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Erich Seligmann Fromm

Fromm in 1970
Full name Erich Seligmann Fromm
Born March 23, 1900
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Died March 18, 1980 (aged 79)
Switzerland
Era 20th century
Region Western philosophy
School Frankfurt School, critical theory, humanistic psychoanalysis, Humanistic Judaism
Main interests Social theory, Marxism
Notable ideas Being and Having Modes of Existence; Security versus Freedom; Social character

Erich Seligmann[1] Fromm (March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory.

Contents

Life

Erich Fromm was born on 23 March 1900, at Frankfurt am Main, the only child of Orthodox Jewish parents. He started his academic studies in 1918 at the University of Frankfurt am Main with two semesters of jurisprudence. During the summer semester of 1919, Fromm studied at the University of Heidelberg, where he switched from studying jurisprudence to sociology under Alfred Weber (brother of the better known sociologist Max Weber), the psychiatrist-philosopher Karl Jaspers, and Heinrich Rickert. Fromm received his Ph.D. in sociology from Heidelberg in 1922. And, then during the mid 1920s, he was trained to become a psychoanalyst through Frieda Reichmann's psychoanalytic sanatorium in Heidelberg. He began his own clinical practice in 1927. In 1930, he joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and completed his psychoanalytical training. After the Nazi takeover of power in Germany, Fromm moved to Geneva and then, in 1934, to Columbia University in New York. Karen Horney's long-term infatuation with Fromm is the subject of her book Self Analysis and it is reasonable to believe that each had a lasting influence on the other's thought. After leaving Columbia, Fromm helped form the New York branch of the Washington School of Psychiatry in 1943, and in 1946 co-founded the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology. He was on the faculty of Bennington College from 1941-1950.

When Fromm moved to Mexico City in 1950, he became a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and established a psychoanalytic section at the medical school there. He taught at UNAM until his retirement in 1965. Meanwhile, he taught as a professor of psychology at Michigan State University from 1957 to 1961 and as an adjunct professor of psychology at the graduate division of Arts and Sciences at New York University after 1962. In 1974 he moved to Muralto (or Locarno?), Switzerland, and died at his home in 1980, five days before his eightieth birthday. All the while, Fromm maintained his own clinical practice and published a series of books.

Psychological theory

Beginning with his first seminal work of 1941, Escape from Freedom (known in Britain as Fear of Freedom), Fromm's writings were notable as much for their social and political commentary as for their philosophical and psychological underpinnings. Indeed, Escape from Freedom is viewed as one of the founding works of Political psychology. His second important work, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics, first published in 1947, continued and enriched the ideas of Escape from Freedom. Taken together, these books outlined Fromm's theory of human character, which was a natural outgrowth of Fromm's theory of human nature. Fromm's most popular book was The Art of Loving, an international bestseller first published in 1956, which recapitulated and complemented the theoretical principles of human nature found in Escape from Freedom and Man for Himself—principles which were revisited in many of Fromm's other major works.

Central to Fromm's world view was his interpretation of the Talmud, which he began studying as a young man under Rabbi J. Horowitz and later studied under Rabbi Salman Baruch Rabinkow while working towards his doctorate in sociology at the University of Heidelberg and under Nehemia Nobel and Ludwig Krause while studying in Frankfurt. Fromm's grandfather and two great grandfathers on his father's side were rabbis, and a great uncle on his mother's side was a noted Talmudic scholar. However, Fromm turned away from orthodox Judaism in 1926, towards secular interpretations of scriptural ideals.

The cornerstone of Fromm's humanistic philosophy is his interpretation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve's exile from the Garden of Eden. Drawing on his knowledge of the Talmud, Fromm pointed out that being able to distinguish between good and evil is generally considered to be a virtue, and that biblical scholars generally consider Adam and Eve to have sinned by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of Knowledge. However, departing from traditional religious orthodoxy, Fromm extolled the virtues of humans taking independent action and using reason to establish moral values rather than adhering to authoritarian moral values.

Beyond a simple condemnation of authoritarian value systems, Fromm used the story of Adam and Eve as an allegorical explanation for human biological evolution and existential angst, asserting that when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they became aware of themselves as being separate from nature while still being part of it. This is why they felt "naked" and "ashamed": they had evolved into human beings, conscious of themselves, their own mortality, and their powerlessness before the forces of nature and society, and no longer united with the universe as they were in their instinctive, pre-human existence as animals. According to Fromm, the awareness of a disunited human existence is a source of guilt and shame, and the solution to this existential dichotomy is found in the development of one's uniquely human powers of love and reason. However, Fromm distinguished his concept of love from unreflective popular notions as well as Freudian paradoxical love (see criticism by Marcuse below).

Fromm considered love to be an interpersonal creative capacity rather than an emotion, and he distinguished this creative capacity from what he considered to be various forms of narcissistic neuroses and sado-masochistic tendencies that are commonly held out as proof of "true love." Indeed, Fromm viewed the experience of "falling in love" as evidence of one's failure to understand the true nature of love, which he believed always had the common elements of care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. Drawing from his knowledge of the Torah, Fromm pointed to the story of Jonah, who did not wish to save the residents of Nineveh from the consequences of their sin, as demonstrative of his belief that the qualities of care and responsibility are generally absent from most human relationships. Fromm also asserted that few people in modern society had respect for the autonomy of their fellow human beings, much less the objective knowledge of what other people truly wanted and needed.

