No Comment, Quotation — November 13, 2007, 12:00 am

Freud on the Question of Humankind’s Fate

sigmund_freud-loc

Die Schicksalsfrage der Menschenart scheint mir zu sein, ob und in welchem Maße es ihrer Kulturentwicklung gelingen wird, der Störung des Zusammenlebens durch den menschlichen Aggressions- und Selbstvernichtungstrieb Herr zu werden. In diesem Bezug verdient vielleicht die gegenwärtige Zeit ein besonderes Interesse. Die Menschen haben es jetzt in ihrer Beherrschung der Naturkräfte so weit gebracht, dass sie es mit deren Hilfe leicht haben, einander bis auf den letzten Mann auszurotten. Sie wissen das, daher ein gut Stück ihrer gegenwärtigen Unruhe, ihres Unglücks, ihrer Angststimmung. Und nun ist zu erwarten, dass die andere der beiden „himmlischen Kräfte“, der ewige Eros, eine Anstrengung machen wird, um sich im Kampf mit seinem ebenso unsterblichen Gegner zu behaupten. Aber wer kann den Erfolg und Ausgang voraussehen?

The fateful question for humankind appears to me to be whether and in what measure its cultural development will succeed in mastering the disruption of communal life which results from the human drives towards aggression and self-destruction. The present times warrant special attention in this regard. Human beings have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that at length they will have no difficulty in exterminating the species down to the last man. They know this, and hence is to be derived a good portion of the current unrest, unhappiness and the sense of anxiety. And thus it is to be expected that the other one of the two “celestial powers,” namely the eternal Eros, will make an effort to assert itself in battle with its equally immortal adversary. But who can foresee with what success and with what result?

Sigmund Freud, Das Unbehagen in der Kultur pt. viii (1930-31) in: Werkausgabe vol. 2, p. 424 (A. Freud & I. Grubrich-Simitis eds. 1978)(S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Poison Apples

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Growing Up

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Gateway to Freedom

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Guns and Poses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Christmas in Prison

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Beeper World·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The beeper, for a certain kind of Miami teenager in the Nineties, was an essential evolutionary adaptation.”
Photograph by Curran Hatleberg
Article
Hammer Island·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The place could have sprung from someone’s jealous dream about white people.”
Photograph by Emily Stein
Article
Growing Up·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The best coming-of-age stories have a hole in the middle. They pretend to be about knowledge, but they are usually about grasping, long after it could be of any use, one’s irretrievable ignorance.”
Photograph by Ben Pier
Article
Guns and Poses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘It’s open shopping,’ he said. ‘A warehouse. The whole of Libya.’”
Map by Mike Reagan
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Amount that President Obama has added to America’s “brand value” according to the Nation Brands Index:

$2,100,000,000,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

A Utah woman named Cameo Crispi pleaded guilty to having drunkenly attempted to burn down her ex-boyfriend’s house by igniting bacon on his kitchen stove.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today