Eros and Civilization : A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud
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In this classic work, Herbert Marcuse takes as his starting point Freud's statement that civilization is based on the permanent subjugation of the human instincts, his reconstruction of the prehistory of mankind - to an interpretation of the basic trends of western civilization, stressing the philosophical and sociological implications.
the individual, the memory traces of the unity between freedom and necessity become submerged in the acceptance of the necessity of unfreedom; rational and rationalized, memory itself bows to the reality principle. The reality principle sustains the organism in the external world. In the case of the human organism, this is an historical world. The external world faced by the growing ego is at any stage a specific socio-historical organization of reality, affecting the mental structure through
heritage’” and he thinks that “even before the ego exists, its subsequent lines of development, tendencies and reactions are already determined.”5 Indeed, the apparent renaissance of the ego is accompanied by the accentuation of the “deposits from primitive human development present in our archaic heritage.” When Freud concludes from the congenital structure of the ego that the “topographical differentiation between ego and id loses much of its value for our investigation,” then this assimilation
toil. Scope and intensity of instinctual repression obtain their full significance only in relation to the historically possible extent of freedom. For Freud, is progress in civilization progress in freedom? We have seen that Freud’s theory is focused on the recurrent cycle “domination-rebellion-domination,” But the second domination is not simply a repetition of the first one; the cyclical movement is progress in domination. From the primal father via the brother clan to the system of
And slept in me. All things were in her sleep:The trees I marvelled at, the enchanting spellOf farthest distances, the meadows deep,And all the magic that myself befell.Within her slept the world. You singing god, o howDid you perfect her so she did not longTo be awake? She rose and slept.Where is her death?”Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus: Duino Elegies, transl. Jessie Lemont (New York: Fine Editions Press, 1945), p. 3 (with minor changes translation). Reprinted by permission of Columbia
instinctual structure itself. However, such constraint is the very precondition of progress. Left free to pursue their natural objectives, the basic instincts of man would be incompatible with all lasting association and preservation: they would destroy even where they unite. The uncontrolled Eros is just as fatal as his deadly counterpart, the death instinct. Their destructive force derives from the fact that they strive for a gratification which culture cannot grant: gratification as such and