Fromm believed that freedom was an aspect of human nature that we either embrace or escape. He observed that embracing our freedom of will was healthy, whereas escaping freedom through the use of escape mechanisms was the root of psychological conflicts. Three main escape mechanisms that Fromm outlined are automaton conformity, authoritarianism, and destructiveness. Automaton conformity is changing one's ideal self to what is perceived as the preferred type of personality of society, losing one's true self. The use of automaton conformity displaces the burden of choice from the self to society. Authoritarianism is allowing oneself to be controlled by another. This removes the freedom of choice almost entirely by submitting that freedom to someone else. Lastly, destructiveness is any process which attempts to eliminate others or the world as a whole to escape freedom. Fromm said that "the destruction of the world is the last, almost desperate attempt to save myself from being crushed by it" (1941).

The word biophilia was frequently used by Fromm as a description of a productive psychological orientation and "state of being". For example, in an addendum to his book The Heart of Man: Its Genius For Good and Evil, Fromm wrote as part of his famous Humanist Credo:

"I believe that the man choosing progress can find a new unity through the development of all his human forces, which are produced in three orientations. These can be presented separately or together: biophilia, love for humanity and nature, and independence and freedom." (c. 1965)

Erich Fromm postulated six basic needs:

Relatedness 
Relationships with others, care, respect, knowledge.
Transcendence 
Creativity, develop a loving and interesting life.
Rootedness 
Feeling of belonging.
Sense of Identity 
See ourselves as a unique person and part of a social group.
Frame of orientation 
Understand the world and our place in it.
Excitation and Stimulation 
Actively strive for a goal rather than simply respond.

Fromm's thesis of the "escape from freedom" is epitomized in the following passage. The "individualized man" referenced by Fromm is man bereft of "primary ties" of belonging (nature, family, etc.), also expressed as "freedom from":

"There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual.... However, if the economic, social and political conditions... do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom." (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom [N.Y.: Rinehart, 1941], pp. 36-7. The point is repeated on pp. 31, 256-7.)

Five orientations

Fromm also spoke of "orientation of character" in his book Man For Himself, which describes the ways an individual relates to the world and constitutes his general character, and develops from two specific kinds of relatedness to the world: acquiring and assimilating things ("assimilation"), and reacting to people ("socialization"). Fromm considers these character systems the human substitute for instincts in animals. These orientations describe how a man has developed in regard to how he responds to conflicts in his or her life; he also said that people were never pure in any such orientation. These two factors form four types of malignant character, which he calls Receptive, Exploitative, Hoarding and Marketing. He also described a positive character, which he called Productive.

Fromm's influence on other notable psychologists

Fromm's four non-productive orientations were subject to validation through a psychometric test, The Person Relatedness Test by Elias H. Porter, Ph.D. in collaboration with Carl Rogers, Ph.D.at the University of Chicago's Counseling Center between 1953 and 1955. Fromm's four non-productive orientations also served as basis for the LIFO test, first published in 1967 by Stuart Atkins, Alan Katcher, Ph.D., and Elias Porter, Ph.D. and the Strength Deployment Inventory, first published in 1971 by Chris H. Porter, Ph.D. [1], [2]

Critique of Freud

Fromm examined the life and work of Sigmund Freud at length. He identified a discrepancy between early and later Freudian theory: namely that prior to World War I, Freud described human drives as a tension between desire and repression, but after the war's conclusion, he framed human drives as a struggle between biologically-universal Life and Death (Eros and Thanatos) instincts. Fromm charged Freud and his followers with never acknowledging the contradictions between the two theories.

He also criticized Freud's dualistic thinking. According to Fromm, Freudian descriptions of human consciousness as struggles between two poles was narrow and limiting. Fromm also condemned him as a misogynist unable to think outside the patriarchal milieu of early 20th century Vienna. However, Fromm expressed a great respect for Freud and his accomplishments, in spite of these criticisms.

Political ideas and activities

Fromm's most well-known work, Escape from Freedom, focuses on the human urge to seek a source of authority and control upon reaching a freedom that was thought to be an individual’s true desire. Fromm’s critique of the modern political order and capitalist system led him to seek insights from medieval feudalism. In Escape from Freedom, he found favor with the lack of individual freedom, rigid structure, and obligations required on the members of medieval society:

What characterizes medieval in contrast to modern society is its lack of individual freedom…But altogether a person was not free in the modern sense, neither was he alone and isolated. In having a distinct, unchangeable, and unquestionable place in the social world from the moment of birth, man was rooted in a structuralized whole, and thus life had a meaning which left no place, and no need for doubt…There was comparatively little competition. One was born into a certain economic position which guaranteed a livelihood determined by tradition, just as it carried economic obligations to those higher in the social hierarchy.[2]

The culmination of Fromm's social and political philosophy was his book The Sane Society, published in 1955, which argued in favor of humanistic and democratic socialism. Building primarily upon the early works of Karl Marx, Fromm sought to re-emphasise the ideal of freedom, missing from most Soviet Marxism, and more frequently found in the writings of libertarian socialists and liberal theoreticians. Fromm's brand of socialism rejected both Western capitalism and Soviet communism, which he saw as dehumanizing and that resulted in a virtually universal modern phenomenon of alienation. He became one of the founders of socialist humanism, promoting the early writings of Marx and his humanist messages to the US and Western European publics.

