Civilization and Its Discontents

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Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Social Bonds Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Happiness Theme Icon
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Love, Sex, and Happiness Theme Icon

Freud outlines a complex and interrelated system of love, sex, and happiness, based on a drive he calls Eros. Eros is one of two fundamental drives—the other is Thanatos, or death. Eros is also understood, in psychoanalysis, as a manifestation of the Pleasure Principle—quite simply a desire for self-gratification, for what “feels best.” Eros, however, goes beyond the “minor” definition of the Pleasure Principle (an avoidance of pain), and becomes, instead, more active—the seeking, in another person, of a love-object, of the satisfaction of physical and mental desires. In other words, we love because we want to have sex, and we love, too, because we want to be loved, to be protected, desired, and respected.

Love, in Freud’s conception, is not always connected to sex. But Freud believes that sex is a powerful component of love, and that, in relationships where we say we love but do not have sex, we have in fact sublimated (essentially, “pushed down”) the desire for sex and transformed it into a different aim—that of friendship, or family attachment. This is one of Freud’s more controversial theories, and he argues for it implicitly in this book, and more explicitly elsewhere.

The upshot of all this is: for Freud, love and sex often lead to happiness, but need not necessarily do so. Love begets happiness when the love-relationship is strong and productive, but when it ends, it results in a deep despair. Similarly, sex includes within it the forms of aggression that cause us to want not only to be joined to another, but also to defeat, overpower, or master another. Thus, for Freud, love/sex/happiness might be seen, together, as part of an erotic drive—one that exists, always, in concert and opposition with Thanatos (the death drive).

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Love, Sex, and Happiness Quotes in Civilization and Its Discontents

Below you will find the important quotes in Civilization and Its Discontents related to the theme of Love, Sex, and Happiness.
Chapter 1 Quotes

At the height of being in love the boundary between ego and object threatens to melt away.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Our present ego-feeling is, therefore, only a shrunken residue of a much more inclusive—indeed, an all-embracing—feeling which corresponded to a more intimate bond between the ego and the world around it.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

The question of the purpose of human life has been raised countless times; it has never yet received a satisfactory answer and perhaps does not admit of one.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 41-42
Explanation and Analysis:

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Another procedure [to avoid pain] operates more energetically and thoroughly. It regards reality as the sole enemy and as the source of all suffering, with which it is impossible to live, so that one must break off all relations with it if one is to be in any way happy. The hermit turns his back on the world . . .

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

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One procedure I have not yet mentioned . . . I am, of course, speaking of the way of life which makes love the center of everything, which looks for all satisfaction in loving and being loved.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

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Happiness, in the reduced sense in which we recognize it as possible, is a problem of the economics of the individual libido.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

Men . . . seem to have observed that this newly-won power over space and time, this subjugation of the forces of nature, which is the fulfillment of a longing that goes back thousands of years, has not increased the amount of pleasurable satisfaction which they may expect from life and has not made them feel happier.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

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Civilization . . . describes the whole sum of the achievements and the regulations which distinguish our lives from those of our animal ancestors and which serve . . . to protect men against nature and to adjust their mutual relations.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

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We recognize as cultural all activities and resources which are useful to men for making the earth serviceable to them, for protecting them against the violence of the forces of nature . . .

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

Perhaps St. Francis of Assisi went furthest in exploiting love for the benefit of an inner feeling of happiness.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Golden Rule
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

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The tendency on the part of civilization to restrict sexual life is no less clear than its other tendency to expand the cultural unit.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

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Present-day civilization makes it plain that it will only permit sexual relationships on the basis of a solitary, indissoluble bond between one man and one woman, and that it does not like sexuality as a source of pleasure in its own right . . . .

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

The neurotic creates substitutive satisfactions for himself in his symptoms, and these either cause him suffering in themselves or become sources of suffering for him by raising difficulties in his relations with his environment . . .

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

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Not merely is this stranger in general unworthy of my love; I must honestly confess that he has more claim to my hostility and even my hatred. He seems not have the least trace of love for me and shows me not the slightest consideration.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Golden Rule
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

Neurosis was regarded as the outcome of a struggle between the interest of self-preservation and the demands of the libido, a struggle in which the ego had been victorious but at the price of severe sufferings and renunciations.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

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. . . besides the instinct to preserve living substance and to join it into ever larger units, there must exist another, contrary instinct seeking to dissolve those units and to bring them back to their primeval, inorganic state.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

The tension between the harsh superego and the ego that is subjected to it, is called by us the sense of guilt; it expresses itself as a need for punishment.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

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A threatened external unhappiness—loss of love and punishment on the part of the external authority—has been exchanged for a permanent internal unhappiness, for the tension of the sense of guilt.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

. . . the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt.

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 131-132
Explanation and Analysis:

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If the development of civilization has such a far-reaching similarity to the development of the individual . . . may we not be justified in reaching the diagnosis that, under the influence of cultural urges, some civilizations, or some epochs of civilization—possibly the whole of mankind—have become neurotic?

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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And now it is to be expected that the other of the two “Heavenly Powers,” eternal Eros, will make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with his equally immortal adversary [Thanatos]. But who can see with what success and with what result?

Related Characters: Sigmund Freud (speaker)
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

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