He addresses a remark made to him by a friend that there is a desire among individuals to feel they belong to a kind of eternal continuum.
The source of this guilt, Freud concludes in the latter part of the book, is an eternal struggle within each individual between an instinct for love and an instinct toward death and destruction. By analogy, Freud extends these conflicting instincts to the development of civilization, drawing a parallel with human development.
He does not attempt to judge the value of civilization but ends the book with the hopeful suggestion that civilization may eventually develop past this ultimately destructive stage.
By inhibiting their natural instincts, civilization drives people into a perpetual state of guilt, causing this unhappiness.
Using themes from his earlier work in psychoanalysis, Freud examines the source of this guilt and the mechanism by which it controls human instinct.
Here he explores this terrain from a different angle in essays that deftly counterpoise the personal and the political, and are shot through with the same passion, imagination, and breathtaking shifts of perspective that gives his fiction its unmistakable electric charge.
A “water lily” who has called three countries on three continents his home—Pakistan, the birthplace to which he returned as a young father; the United States, where he spent his childhood and young adulthood; and Britain, where he married and became a citizen—Hamid writes about overlapping worlds with fluidity and penetrating insight.
This initial feeling, however, may be the source of this "oceanic" impulse toward religion, he concludes.
Freud uses this as a departure point to establish the fact that instincts that were present in primal man remain within every individual, even though they have been incorporated, transferred or possibly covered over.
solid, questioning, explorative writing that not only picks fault and apportions blame but also offers tentative solutions. The Hamid that emerges is a probing, critical political animal, one that is resistant to foreign intervention in Pakistan, anxious for more pluralism and tolerance within its borders, prepared to find good in the ‘brutal phenomenon’ that is globalization, and mystified—rightly—by ‘illusory’ civilizations.” —Daily Beast“Hamid is a deft and fluid novelist, unafraid to take on big topics…[In] Discontent and Its Civilizations …[he] make[s] a case for the way big issues unfold across individual lives.
And yet his intent is not to trace the evolution of the war on terror but how it alters us on the most intimate terms.” —LA Times “Elegant, piercing [and] often funny.” —The Chicago Tribune“The author of three groundbreaking novels…[Hamid] compels readers to see the global need for empathy as well as the need to acknowledge that we are all hybrid beings.