In the early 1960s, Fromm published two books dealing with Marxist thoughts (Marx's Concept of Man and Beyond the Chains of Illusion: my Encounter with Marx and Freud). In 1965, working to stimulate the Western and Eastern cooperation between Marxist humanists, Fromm published a series of articles entitled Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium. In 1966, the American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year.

For a period, Fromm was also active in US politics. He joined the Socialist Party of America in the mid-1950s, and did his best to help them provide an alternative viewpoint to the prevailing McCarthyism of the time. This alternative viewpoint was best expressed in his 1961 paper May Man Prevail? An Inquiry into the Facts and Fictions of Foreign Policy. However, as a co-founder of SANE, Fromm's strongest political activism was in the international peace movement, fighting against the nuclear arms race and US involvement in the Vietnam War. After supporting Senator Eugene McCarthy's losing bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Fromm more or less retreated from the American political scene, although he did write a paper in 1974 entitled Remarks on the Policy of Détente for a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Criticism

In Eros and Civilization Herbert Marcuse condemns Fromm, that in the beginning he was a radical theorist who later turned to conformity. Marcuse also argued that Fromm, as well as his close colleagues Sullivan and Karen Horney, removed Freud's libido theory and other radical concepts, which thus reduced psychoanalysis to a set of idealist ethics, which only embrace the status quo.[3] Fromm's response, in both The Sane Society [4] and in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,[5] argues that Freud indeed deserves substantial credit for recognizing the central importance of the subconscious, but also that he tended to reify his own concepts that depicted the self as the passive outcome of instinct and social control, with very minimal volition or variability. Fromm argues that later scholars such as Marcuse accepted these concepts as dogma, whereas social-psychology requires a more dynamic theoretical and empirical approach.

Bibliography

Early work in German

  • Das jüdische Gesetz. Ein Beitrag zur Soziologie des Diaspora-Judentums., Promotion, 1922. ISBN 345309896X
  • Über Methode und Aufgaben einer analytischen Sozialpsychologie. Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, Bd. 1, 1932, S. 28-54.
  • Die psychoanalytische Charakterologie und ihre Bedeutung für die Sozialpsychologie. Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, Bd. 1, 1932, S. 253-277.
  • Sozialpsychologischer Teil. In: Studien über Autorität und Familie. Forschungsberichte aus dem Institut für Sozialforschung. Alcan, Paris 1936, S. 77-135.
  • Zweite Abteilung: Erhebungen (Erich Fromm u.a.). In: Studien über Autorität und Familie. Forschungsberichte aus dem Institut für Sozialforschung. Alcan, Paris 1936, S. 229-469.
  • Die Furcht vor der Freiheit, 1941 (In English, "Fear/Dread of Freedom"). ISBN 3423350245
  • Psychoanalyse & Ethik, 1946. ISBN 3423350113
  • Psychoanalyse & Religion, 1949. ISBN 342334105X (The Dwight H. Terry Lectureship 1949/1950)

Later works in English

  • Escape from Freedom (US), The Fear of Freedom (UK) (1941)
  • Man for himself, an inquiry into the psychology of ethics (1947)
  • Psychoanalysis and Religion (1950)
  • Forgotten language; an introduction to the understanding of dreams, fairy tales, and myths (1951)
  • The Sane Society (1955)
  • The Art of Loving (1956)
  • Sigmund Freud's mission; an analysis of his personality and influence (1959)
  • Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism (1960)
  • May Man Prevail? An inquiry into the facts and fictions of foreign policy (1961)
  • Marx's Concept of Man (1961)
  • Beyond the Chains of Illusion: my encounter with Marx and Freud (1962)
  • The Dogma of Christ and Other Essays on Religion, Psychology and Culture (1963)
  • The Heart of Man, its genius for good and evil (1964)
  • Socialist Humanism (1965)
  • You Shall Be as Gods: a radical interpretation of the Old Testament and its tradition (1966)
  • The Revolution of Hope, toward a humanized technology (1968)
  • The Nature of Man (1968)
  • The Crisis of Psychoanalysis (1970)
  • Social character in a Mexican village; a sociopsychoanalytic study (Fromm & Maccoby) (1970)
  • The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973)
  • To Have or to Be? (1976)
  • Greatness and Limitation of Freud's Thought (1979)
  • On Disobedience and other essays (1984)
  • The Art of Being (1993)
  • The Art of Listening (1994)
  • On Being Human (1997)

See also

References

  1. ^ Funk, Rainer. Erich Fromm: His Life and Ideas. Translators Ian Portman, Manuela Kunkel. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003. ISBN 0826415199, ISBN 9780826415196. P. 13:

    "For a second name he was given that of his grandfather on his father's side–Seligmann Pinchas Fromm, although the registry office in Frankfurt does not record him as Erich Pinchas Fromm, but as Erich Seligmann Fromm. Also his parents addressed his mail to 'Erich S. Fromm.'"

