Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.

Civilization and Its Discontents is a book by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. It was written in 1929 and first published in German in 1930 as Das Unbehagen in der Kultur („The Uneasiness in Civilization“).

Exploring what Freud sees as the important clash between the desire for individuality and the expectations of society, the book is considered one of Freud‘s most important and widely read works, and one of the most influential and studied books in the field of modern psychology.

Freud enumerates what he sees as the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual.

The primary friction, he asserts, stems from the individual’s quest for instinctive freedom and civilization’s contrary demand for conformity and repression of instincts.

Freud states that when any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it creates a feeling of mild contentment.

Individual liberty is not an asset of civilization.

It was greatest before there was any civilization, though admittedly even then it was largely worthless, because the individual was hardly in a position to defend it.

With the development of civilization it underwent restrictions, and justice requires that no one shall be spared these restrictions.

Whatever makes itself felt in a human community as an urge for freedom may amount to a revolt against an existing injustice, thus favouring a further advance of civilization and remaining compatible with it.

But it may spring from what remains of the original personality, still untamed by civilization, and so become a basis for hostility to civilization.

The urge for freedom is thus directed against particular forms and claims of civilization, or against civilization as a whole.

It does not seem as though any influence can induce human beings to change their nature and become like termites; they will probably always defend their claim to individual freedom against the will of the mass.

Freud continues with same passion:

Life, as we find it, is too hard for us; it brings us too many pains, disappointments and impossible tasks.

In order to bear it we cannot dispense with palliative measures…

There are perhaps three such measures: powerful deflections, which cause us to make light of our misery; substitutive satisfactions, which diminish it; and intoxicating substances, which make us insensible to it.

We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our body, which is doomed to decay…, from the external world which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless force of destruction, and finally from our relations with other men… This last source is perhaps more painful to use than any other.

Civilization and Its Discontents