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Alexandru Brie
Totem and Taboo – by Sigmund Freud
Post Date:
2018-08-14 13:26:42

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“Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics” is a book by Sigmund Freud published in German in 1913 and translated to English in 1918.

It is a collection of four essays employing the application of psychoanalysis to the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and the study of religion.

In the essays contained in Totem and Taboo, Sigmund Freud looks at the presence of the horror of incest in society, and the relation this has with their spiritual and ritual ceremonies and beliefs. He looks at how this horror of incest results in exogamy, and investigates how this is related to the development of the clan system, with its totems and characteristic rulings.

Freud also notes the pattern of emotional ambivalence associated with totem objects, and how this mirrors relationships with acquaintances in life – most noticeably fathers. He also investigates the similarity between the obsessional rituals associated with totem clanship and their taboos, and the obsessional behaviour reported in neurotics. He approaches the topics of animism, magic and sorcery and their relation to the development of religious and scientific thought, before discussing ideas of the omnipotence of thoughts, as found in primitive peoples and neurotics. Finally he looks at childhood perspectives and their comparison with totemism, and exogamy, with a view to illuminating the nature of the relationship between the two.

A must read for all interested in psychoanalysis, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology or for anyone with the curiosity and will to extend their horizons and general knowledge with a classic piece of Sigmund Freud’s analytic genius.


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