  2. ^ Fromm, Erich “Escape from Freedom” New York: Rinehart & Co., 1941, p. 41 – 42
  3. ^ John Rickert, The Fromm-Marcuse debated revisited, 1986 in „Theory and Society“, vol. 15, pp. 351-400. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht
  4. ^ Erich Fromm, [1955] 1990 The Sane Society, New York: Henry Holt
  5. ^ Erich Fromm, [1973] 1992, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, New York: Henry Holt.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Immature love says: "I love you because I need you." Mature love says: "I need you because I love you."

Erich Fromm (23 March 190018 March 1980) was a German-American psychologist and humanistic philosopher.

Contents

Sourced

The psychoanalyst must emphasize that the subject of sociology, society, in reality consists of individuals, and that it is these human beings, rather than abstract society as such, whose actions, thoughts, and feelings are the object of sociological research.
Both dreams and myths are important communications from ourselves to ourselves.
Man is born as a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it. He has to find principles of action and decision-making which replace the principles of instincts.
What is it that distinguishes man from animals? It is not his upright posture. ... when the human being as such was born he had a new and different consciousness, a consciousness of himself; he knew that he existed and that he was something different, something apart from nature, apart from other people, too. He experienced himself.
  • The application of psychoanalysis to sociology must definitely guard against the mistake of wanting to give psychoanalytic answers where economic, technical, or political facts provide the real and sufficient explanation of sociological questions. On the other hand, the psychoanalyst must emphasize that the subject of sociology, society, in reality consists of individuals, and that it is these human beings, rather than abstract society as such, whose actions, thoughts, and feelings are the object of sociological research.
    • "Psychoanalyse und Soziologie" (1929); published as "Psychoanalysis and Sociology" as translated by Mark Ritter, in Critical Theory and Society : A Reader (1989) edited by S. E. Bronner and D. M. Kellner
  • Psychoanalysis, which interprets the human being as a socialized being, and the psychic apparatus as essentially developed and determined through the relationship of the individual to society, must consider it a duty to participate in the investigation of sociological problems to the extent the human being or his/her psyche plays any part at all.
    • "Psychoanalyse und Soziologie" (1929); published as "Psychoanalysis and Sociology" as translated by Mark Ritter, in Critical Theory and Society : A Reader (1989) edited by S. E. Bronner and D. M. Kellner
  • One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.
    • ABC TV (25 May 1958)
  • It is often said that the Arabs fled, that they left the country voluntarily, and that they therefore bear the responsibility for losing their property and their land. It is true that in history there are some instances — in Rome and in France during the Revolutions when enemies of the state were proscribed and their property confiscated. But in general international law, the principle holds true that no citizen loses his property or his rights of citizenship; and the citizenship right is de facto a right to which the Arabs in Israel have much more legitimacy than the [European] Jews. Just because the Arabs fled? Since when is that punishable by confiscation of property and by being barred from returning to the land on which a people's forefathers have lived for generations? Thus, the claim of the Jews to the land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers had lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse. ... I believe that, politically speaking, there is only one solution for Israel, namely, the unilateral acknowledgement of the obligation of the State towards the Arabs — not to use it as a bargaining point, but to acknowledge the complete moral obligation of the Israeli State to its former inhabitants of Palestine.
    • Jewish Newsletter [New York] (19 May 1959); quoted in Prophets in Babylon (1980) by Marion Woolfson, p. 13.
  • Both dreams and myths are important communications from ourselves to ourselves. If we do not understand the language in which they are written, we miss a great deal of what we know and tell ourselves in those hours when we are not busy manipulating the outside world.
    • As quoted in The New York Times (5 January 1964)
  • Among most Christians the Old Testament is little read in comparison to the New Testament. Furthermore, much of what is read is often distorted by prejudice. Frequently the Old Testament is believed to express exclusively the principles of justice and revenge, in contrast to the New Testament, which represents those of love and mercy; even the sentence, "Love your neighbor as yourself,” is thought by many to derive from the New, not the Old Testament. Or the Old Testament is believed to have been written exclusively in the spirit of narrow nationalism and to contain nothing of supranational universalism so characteristic of the New Testament.
    • You Shall Be as Gods: A Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Tradition (1966) "Introduction"
  • Man is born as a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it. He has to find principles of action and decision-making which replace the principles of instincts. He has to have a frame of orientation which permits him to organize a consistent picture of the world as a condition for consistent actions. He has to fight not only against the dangers of dying, starving, and being hurt, but also against another danger which is specifically human: that of becoming insane. In other words, he has to protect himself not only against the danger of losing his life but also against the danger of losing his mind.
    • The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology (1968), p. 61
  • What is it that distinguishes man from animals? It is not his upright posture. That was present in the apes long before the brain began to develop. Nor is it the use of tools. It is something altogether new, a previously unknown quality: self-awareness. Animals, too, have awareness. They are aware of objects; they know this is one thing and that another. But when the human being as such was born he had a new and different consciousness, a consciousness of himself; he knew that he existed and that he was something different, something apart from nature, apart from other people, too. He experienced himself. He was aware that he thought and felt. As far as we know, there is nothing analogous to this anywhere in the animal kingdom. That is the specific quality that makes human beings human.
    • "Affluence and Ennui in Our Society" in For the Love of Life (1986) translated by Robert and Rita Kimber
  • The two most far-reaching critical theories at the beginning of the latest phase of industrial society were those of Marx and Freud. Marx showed the moving powers and the conflicts in the social-historical process. Freud aimed at the critical uncovering of the inner conflicts. Both worked for the liberation of man, even though Marx’s concept was more comprehensive and less time-bound than Freud’s.
    • "The Art of Being" Pt. 3 (1989).

