Originally published in 1918, this landmark collection of essays by the father of psychoanalysis represents one of Freud's most penetrating attempts to decipher the mysteries of human behavior. Its focus is the conflict between primitive feelings and the demands of civilization, i.e., the struggle to reconcile unconscious desires with socially acceptable behavior.
Totemism involves the belief in a sacred relationship between an object (totem) and a human kinship group. Men and women bearing the same totem are prohibited from marrying each other, this being a form of incest taboo. Freud identifies a strong unconscious inclination as the basis of taboo, and he attempts to define its source by tracing the earliest appearance in childhood development of totemism. After an examination of the incest taboo in primitive societies around the world, Freud discusses taboo and the ambivalence of emotions; animism, magic, and the omnipotence of thought; and the infantile recurrence of totemism.