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Freedom and the role of civilization Essay

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2019


The concept of freedom represents a kind of a notion that bears similarity to different philosophers’ opinions about an important object that grants people happiness, wealth, and longevity. In its different interpretations, freedom has the characteristics that depict it as an ultimate goal of all investigations that scientists and philosophers would like to perform.

In order to comprehend the concept of freedom from the sociological perspective, it becomes very important to resort to the highly authoritative points of view such as Marx and Freud’s. These two great writers, philosophers, and sociologists attempted to describe the idea of freedom and its importance to society people live in.

For instance, Freud admits that people get used to socialize themselves by means of their determining factors’ recognition and investigations of the ideas which motivate people and make them take certain steps in this life. This is why his ideas and works have a close connection to freedom by means of knowledge that people may gain within some period of time and the emotional challenges that may become as serious obstacles to the way of cognition.

As for Marx and Engels’ interpretation of freedom, they believe that freedom lies in the relations between people and the ways of how these people behave in society. In other words, Freud’s isolation and Marx’s communication represent the two different sides of one particular issue, freedom.

The achievements demonstrated by Marx and Freud play a significant role in the field of sociology and philosophy indeed; Marx believed in the power of labor and recognized the individual as an integral part of society and Freud, in his turn, tried to prove that people should pay attention to their behavior and thoughts by means of knowledge; such different approaches for the concept of freedom may serve as a powerful opportunity that promotes recognition of how people care about freedom and how society accept this freedom.


Basics about freedom and the impact of civilization. The vast majority of people still believe that they have freedom in all aspects of their lives and have the right to choose what to do, wear, say, write, etc. According to the general assumptions and believes, each individual has freedom from his/her birth in case this individual does not break the norms and rules sets. However, certain limitations already appear when we mention the existence of rules and norms.

These rules and norms bind human freedom in some way so that people cannot even guess that dependence on their own ideas exists. To comprehend the essence of freedom, many philosophers and writers developed their ideas, share their suggestions, and analyze what could make a person free and, at the same time, satisfy the demands of society and civilization itself.

The ideas of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud provide people with an opportunity to evaluate the concept of freedom and its power in regards to the conditions people live under. Both Marx and Freud’s works deserve certain attention and recognition because their opposite arguments help to create one general picture of how freedom influences human live and interferes the relations between the individual and society.

The famous psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud and not less famous political economy by Karl Marx create powerful and clear grounds for people to continue developing the idea of freedom and the relations which happen between a person and society he/she lives in. “The urge for freedom, therefore, is directed against particular forms and demands of civilization or against civilization altogether” (Freud 41).

This idea shows how Freud defines freedom in terms of the conditions given: he does believe that freedom depends on society and the process of civilization; however, he does not want to believe that civilization can influence human freedom and individuality.

He demonstrates the respect to personal knowledge and human abilities to study and grasp the essence, and what he tries to do is to help people comprehend the necessity to become more powerful and freer. Marx, in his turn, underlines that “the worker is related to the product of his labour as to an alien object” (Marx and Engels 72) so that he unites the idea of freedom and labor into one whole that people cannot divide.

Freud about freedom and the role of civilization. Sigmund Freud introduced one of the most powerful and captivating ways of how people could improve their lives and get a clear picture of what they would like to get and could get.

His achievements in psychology and the concept of psychoanalysis deserve attention because of several reasons: (1) it helps to change the way people get used to think; (2) it promotes the improvement in language and culture people prefer to use and rely one; and finally, (3) it focuses on all those unconscious drives which influence human activities and demands.

To clear up what Freud implied under the concept of freedom and its impact on society, many people try to make use of his Civilization and Its Discontents. This book appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. In this work, Freud describes the peculiarities of those tensions that existed between civilization and the individual.

One of the first tension, Freud introduced, implied the fact that people strove for freedom all the time (they want to become free and take the actions in accordance with their interests and demands) and civilization had a need of conformity and the line of constant repressions. Even if Freud found enough powerful reasons of why civilization developed restrictions and promoted obedience, he could agree with the fact that people needed to follow rules and be limited in actions.

For example, Freud uses the idea of freedom as something pure and constant: people can do what they want and when they want. However, civilization makes it possible to create some rules and norms according to which people have to use their freedom and choices. Freedom of thoughts and actions undergo considerable restrictions such as cruel punishment in case one person takes the life of another person, in other words, murder and possible outcomes.

According to Freud, people cannot even imagine how the dependence on some outside factors develops: “there is nothing of which we are more certain than the feeling of our self, of our own ego. This ego appears to us as something autonomous and unitary, marked off distinctly from everything else” (Freud 12). Personal ego creates the feeling that maintains certain and sharp lines of human inherent demarcation. As a rule, the process of sublimation promotes human blindness as for personal dependence on norms set.

In general, Freud defines the individual as an anti-social being, and society (civilization) has to domesticate this being in order to achieve certain satisfaction, pleasure, and understanding on the biological level at first. “It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built up upon a renunciation of instinct… It is not easy to understand how it can become possible to deprive an instinct of satisfaction” (Freud 42-43).