Escape from Freedom (1941)

The successful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal.
  • The kind of relatedness to the world may be noble or trivial, but even being related to the basest kind of pattern is immensely preferable to being alone.
    • Ch. 1
  • Man’s biological weakness is the condition of human culture.
    • Ch. 2
  • Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.
    • Ch. 4
  • The successful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal.
    • Ch. 7

Man for Himself (1947)

Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics
The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.
Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others.
  • Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve and from which he cannot escape.
    • Ch. 3 "Human Nature and Character.
  • The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.
    • Ch. 3
  • Temperament refers to the mode of reaction and is constitutional and not changeable; character is essentially formed by a person’s experiences, especially of those in early life, and changeable, to some extent, by insights and new kinds of experiences. If a person has a choleric temperament, for instance, his mode of reaction is "quick and strong.” But what he is quick or strong about depends on his kind of relatedness, his character. If he is a productive, just, loving person he will react quickly and strongly when he loves, when he is enraged by injustice, and when he is impressed by a new idea. If he is a destructive or sadistic character, he will be quick and strong in his destructiveness or in his cruelty. The confusion between temperament and character has had serious consequences for ethical theory. Preferences with regard to differences in temperament are mere matters of subjective taste. But differences in character are ethically of the most fundamental importance.
    • Ch. 3
  • Care and responsibility are constituent elements of love, but without respect for and knowledge of the beloved person, love deteriorates into domination and possessiveness. Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accordance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at), the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his individuality and uniqueness. To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibilty would be blind if they were not guided by the knowledge of the person's individuality.
    • Ch. 3; in Ch. 2 of his later work The Art of Loving (1956) a similar statement is made :
Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accordance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at), the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality. Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me.
  • Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.
    • Ch. 4 "Problems of Humanistic Ethics"
  • Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others.
    • Ch. 4
  • To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable.
    • Ch. 4
  • Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either.
    • Ch. 4

The Sane Society (1955)

Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.
Reason is man's instrument for arriving at the truth, intelligence is man's instrument for manipulating the world more successfully; the former is essentially human, the latter belongs to the animal part of man.
The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.
  • Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. "Patriotism” is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by "patriotism” I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one’s own nation, which is the concern with the nation’s spiritual as much as with its material welfare — never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.
    • Ch. 3 "The Human Situation" Sect. C "Rootedness — Brotherliness vs. Incest”
  • Man may be defined as the animal that can say "I,” that can be aware of himself as a separate entity.
    • Ch. 3 "The Human Situation" Sect. D "Sense of Identity — Individuality vs. Herd Conformity”
  • Just as love is an orientation which refers to all objects and is incompatible with the restriction to one object, so is reason a human faculty which must embrace the whole of the world with which man is confronted.
    • Ch. 3 "The Human Situation" Sect. E "The Need for a Frame of Orientation and Devotion — Reason vs. Irrationality”
  • Reason is man’s faculty for grasping the world by thought, in contradiction to intelligence, which is man’s ability to manipulate the world with the help of thought. Reason is man's instrument for arriving at the truth, intelligence is man's instrument for manipulating the world more successfully; the former is essentially human, the latter belongs to the animal part of man.
    • Ch. 3 "The Human Situation" Sect. E "The Need for a Frame of Orientation and Devotion — Reason vs. Irrationality”
  • By alienation is meant a mode of experience in which the person experiences himself as an alien. He has become, one might say, estranged from himself. He does not experience himself as the center of his world, as the creator of his own acts — but his acts and their consequences have become his masters, whom he obeys, or whom he may even worship. The alienated person is out of touch with himself as he is out of touch with any other person. He, like the others, are experienced as things are experienced; with the senses and with common sense, but at the same time without being related to oneself and to the world outside positively.
    • Ch. 5 "Man in Capitalistic Society" Sect. C.2.b "Alienation”
  • We consume, as we produce, without any concrete relatedness to the objects with which we deal; We live in a world of things, and our only connection with them is that we know how to manipulate or to consume them.
    • Ch. 5 "Man in Capitalistic Society" Sect. C.2.b "Alienation”
  • Modern man, if he dared to be articulate about his concept of heaven, would describe a vision which would look like the biggest department store in the world, showing new things and gadgets, and himself having plenty of money with which to buy them. He would wander around open-mouthed in this heaven of gadgets and commodities, provided only that there were ever more and newer things to buy, and perhaps that his neighbors were just a little less privileged than he.
    • Ch. 5 "Man in Capitalistic Society" Sect. C.2.b "Alienation”
  • Love is often nothing but a favorable exchange between two people who get the most of what they can expect, considering their value on the personality market.
    • Ch. 5 "Man in Capitalistic Society" Sect. C.2.b "Alienation”
  • The pace of science forces the pace of technique. Theoretical physics forces atomic energy on us; the successful production of the fission bomb forces upon us the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. We do not choose our problems, we do not choose our products; we are pushed, we are forced — by what? By a system which has no purpose and goal transcending it, and which makes man its appendix.
    • Ch. 5 "Man in Capitalistic Society" Sect. B "Nineteenth-Century Capitalism”
  • Authority is not a quality one person "has,” in the sense that he has property or physical qualities. Authority refers to an interpersonal relation in which one person looks upon another as somebody superior to him. But there is a fundamental difference between a kind of superiority-inferiority relation which can be called rational authority and one which may be described as inhibiting, or irrational authority.
    • Ch. 5 "Man in Capitalistic Society" Sect. B "Nineteenth-Century Capitalism”
  • In the development of both capitalism and communism, as we visualize them in the next fifty or a hundred years, the processes that encourage human alienation will continue. Both systems are developing into managerial societies, their inhabitants well fed, well clad, having their wishes satisfied, and not having wishes that cannot be satisfied. Men are increasingly automatons, who make machines which act like men and produce men who act like machines; there reason deteriorates while their intelligence rises, thus creating the dangerous situation of equipping man with the greatest material power without the wisdom to use it.
    • Ch. 9 "Summary — Conclusion"
  • In spite of increasing production and comfort, man loses more and more the sense of self, feels that his life is meaningless, even though such a feeling is largely unconscious. In the nineteenth century the problem was that God is dead; in the twentieth century the problem is that man is dead.
    • Ch. 9 "Summary — Conclusion"
  • In the 19th century inhumanity meant cruelty; in the 20th century it means schizoid self-alienation. The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel. But given man’s nature, robots cannot live and remain sane, they become "Golems”; they will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life.
    • Ch. 9 "Summary — Conclusion" Fromm is here referencing a statement made by Adlai Stevenson at Columbia University in 1954, which he had quoted earlier in the work: "We are not in danger of becoming slaves any more, but of becoming robots.”

