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Hendrick, I. (1943). Work and the Pleasure Principle. Psychoanal Q., 12:311-329.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:311-329

Work and the Pleasure Principle

Ives Hendrick


This paper is a discussion of certain relations between work and the pleasure principle; and especially the argument that the psychosocial activities of the total organism are not adequately accounted for by the pleasure and reality principles, when these are defined, in accordance with Freud and analytic tradition, as immediate or delayed responses, respectively, to the need for sensual gratification. I shall suggest that work is not primarily motivated by sexual need or associated aggressions, but by the need for efficient use of the muscular and intellectual tools, regardless of what secondary needs—self-preservative, aggressive, or sexual—a work performance may also satisfy. I shall call this thesis the work principle, the principle that primary pleasure is sought by efficient use of the central nervous system for the performance of well-integrated ego functions which enable the individual to control or alter his environment.

The pleasure principle is itself a remarkable application of the long debated philosophical doctrine of 'hedonism' to the facts of general psychology, and especially to those discovered by the psychoanalytic method. Necessary modifications were several times suggested by Freud himself. He pointed out that the reality principle is also an essential induction, but he regarded this as a modification of the pleasure principle in postponing or altering the mode of gratification in order to avoid future pain. A more radical modification was the theory of the repetition compulsion, whose manifestations he regarded as proof of the nonuniversality of the pleasure principle and evidence of the death instinct.

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