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Civilization and human suffering

One of Freud’s reflections is based on considering modern civilization as one of the sources of human suffering.
Man, thanks to the progress of science and technology, exercises a strong dominion over nature and he has therefore become very similar to God. This fact should make man happy because he has almost succeeded in satisfying his ideals of civilization. , that is, those of omnipotence and omniscience.
Despite the power he has obtained, man is not actually happy and the cause of this unhappiness is to be found in civilization, because it imposes sacrifices on man.
In fact, we know that man is dominated by sexual and aggressive drives; civilization, to achieve its aims, must regulate the sexual impulses of men which would otherwise have a destructive effect on any possibility of coexistence.
Civilization therefore does nothing but increase these two processes:

  • repression: in exchange for security, men renounce the freedom to satisfy their impulses, thus also renouncing happiness;
  • sublimation: the libido is directed towards objects other than the one on which sexual desire was concentrated and used at the service of society and not against it, in activities useful for its functioning and development.

To effectively regulate social relations between men, a stronger majority of the single individual must be affirmed, that is, limiting his freedoms: according to Freud, the decisive step towards civilization is the substitution of the power of the majority for that of the individual.
True justice is represented by what the majority believes to be right and for this justice to exist everyone must give up part of his or her freedom, in order to receive security guaranteed by law in return (laws decided by the majority).
To build a society, the fundamental basis from which we must start is the equality of all individuals who must therefore abide by the same rules: if the rules were not respected by everyone, some individuals might think they no longer respect the rules they would lose. so their worth.
The effort that society makes to control the aggressive impulses of men wants to set as the final ideal to reach that which every man loves his neighbor as himself, an ideal in Freud’s eyes which is unattainable and to do this he must create identifications and relationships between men. , to ensure that each individual does not see other men as different gods on which to vent his aggressive and sexual impulses.
According to Freud, the discomfort of civilization cannot be eliminated, because beyond certain limits it will not be possible to free oneself from the repressive character of society.


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