The use of drives makes it possible for the individual to grasp the basics of civilized behavior by means of sublimation and all those suppressed drives that become striving for this person. So, as a result of this suppression, the relations between the individual and society change: even if the person thinks he/she rests the same with the same demands which society has already imposed, his natural (biological) drives become social (suppressed) ones.

Marx and Engels about restrictions placed by civilization. The ideas Marx and Engels presented in their work Capital also played an important role in understanding of the concept of freedom and its relation to the individual and society. In comparison to Freud, Marx believed that freedom should take place in society when people began communicating and achieving some common goals together.

In the third chapter, the authors properly underline its essence that “actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production” (Marx and Engels 441). They formulated this concept at the end of the 19th century, when the vast majority of people could imagine another world except the one they lived in.

Marx wanted to explain that people should not accept the idea of freedom as some kind of general notion that had no boundaries and restrictions. He conceived that freedom has several degrees because none moral (ethical) perspectives become crucial but political economy that requires particular levels, grades, and stages.

Only a socialized person can have freedom together with numerous associated producers that have to regulate and control all interchanges by Nature but not vice versa. It appears that Marx and Engels supported the idea of civilization and its impact on human freedoms and actions: people cannot take a step in case it contradicts some initial instructions that civilization tries to implement.

In the chapter IV of Capital, Marx introduces the idea of surplus value that also helps to define the true essence of human freedom and liberty. On the one hand, the idea to compare human freedoms with trade and political economy seems rather absurd and unclear.

However, on the other hand, such spheres as politics and economics may also help to gain deep understanding of the concept of freedom and realize that even trade relations between people deprive them of the opportunity independently make decisions and live in accordance with personal demands. In the chapter VI of Capital, Marx continues developing the idea of surplus value and explains that freedom influences the development of buyer-seller relations and promotes activities by means of their free will.

Marx’s attention to the real of necessity and real of freedom plays an important role when people start analyzing the world of economics to the world of personal freedoms and demands. People cannot always follow their dreams without breaking some rules civilization establishes.

Because of such inability to combine personal freedoms and duties, Marx suggests people should pay more attention to the real of necessity in order to decrease time and human energy and to increase the level of human activities that people prefer to end independently.

At the end of his investigations and analysis, Marx agrees that civilization has an impact on liberty, and the relations between the individual and society have to undergo some changes because economical influence remains considerable whatever conditions exist.

Evaluation of Freud and Marx’s opinions. When people start thinking about the semi free society they expect to live in, the vast majority of them cannot comprehend why Marx chooses such a negative position and deprive people of the opportunity to become free and overcome challenges society creates.

In comparison to Marx, Freud suggests accepting freedom as an illusion so that people do not have responsibility for anything. Some unknown forces such as ID ego, super ego, and alter ego have a control over human powers and demands, and people cannot gain control over them. When these two philosophers faced the idea of freedom and civilization, they had to take into account the idea of disintegration or determination on both psychological and economical level. One of them says

“Man (the worker) no longer feels himself to be freely active in any but his animal functions – eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal.” (Marx and Engels 74)

Such attitude to people and their role in society appears abusive for many people who cannot accept the idea that their animal instincts have to perform the leading role, and their human demands and interests cannot influence their actions and thoughts. From his words, the idea of liberty becomes not only an illusion for people but also the determination of the belonging to animals those people truly believe to handle. In response to Marx’s definite cognition of human freedom and place, Freud exclaims that

“The liberty of the individual is no gift of civilization. It was greatest before there was any civilization, though then, it is true, it had for the most part no value, since the individual was scarcely in a position to defend it.” (Freud 49)

Within a short period, it becomes difficult to realize why such different attitudes to freedom and human dependence on civilization interest people in the same sphere. Marx’s approach deprives people of any opportunity to believe in personal dignity and the possibility to get freedom, and Freud admits that only gained deep knowledge may show the way to independence and freedom.

The idea to make freedom available seems distant and even incomprehensible, and people have to pass a number of stages to prove their right to get freedom and make use of their independence gained.


In general, the evaluation of the concept of freedom plays a crucial role in the life of every person. The works of Freud and Marx help to comprehend that among the variety of attitudes to freedom and the individual role in civilization, people have to demonstrate their strong will and desire to achieve liberty by various means.

Thought some problems and challenges appear on people’s way to cognition of this concept, people should lose hope to gain proper knowledge of this idea. Freud’s ideas of freedom influence some psychological aspects of life and explain that people do not have freedom due to alter and super egos.

Marx denies all kind of freedom because his ideas prove that the individual and civilization come together, and civilization has already created a number of rules and limitations. In spite of differences of these two philosophers’ opinions, it becomes easier to define the essence of freedom in human life and the ideas of how this freedom influences human perception of their role in this world.

Works Cited

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engles. The Marx-Engels Reader . Ed. Robert Tucker. Second Edition ed. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978.

Sigmund Freud. Civilizations and Its Discontents. Ed. Peter Gay and James Strachey. Standard Edition ed. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1961.

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