The Art of Loving (1956)

Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.
I believe that love is the main key to open the doors to the "growth" of man. Love and union with someone or something outside of oneself, union that allows one to put oneself into relationship with others, to feel one with others, without limiting the sense of integrity and independence. Love is a productive orientation for which it is essential that there be present at the same time: concern, responsibility, and respect for and knowledge of the object of the union.
If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to all others, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.
To have faith in the possibility of love as a social and not only exceptional-individual phenomenon, is a rational faith based on the insight into the very nature of man.
  • What most people in our culture mean by being lovable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having sex appeal.
    • Ch. 1
  • Envy, jealousy, ambition, any kind of greed are passions; love is an action, the practice of human power, which can be practiced only in freedom and never as a result of compulsion.
    Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a "standing in," not a "falling for." In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving.
  • Immature love says: "I love you because I need you." Mature love says: "I need you because I love you."
    • Ch. 2
  • In spite of the universalistic spirit of the monotheistic Western religions and of the progressive political concepts that are expressed in the idea "that all men are created equal," love for mankind has not become a common experience. Love for mankind is looked upon as an achievement which, at best, follows love for an individual or as an abstract concept to be realized only in the future. But love for man cannot be separated from love for one individual. To love one person productively means to be related to his human core, to him as representing mankind. Love for one individual, in so far as it is divorced from love for man, can refer only to the superficial and to the accidental; of necessity it remains shallow.
    • Ch. 2
  • All men are in need of help and depend on one another. Human solidarity is the necessary condition for the unfolding of any one individual.
    • Ch. 2
  • The same polarity of the male and female principle exists in nature; not only, as is obvious in animals and plants, but in the polarity of the two fundamental functions, that of receiving and penetrating. It is the polarity of earth and rain, of the river and the ocean, of night and day, of darkness and light, of matter and spirit.
    • Ch. 2
  • In erotic love, two people who were separate become one. In motherly love, two people who were one become separate. The mother must not only tolerate, she must wish and support the child’s separation.
    • Ch. 2
  • The narcissistic, the domineering, the possessive woman can succeed in being a "loving” mother as long as the child is small. Only the really loving woman, the woman who is happier in giving than in taking, who is firmly rooted in her own existence, can be a loving mother when the child is in the process of separation.
    • Ch. 2
  • The sadistic person is as dependent on the submissive person as the latter is on the former; neither can live without the other. The difference is only that the sadistic person commands, exploits, hurts, humiliates, and that the masochistic person is commanded, exploited, hurt, humiliated. This is a considerable difference in a realistic sense; in a deeper emotional sense, the difference is not so great as that which they both have in common: fusion without integrity.
    • Ch. 2
  • In the dominant Western religious system, the love of God is essentially the same as the belief in God, in God’s existence, God’s justice, God’s love. The love of God is essentially a thought experience. In the Eastern religions and in mysticism, the love of God is an intense feeling experience of oneness, inseparably linked with the expression of this love in every act of living.
    • Ch. 2
  • Just as modern mass production requires the standardization of commodities, so the social process requires standardization of man, and this standardization is called equality.
    • Ch. 2
  • If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to all others, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.
  • The lack of objectivity, as far as foreign nations are concerned, is notorious. From one day to another, another nation is made out to be utterly depraved and fiendish, while one’s own nation stands for everything that is good and noble. Every action of the enemy is judged by one standard — every action of oneself by another. Even good deeds by the enemy are considered a sign of particular devilishness, meant to deceive us and the world, while our bad deeds are necessary and justified by our noble goals which they serve.
  • Fairness means not to use fraud and trickery in the exchange of commodities and services and the exchange of feelings.
  • The spirit of a production-centered, commodity-greedy society is such that only the non-conformist can defend himself sufficiently against it. Those who are seriously concerned with love as the only rational answer to the problem of human existence must, then, arrive at the conclusion that important and radical changes in our social structure are necessary, if love is to become a social and not a highly individualistic, marginal phenomenon.
  • Our society is run by a managerial bureaucracy, by professional politicians; people are motivated by mass suggestion, their aim is producing more and consuming more, as purposes in themselves. All activities are subordinated to economic goals, means have become ends; man is an automaton — well fed, well clad, but without any ultimate concern for that which is his peculiarly human quality and function. If man is to be able to love, he must be put in his supreme place. The economic machine must serve him, rather than he serve it. He must be enabled to share experience, to share work, rather than, at best, share in profits. Society must be organized in such a way that man's social, loving nature is not separated from his social existence, but becomes one with it. If it is true, as I have tried to show, that love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence, then any society which excludes, relatively, the development of love, must in the long run perish of its own contradiction with the basic necessities of human nature.
    • The portion of this statement, "Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence" has been widely quoted alone, resulting in a less reserved expression, and sometimes the portion following it has been as well: "Any society which excludes, relatively, the development of love, must in the long run perish of its own contradiction with the basic necessities of human nature."
  • To speak of love is not "preaching," for the simple reason that it means to speak of the ultimate and real need of every human being. That this need has been obscured does not mean it does not exist. To analyze the nature of love is to discover its general absence today and to criticize the social conditions which are responsible for this absence. To have faith in the possibility of love as a social and not only exceptional-individual phenomenon, is a rational faith based on the insight into the very nature of man.

