atwood, 2010). The tale reveals several cases of the power manipulation. It shows that sometimes people’s instinct overshadow their culture, which causes the violation of rules. As presented by the tale, Gilead is a theocratic dictatorship where power is imposed mainly from the top. The power and control presented in the tale are very visible. Despite the presence of such power, people’s instinct still have their place in the society. Irrespective of the successful imposition of order by the Gilead’s regime, people’s characters show that they still have some personal freedom to control themselves. This means that people have means of achieveing their personal goals despite the presence of a restrictive culture.

The tale presents a society that is characterised by the control of sex and sexuality. There are stiff rules that are established to ensure that those who violate the cultural prescriptions face harsh penalties. For example, the gays and lesbians are executed, pornography and sexual clothing are destroyed, abortion doctors are killed, and divorce or second marriage are condemed (Atwood, 2010). Despite the existance of such harsh rules, people’s instinct still push them to the point that they attend secret clubs for sexual pleasure. Such actions show that the rules that are imposed by the society cannot expunge the human freedom.


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