Civilization and Its Discontents Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; The Standard Edition edition Paperback – 1989 by Sigmund Freud
Freud's considered starting-point for civilization comes at that moment when primitive man decided, after unusually careful deliberation, not to put the fire out by peeing on it, but to allow it to keep burning. "By damping down the fire of his own sexual excitement he had subdued the natural force of fire. This great cultural conquest would thus be the reward for forgoing the satisfaction of a drive."
All else follows from this; and this is why, even at a time of unprecedented technological mastery, people are still no happier than they ever were. Or, indeed, why civilization is just as likely to lapse into psychosis as not, a development which in Freud's part of the world was to happen in fairly short order. "We have taken care not to concur with the prejudice that civilization is synonymous with a trend towards perfection," he notes laconically. For the notionally civilizing influence of Christianity, he reserves his most exquisite scorn: "Unfortunately all the massacres of Jews that took place in the Middle Ages failed to make the age safer and more peaceful for the Christians. After St Paul had made universal brotherly love the foundation of his Christian community, the extreme intolerance of Christianity towards those left outside it was an inevitable consequence."