Credo (1965)

First published in English in On Being Human (1994) by Erich From, edited by Rainer Funk, pp. 99-105. Full text online
I believe that none can "save" his fellow man by making a choice for him. To help him, he can indicate the possible alternatives, with sincerity and love, without being sentimental and without illusion. The knowledge and awareness of the freeing alternatives can reawaken in an individual all his hidden energies and put him on the path to choosing respect for "life" instead of for "death."
  • I believe that the unity of man as opposed to other living things derives from the fact that man is the conscious life of himself. Man is conscious of himself, of his future, which is death, of his smallness, of his impotence; he is aware of others as others; man is in nature, subject to its laws even if he transcends it with his thought.
  • I believe that man is the product of natural evolution that is born from the conflict of being a prisoner and separated from nature, and from the need to find unity and harmony with it.
  • I believe that the nature of man is a contradiction rooted in the conditions of human existence that requires a search for solutions, which in their turn create new contradictions and now the need for answers.
    I believe that every answer to these contradictions can really satisfy the condition of helping man to overcome the sense of separation and to achieve a sense of agreement, of unity, and of belonging.
    I believe that in every answer to these contradictions, man has the possibility of choosing only between going forward or going back; these choices, which are translated into specific actions, are means toward the regressing or toward the progressing of the humanity that is in us.
  • I believe that the fundamental alternative for man is the choice between "life" and "death"; between creativity and destructive violence; between reality and illusions; between objectivity and intolerance; between brotherhood-independence and dominance-submission.
  • By necrophilia is meant love for all that is violence and destruction; the desire to kill; the worship of force; attraction to death, to suicide, to sadism; the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic by means of "order." The necrophile, lacking the necessary qualities to create, in his impotence finds it easy to destroy because for him it serves only one quality: force.
  • By narcissism is meant ceasing to have an authentic interest in the outside world but instead an intense attachment to oneself, to one’s own group, clan, religion, nation, race, etc. — with consequent serious distortions of rational judgment. In general, the need for narcissistic satisfaction derives from the necessity to compensate for material and cultural poverty.
  • By incestuous symbiosis is meant the tendency to stay tied to the mother and to her equivalents — blood, family, tribe — to fly from the unbearable weight of responsibility, of freedom, of awareness, and to be protected and loved in a state of certainty dependence that the individual pays for with the ceasing of his own human development.
  • I believe that the man choosing progress can find a new unity through the full development of all his human forces, which are produced in three orientations. These can be presented separately or together: biophilia, love for humanity and nature, and independence and freedom.
  • I believe that love is the main key to open the doors to the "growth" of man. Love and union with someone or something outside of oneself, union that allows one to put oneself into relationship with others, to feel one with others, without limiting the sense of integrity and independence. Love is a productive orientation for which it is essential that there be present at the same time: concern, responsibility, and respect for and knowledge of the object of the union.
    I believe that the experience of love is the most human and humanizing act that it is given to man to enjoy and that it, like reason, makes no sense if conceived in a partial way.
  • I believe that freedom is not a constant attribute that "we have" or "we don’t have"; perhaps there is only one reality: the act of liberating ourselves in the process of using choices. Every step in life that heightens the maturity of man heightens his ability to choose the freeing alternative.
    I believe that "freedom of choice" is not always equal for all men at every moment. The man with an exclusively necrophilic orientation; who is narcissistic; or who is symbiotic-incestuous, can only make a regressive choice. The free man, freed from irrational ties, can no longer make a regressive choice.
  • I believe that none can "save" his fellow man by making a choice for him. To help him, he can indicate the possible alternatives, with sincerity and love, without being sentimental and without illusion. The knowledge and awareness of the freeing alternatives can reawaken in an individual all his hidden energies and put him on the path to choosing respect for "life" instead of for "death."
  • I believe that if an individual is not on the path to transcending his society and seeing in what way it furthers or impedes the development of human potential, he cannot enter into intimate contact with his humanity. If the tabus, restrictions, distorted values appear "natural" to him, this is a clear indication that he cannot have a real knowledge of human nature.
    I believe that society, while having a function both stimulating and inhibiting at the same time, has always been in conflict with humanity. Only when the purpose of society is identified with that of humanity will society cease to paralyze man and encourage his dominance.
  • I believe that one can and must hope for a sane society that furthers man’s capacity to love his fellow men, to work and create, to develop his reason and his objectivity of a sense of himself that is based on the experience of his productive energy.
    I believe that one can and must hope for the collective regaining of a mental health that is characterized by the capacity to love and to create...
  • I believe in the possible realization of a world in which man can be much, even if he has little; a world in which the dominant motivation of existence is not consumption; a world in which "man" is the end, first and last; a world in which man can find the way of giving a purpose to his life as well as the strength to live free and without illusions.

