Freud: Civilization and its Discontents
230 5th Avenue
(corner of 5th & President)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
In 1929, in between two world wars, Freud published Civilization and its Discontents, a popular yet controversial book that posed the following paradox: civilization as we know it depends on the repression of certain human drives, and yet this process of repression can make us deeply unhappy. The book is a meditation on some of Freud’s most crucial ideas, including the Oedipal drama, narcissism, guilt, the pleasure principle, and the conflicts between sexuality and socio-cultural laws. It is here that Freud advances the unsettling and speculative concept of the death drive–first introduced in Beyond the Pleasure Principle in 1920—as an instinctual force that finds expression through outlets like aggression, sadism, and war. It is the repression of the death drive, or its sublimation into less destructive directions, that facilitates all of what we call culture, while its potential to break through these strictures renders our civilization continually precarious.
This class will involve a close reading of Civilization and its Discontents to explore these central ideas alongside Freud’s peculiar style of argumentation and self-revision. Participants will be encouraged to reflect on historical and contemporary implications in areas of politics, social movements, and education. While Civilization will be the main text, supplemental readings from Hans Loewald and Herbert Marcuse will be provided to encourage discussion.
Course ScheduleSunday, 6:30-9:30pm
June 05 — June 26, 2016
Please email us to be placed on the waiting list.