15. Freud on Sexuality and Civilization
Foundations of Modern Social Thought (SOCY 151)
Freud’s brand of critical theory adds important dimensions; he argues that we can better understand our consciousness through the process of psychoanalysis—the talking cure, dream work, etc—and we can cure ourselves through this process as well. We discuss Freud’s early days in Vienna developing psychoanalysis as a clinical approach alongside Jung, Ferenczi, and others in their tight-knit circle. They develop the ideas of the id, ego, and superego as well as the antithetical drives, the love drive (Eros) and the death drive (Thanatos). Later, Freud applies these concepts to society as a whole in his books Totem and Taboo and Civilization and its Discontents. His argument in Civilization and its Discontents calls to mind Nietzsche; he argues that the repression of urges and drives allows civilization to bloom and flourish, but the same repression is problematic on the level of individual psychology as well as on the level of civilization.
00:00 – Chapter 1. The Importance of Nietzsche’s Approach
10:29 – Chapter 2. Freud in a Historical Context
14:06 – Chapter 3. Psychoanalysis and Other Breakthroughs
29:26 – Chapter 4. “The Ego and the Id”
40:02 – Chapter 5. “Civilization and Its Discontents”
Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:
This course was recorded in Fall 2009.