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Blog: Where We Write

A Faith Without Illusions?

By Barry Taylor

When Freud published his landmark book Civilisation and it’s Discontents in 1930, it became one of his most important works. The original German title translated more literally  as, Uneasiness in Civilisations and perhaps captures the central issue of the book, which was the tension between the human desire and pursuit of individuality and the pressure of social conformity. How we solve this dilemma is central to Freud’s work.

'Life is difficult' was his starting point and as humans we create a number of ways to deal with it. He called these palliatives and named four key ideas by which we attempt to find peace or calm or respite from the challenges of life. Sexual love, art, intoxicants and religion were what he termed the four main palliatives. The book examines how these ideas play out in our lives both positively and negatively. We need relief from life’s challenge, Freud argues, but there are dangers when palliatives become the dominant...

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