Pedagogy and its Discontents pt.1, An Introduction

Freud compared civilized lives and savage lives in his 1929 treatise “Civilization and its Discontents.” He illuminated the conflict that exists between the driven individual and the context that demands uniformity.

“Civilization, therefore, obtains mastery over the individual’s dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city.”

The implication that conformity is a primary function of civilization may seem less than alarming. Philosophers may soften it by framing it as some sort of social contract. We conform out of deference to the whole and to each other. We have been convince that, in doing so, we recognize ourselves as thoughtful individuals.

We are safe. We do not even need to talk. We can nod. Should we find ourselves in a situation where someone steps outside of compliance, we look to each other for reassurance–This is crazy, right?

Some time ago, it was decided that regulation of behavior would be embedded, if you will.

A scheme.


A mechanism.



Expectation and pressure.

Words like garrisons have been used in discussing the idea of ‘self-regulating’ mechanisms that have been implanted into individuals to maintain compliance to the norms and standards of civilization. Garrisons are set up in conquered cities to quell small uprisings. What Freud refers to as the aggressive mind, we would call the progressive mind.

If this is true, we have to consider that we have been programmed to submit to societal conventions. IF this is true we have to consider that we are perpetuating these ideas in our homes, our families, and our classrooms. IF this is true, we have to consider that resistance may be futile which means that this resistance can no longer be tolerated.

HAL 9000: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.


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One Comment

  • The problem with this model is that it doesn’t take into account those of us who are, perhaps, gentle souls, but who march to the beat of a different drummer.

    We tend to be creative and imaginative. We stand conventional ideas on their heads. We ask “why” a lot. Or we quietly observe.

    When I was little, I recognized that all and sundry wanted me to conform. I wanted to oblige. After a painful attempt at doing so, I gave up.

    Many years later I have come to have peace in my ways, even if society at large looks at me askance.

    We need non-conformists like me, or rather, unlike me, to keep the rest of the population honest. Our society needs that way more than “we” need to be civilized.

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