Problems of Civilization and Society

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Throughout human history, man has always encountered problems and seeks to solve it in order to alleviate his own suffering. Pain is one of the pertinent reasoning behind almost all actions taken by humanity as a whole, not dependent on status, class, race, gender, etc. However, as humans, we are also constrained to the society in which we live. We behave the way we do, and react the way we do because society has structured us to do so in that particular manner. Civilization cannot exist without the existence of man, however, man never ceases to change the construct of his civilization. In his Civilization and Its Discontents Sigmund Freud explains the conflict in which humans experience self-entanglement, primarily due to the conflict with the self and civilization. Freud defines the conflict humans have between the self and culture, both of which are structured by civilization. Similar to Freud, Adrienne Rich also sees herself locked in conflict caused by society. However, in comparison to Freud, Rich describes these conflicts based on personal identity, whereas Freud describes conflicts based on personal desire.

According to Freud, conflict is produced in each individual by the demands of his construct as he tries to meet the requirements that civilization imposes. The conflict, ultimately, is solved, but at the expense of each individual's happiness. For Freud, happiness is the purpose of life. He also sees that the purpose of life is the program of the pleasure principle. The pleasure principle is that humans seek to attain happiness because it is the absence of pain and displeasure, and happiness evokes strong feelings of pleasure. He writes,

The principle dominates the operation of mental apparatus fro...

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...tied down in conflict because of civilization and society, however, both their views come from different contexts. For Freud, attaining happiness is the goal of life, but achieving desires are restricted by the construct of civilization where sexual gratification is sacrificed to substitute gratification. It is the same civilization that is both the source of our happiness and misery. Contrarily, Rich says that it is the identity of an individual which causes unhappiness because the individual, women, are restricted from their freedoms because of the social construct of society and the portrayal and expectation society has of the function and role of a woman. However, Rich does go on in her later works to say that this social construct is changing with time, whereas Freud says that man is always trying to fit the social construct that civilization imposes.

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