Totem and Taboo (Totem und Tabu, 1913) by Sigmund Freud

Categories : Literary Theories

Totem and Taboo

Totem and Taboo
Totem and Taboo (Totem und Tabu, 1913) by Sigmund Freud 2

Totem and Taboo” (Totem und Tabu) is a book written by Sigmund Freud, published in 1913. In this work, Freud explores the origins of social organization, the development of civilization, and the psychological dynamics underlying cultural practices. Here are the main ideas presented in this influential book:

  1. Totemism: Freud investigates the phenomenon of totemism, which refers to the worship of a specific animal, plant, or object by a particular social group. He suggests that totemism represents a form of social organization based on a common bond, shared beliefs, and rituals.
  2. Origins of Civilization: Freud proposes that early human societies were organized around a primal horde, consisting of a dominant male who claimed exclusive rights to sexual access to the females within the group. Sons eventually rebelled against the primal father, resulting in his murder and their subsequent guilt and ambivalence.
  3. Oedipus Complex and Guilt: Freud links the primal horde narrative to his earlier concept of the Oedipus complex. He suggests that the murder of the primal father is an expression of unconscious Oedipal desires, where sons seek to possess their mothers and eliminate their fathers as rivals. This act generates intense guilt and establishes the foundation for societal norms and morality.
  4. Taboos and Prohibitions: Freud explores the concept of taboo, which refers to the prohibition or avoidance of certain actions, objects, or behaviors within a society. He argues that taboos are derived from repressed desires and serve as symbolic representations of forbidden wishes.
  5. Psychological Universalities: Freud proposes that the psychological dynamics observed in the primal horde and the subsequent formation of taboos have a universal nature. He suggests that similar themes and patterns can be found in various cultures and historical periods, indicating common psychological processes underlying human behavior and social organization.

Totem and Taboo” is significant for its attempt to bridge the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, and sociology. It reflects Freud’s exploration of the collective unconscious, the role of primal instincts in cultural development, and the impact of psychological conflicts on societal structures. While some of Freud’s specific ideas and interpretations in the book have been subject to criticism, it remains an important work in the development of psychoanalytic theory and the understanding of human culture., 100 Books You Should Read in a Lifetime

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