Taboos and totem: social origins

of the of the Concerned 10 February Taboos and Totem: Social Origins In his work ‘ Totem and Taboo: Resemblances between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics’, Freud discernibly establishes the social origins of taboos. Taboos do unexceptionally have social origins and are hence governed by an accompanying code of ethics or are in themselves a code of ethics, sometimes (Freud: Online). The approach of Freud in the selected reading is positively scientific and analytical and hence reliable. What is a taboo, but simply speaking a form of social prohibition associated with some specific social custom or human activity, which is sacrosanct and forbidden owing to dominant moral judgments or religious beliefs (Freud: Online). To poignantly illustrate one’s theory, Freud states that taboos are to be found in societies that recognize totemism (Online). Giving the example of Australian aborigines, whose social beliefs were studied and catalogued by the famous anthropologist James George Frazer, Freud explains that totemism is actually a system of beliefs whose adherents hold that they enjoy a mystical kinship with some spiritual being, which may be an animal, plant or some other common ancestor (Online). This totem is passed onto the future generations through the male or female line (Freud: Online). Thus that totem validates and defines the social beliefs of a clan (Freud: Online). In fact the totem bond is considered to be superior to any other allegiance. Freud demonstrates the power of totem by pointing out that in the social structure of Australian aborigines, which is conspicuously devoid of any form of elaborate sexual restrictions, there exists a well defined social organization, whose single objective and purpose is to discourage and prevent incestuous relationships between individuals (Freud: Online). Such exogamy of the totem in aboriginal tribes not only prohibits incest in nuclear families, but also in extended families (Freud: Online). Thus what is to be considered to be a family unit is defined by totem and from that totem originates a code of ethics, which is further backed and strengthened by it (Freud: Online). So, explicitly, the “ taboos” of a totem in fact resemble a code of ethics. It will be even safe to go as far as to the extent of saying that taboos are a code of ethics in some societies, a social and moral one, if not legal. Thus in a sense and context akin to neurotics, primitive or aboriginal people do tend to harbor confused, mixed or ambivalent feelings towards some individuals in their families (Freud: Online). However, they do avoid conspicuously recognizing and hence accepting these mixed or ambivalent feelings as they go against the recognized and infallible code of ethics (Freud: Online). As a result, mostly these primitive people project the suppression originating from their ambivalent feelings on others (Freud: Online). This is a trait, which is again very similar to the behavior of neurotics. Following the analysis of Freud, it could be said that taboos have their origins in the very genesis and moorings of a social system, and hence they in a way resemble a code of ethics. Works Cited Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo: Resemblances between the Psychic Lives of Savages and Neurotics. 1913. Internet Archive. 10 February 2011 .