The death drive opposes Eros, the tendency toward survival, propagation, sex, and other creative, life-producing drives. The death drive is sometimes referred to as “Thanatos” in post-Freudian thought, complementing “Eros”, although this term was not used in Freud’s own work, being rather introduced by one of Freud’s followers, Wilhelm Stekel.
The Standard Edition of Freud’s works in English confuses two terms that are different in German, Instinkt (“instinct”) and Trieb (“drive”), often translating both as instinct; for example,”the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state”. “This incorrect equating of instinkt and Trieb has created serious misunderstandings”. Freud actually refers to the term “instinkt” in explicit use elsewhere, and so while the concept of “instinct” can loosely be referred to as a “drive,” any essentialist or naturalist connotations of the term should be put in abeyance. In a sense, the death drive is a force that is not essential to the life of an organism (unlike an “instinct”) and tends to denature it or make it behave in ways that are sometimes counter-intuitive. The term is almost universally known in scholarly literature on Freud as the “death drive”, and Lacanian psychoanalysts often shorten it to simply “drive” (although Freud posited the existence of other drives as well, and Lacan explicitly states in Seminar XI that all drives are partial to the death drive). The contemporary Penguin translations of Freud translate “Trieb” and “instinkt” as “drive” and “instinct” respectively.”