Civilization and Its Discontents Setting & Symbolism

This Study Guide consists of approximately 11 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Civilization and Its Discontents.
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The Ego

The ego is an individual's sense of self as a separate organism from his surroundings. Before the appearance of the ego, an infant does not distinguish between itself and the rest of the external world. This feeling of being part of the world is later covered over by the ego but does not disappear completely. It is this feeling of belonging to the world, he postulates, that makes people willing to join religious groups.

The Libido

The libido is the name Freud gives to those human instincts that have external things as their objects. Sexual desire is a part of the libido, as is the general instinct toward love.

The Super-Ego

The super-ego is a part of the ego that separates and turns inwardly back toward the ego. This is the seat of an individual's conscience.The super-ego takes on the role of punisher first played by external authority. The super-ego seeks to punish the ego and enforce the sense of guilt.

The Sense of Guilt

In Freud's theory, guilt first arises when a child internalizes the fear of external authority, giving rise to the super-ego. Later, guilt is enforced by the super-ego. Guilt is the product of the struggle between the love and death instincts as Freud explains in the latter part of the book.

The Death Instinct

An instinct that Freud proposes is present in all humans that drives them toward destruction and death. It coexists in opposition to the love instinct, and often mingling with it.


Eros was a figure from Greek mythology who represented love. Freud uses this as a metaphor for the love instinct present in all humans. Eros stands in contrast to the death instinct, with which it interacts within all humans. Freud also uses Eros to describe the instincts that are directed outward, particularly the drive to group together with other humans.


In Greek mythology, Ananke is the goddess of necessity. Freud uses Ananke as a metaphor for those human instincts such as hunger, which are directed inwardly toward survival of the organism. He positions it alongside Eros, representing instincts that are directed externally.

The Future of an Illusion

A book published by Freud in 1927, in which he presents his theory of the origin of religion and a psychoanalytic discussion of its effects on people. He refers to this earlier work throughout the current book.

Totem and Taboo

A book written by Freud and published in 1913. The book applies psychoanalytic theory to the development of primal man, as well as child development. Freud refers to the essays in this book frequently.

Beyond the Pleasure Principle

A work by Freud published in 1920, in which he first explores the idea of competing drives of love and death. Freud expands on these ideas in the present book and refers often to this earlier work.

This section contains 474 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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