Civilization and Its Discontent : Chapter 7
Summary of Chapter VII
How does human civilization inhibit aggression? Freud describes how humans have internalized their sense of aggression, and have sent it toward their own ego. This internalized aggression is taken over by the superego as the conscience. The superego punishes the ego with destruction so the individual hurts himself and not someone else. The tension between the ego and superego create guilt. This is how civilization masters the individual. The place of the father and authority is taken over by the superego. The sense of guilt may be illogical and cause the person to reject something that is not actually bad. Misfortune of any kind makes a person feel guilt as though responsible for the bad luck. The conscience punishes with remorse for a committed wrong act, but Freud points out that the more virtuous a person actually is, the more the superego torments him/her. Misfortune is interpreted as a loss of love from the father figure, God, or fate. Fate becomes a substitute parent. Any bad luck fills the person with guilt. People are thus controlled through their own self-destroying sense of guilt.
Society makes a person give up the instincts, but the superego punishes for even having unconscious desires. Freud postulates that it is not only the individual superego formed by the person's upbringing that punishes him or her. The individual also takes on the social superego, the sense of guilt in the culture itself. A sense of guilt can be inherited in families. Guilt is the struggle between Eros(love) and death, as people try to live together. Civilization stays intact through instilling a sense of guilt in its citizens, and this is why they are unhappy with it.
Commentary on Chapter VII
This is a central analysis of why people are discontented with civilization. Freud notes that our relatives, the animals, do not have cultural struggles. They have made accommodation with their instincts but do not use the weapon humans have—guilt. Guilt is a psychic energy that makes a person be violent against him or herself whether or not any crime has been committed. Civilization counts on guilt to keep people in line by punishing them internally ahead of time. Enough of this leads to neurosis because people are too afraid to fulfill their desires or do so in odd ways.