Essay by Lee Siegel in the New York Times:
Freud’s essay [“Civilization and Its Discontents”] rests on three arguments that are impossible to prove: the development of civilization recapitulates the development of the individual; civilization’s central purpose of repressing the aggressive instinct exacts unbearable suffering; the individual is torn between the desire to live (Eros) and the wish to die (Thanatos). It is impossible to refute Freud’s theses, too. All three arguments have died in the minds of many people, under the pressure of intellectual opposition, only to remain alive and well in the minds of many others. To clarify the status of Freud’s influence today is to get a better sense of a central rift running through the culture we live in.