Thoughts for the Times on War and Death

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Thoughts for the Time of War and Death
Thoughts for the Time on War and Death, German edition.jpg
The German edition
Author Sigmund Freud
Original titleZeitgemäßes über Krieg und Tod

Thoughts for the Time of War and Death (German : Zeitgemäßes über Krieg und Tod) is a set of twin essays written by Sigmund Freud in 1915, six months after the outbreak of World War I. The essays express discontent and disillusionment with human nature and human society in the aftermath of the hostilities; and generated much interest among lay readers of Freud. [1]



The first essay addressed the widespread disillusionment brought on by the collapse of the Pax Britannica of the preceding century [2] — what Freud called "the common civilization of peacetime". [3]

Discounting death

The second essay addressed what Freud called the peacetime 'protection racket' whereby the inevitability of death was expunged from civilized mentality. [4] Building on the second essay of Totem and Taboo , [5] Freud argued that such an attitude left civilians in particular unprepared for the stark horror of industrial-scale death in the Great War. [6]


Freud's account of the centrality of loss in culture has been seen as seminal for his later work, Civilization and its Discontents . [7]

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  1. E. Jones, The life and Works of Sigmund Freud (Penguin 1964) p. 436
  2. S. Gill, Power and Resistance in the New World Order (2003) p. 37
  3. S, Freud, Civilization, Society and Religion (PFL 12) p. 65
  4. A. Phillips, On Flirtation (1994) p. xx
  5. Angela Richards, Note, in S, Freud, Civilization, Society and Religion (PFL 12) p. 59
  6. P. Gay, Sigmund Freud (1989) p. 356-7
  7. A. Drassinower, Freud's Theory of Culture (2003)

Further reading