Origin of Modern Society

Both Sigmund Freud and Eric Hobsbawm explain the origin of modern society although from different angles. There are similarities in their theories although they differ while concluding how modern societies emerge. Freud uses psychoanalysis together with the social theory while Hobsbawm uses the modernist theory to argue on the origin. In both approaches, there is an agreement that people have the pressure within themselves to improve their lives. However, how the pressure is actualized is different. Freud argues that people abandon their traditions which they find pressing while Hobsbawm claims that people modify the traditions. This study will look at how each of them explains the origin of the modern society to show why Freud is right compared to Hobsbawm.

How Freud explains the origin of modern society

The primary background of contemporary society according to Freud is the mind. Everything that can be seen around the world today, both physical and people’s characters started in mind. However, the mind is induced by what is already there, the culture and physical world to think and later actualize the thoughts. Freud uses the psychoanalysis concept together with the social theory to explain how the mind is socialized by culture to produce what is seen in the world today.

Human beings according to Freud have desires to live in certain ways. They want to do things in ways which lead to satisfaction. Freud refers that kind of life which people wish to live as libidinal life. However, people are forced to serve the needs of their societies or groups which in most cases are not in line with their desires. Group goals subordinate people’s wishes and happiness preventing them from turning the world into what they would want. It is through the replacement of the individual power with that of the society that prevents civilization from occurring.

Psychoanalysis critiques the dysfunctional culture of the society and aims at satisfying the desires of the mind. The mind has a solution which Freud refers to as sublimation to overcome the social forces which prevent expression of wishes. The Ego recognizes other mechanisms of fulfilling individual desires instead of conforming to the society needs. Two issues, therefore, emerge to change the appearance of the society and which have led to the modern society according to Freud. First, the society structure denies people the freedom to express their wishes. The denial is recognized by the ego which in turn develops a mechanism to overcome the destructive forces.

The mechanism which is constructed by the mind leads to the creation of different characters and therefore, a new society. It involves turning off the behaviors which the community would not accept to acceptable ones. Two things happen; first, the libidinal becomes energized allowing people to behave according to their wishes and not as guided by the society. It is through the energized libidinal that today, people have been able to create the technology because the mind can express what is in it. The mind has given people the freedom to express themselves in their various gifts leading to the technology which is present today. Also, the mind has learned to overcome the oppression of the leaders in society to behave the way people wish leading to freedom in modern society.

Justification of Freud’s argument

Freud argues that people are forced to abide by the set rules by the society. The stand is right because, political leaders and other leaders within a society issue guidelines which members of the community should follow. People must follow the instruction because there are consequences on those who fail to do so. However, there is pressure on people because the political and other leader’s agendas and objectives are in most cases not in line with those of individual members. They represent ideas of a few. People demonstrate against the leadership and society traditions because they do not address their needs. The argument that society members have a pressure which creates the need to change the traditions is legitimate. The tension built on people has made them change the society to what is seen today in the process of making their lives better.

Fred also claims that people have ways of overcoming pressures created by the traditions. First, they resist what the tradition prescribes as the standard behaviors. The modern society confirms the argument as what is seen today as expressions are not what was there before. People used to be led by an elite family, but today, there is a more formal and inclusive set of government. There were strict ways of clothing and restriction on cultural integration but today, globalization is taking place, and people can clothe in whichever manner. There is a complete abandonment of the historical traditions. Second, people lower their demands, and society reduces its demands on norms and behaviors to create new traditions which allow people to express what is in their mind. The modern society confirms the argument as most people are allowed to build whatever they want with minimal regulations. Much freedom and abandonment of restricting traditions, therefore, have to lead to the appearance of the society today. More inclusive governments are now in place, and people can practice their creativity leading to a modern society characterized by technology.

How Hobsbawm explains the origin of modern society

According to Eric Hobsbawm, modern society emerges from the creation of new traditions which are not much different from the past.  Society members have the urge to improve their social conditions, and they keep on struggling to develop them. Hobsbawm recognizes that most of the symbols and rituals which we see today are recent and they constitute the modern society. They include festivals, costumes, national flag, and anthems. Also, cohesiveness and a more centralized form of a government which has emerged from the improvement of traditions characterizes the modern society. People are in a continuous process of improving their traditions giving rise to new ways of behaviors. The community is always ready to accept the new changes which result from creativity to improve the existing traditions. However, creativities which do not align with the traditions are not recognized. Invented traditions must be by the rules and norms of society.

New traditions emerge from the evaluation of myths and historical norms which are improved and embraced by society as their new values. Hobsbawm called the process demythologizing where the myths are confirmed and upgraded to be valued. The memory of the past is used to modify traditions and therefore modern society where the past cultural ideas which were not widely accepted are ritualized to become formal in a process known as political authenticity. An example of how society forms new traditions appears on how society members adapt folk costumes from old models. The community improves old models which were not appealing and socialized to become widely accepted.

The amended traditions according to Hobsbawm have led to social change, the emergence of new elites as well as power with the aim of creating order and imposing its legitimacy. The new elites are responsible for the advancement of political and economic modernization present today. Initially, traditions were resistant to change their economic and political systems to modern ones. As a result, migration in new communities increased due to the pressure of modernization. The condition created a mixture of different cultures in one area creating tension. The elite took advantage of the strain to mobilize their cultures towards a form of governance which would protect them from the immigrant cultures.

The forms of government and leadership gave rise to modern state and societies which later developed the elements of modern society like a formal education system.  In summary, Hobsbawm argues that contemporary society has originated from the society member’s urge to better their social conditions. People alter traditions to more improved values, and therefore, the past serves as a foundation for modern society. Societies have improved the older forms of government and leadership which in turn have accelerated the adjustment of other values.

Shortcomings on Hobsbawm explanation

There is evidence of new traditions in modern society contrary to what Hobsbawm argues that traditions are modified. Most traditions which are not appealing to people are dropped but not changed. In the past culture, for example, it was wrong to discuss some topics like marriage openly before young people. Today, that tradition is no longer there, and people are talking about anything without minding who is around. There were some dictatorship forms of government from royal families which were oppressing people, but today, that form of government has ceased to exist entirely but not modified. It, therefore, means that the modern society does not emerge from creatively altering the old traditions as Hobsbawm claims.

Hobsbawm does not explain how improvement on the traditional values and norms give rise to the society full of technology seen today. Old traditions and s tandards do not show elements of discovery on technology. It is from an adaptation of new beliefs that creativity is taking place. The dictatorship forms of government are no longer there to restrict people on what they should do. Claiming that values were modified to form the modern society then means that inclusive governments were there although they required some modifications to what is seen today which is not true.


Although both Hobsbawm and Freud agree that people have the urge and pressure to change how the society looks like, there is a variance on the cause of action adopted. While Fred claims that people drop the old traditions to pick new ones which do not pressure them, Hobsbawm argues that people modify the old values. Freud argument is right because almost what present in a modern society like freedom and inclusivity in the formal government was not there before. On the other hand, Hobsbawm argument fails to prove that the current values and elements in the society have roots in the historical society.

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