The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology (1968)

  • To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.

Human Nature and Social Theory (1969)

Letter to Vladimir Dobrenkov (10 March 1969)
It has never been my position that society only deforms or manifests that which is already there. If we make the distinction between human necessities in general and human desires in particular then indeed, society creates particular desires which, however, follow the general laws of the necessities rooted in human nature.
What about the utopian thinkers of all ages, from the Prophets who had a vision of eternal peace, on through the Utopians of the Renaissance, etc.? Were they just dreamers? Or were they so deeply aware of new possibilities, of the changeability of social conditions, that they could visualize an entirely new form of social existence even though these new forms, as such, were not even potentially given in their own society?
  • The most important misunderstanding seems to me to lie in a confusion between the human necessities which I consider part of human nature, and the human necessities as they appear as drives, needs, passions, etc., in any given historical period. This division is not very different from Marx’s concept of "human nature in general", to be distinguished from "human nature as modified in each historical period". The same distinction exists in Marx when he distinguishes between "constant" or "fixed" drives and "relative" drives. The constant drives "exist under all circumstances and ... can be changed by social conditions only as far as form and direction are concerned". The relative drives "owe their origin only to a certain type of social organization".
  • One social structure will be conducive to cooperation and solidarity another social structure to competition, suspiciousness, avarice; another to child-like receptiveness, another to destructive aggressiveness. All empirical forms or human needs and drives have to be understood as results of the social practice (in the last analysis based on the productive forces, class structure, etc., etc.) but they all have to fulfill the functions which are inherent in man’s nature in general, and that is to permit him to relate himself to others and share a common frame of reference, etc. The existential contradiction within man (to which I would now add also the contradiction between limitations which reality imposes on his life, and the virtually limitless imagination which his brain permits him to follow) is what I believe to be one of the motives of psychological and social dynamics. Man can never stand still. He must find solutions to this contradiction, and ever better solutions to the extent to which reality enables him.
    The question then arises whether there is an optimal solution which can be inferred from man’s nature, and which constitutes a potential tendency in man. I believe that such optimal solutions can be inferred from the nature of man, and I have recently found it quite useful to think in terms of what in sociology and economy is now often called »system analysis«. One might start with the idea, in the first place, that human personality — just like society — is a system, that is to say, that each part depends on every other, and no part can be changed unless all or most other parts are also changed. A system is better than chaos. If a society system disintegrates or is destroyed by blows from the outside the society ends in chaos, and a completely new society is built upon its ruins, often using the elements of the destroyed system to build the new. That has happened many times in history. But, what also happens is that the society is not simply destroyed but that the system is changed, and a new system emerges which can be considered to be a transformation of the old one.
  • I must also call your attention to the fact that it is crucial for my viewpoint that human behavior is to a large extent charged with a considerable amount of energy, but that in contrast to Freud I do not consider this energy to be sexual, but the vital energy within any organism which, according to biological laws, gives man the desire to live, and that means to adapt himself to the social necessities of his society. To go back to what I consider to be the misunderstanding, it has never been my position that society only deforms or manifests that which is already there. If we make the distinction between human necessities in general and human desires in particular then indeed, society creates particular desires which, however, follow the general laws of the necessities rooted in human nature.
  • The revolutionary and critical thinker is in a certain way always outside of his society while of course he is at the same time also in it. That he is in it is obvious, but why is he outside it? First, because he is not brainwashed by the ruling ideology, that is to say, he has an extraordinary kind of independence of thought and feeling; hence he can have a greater objectivity than the average person has. There are many emotional factors too. And certainly I do not mean to enter here into the complex problem of the revolutionary thinker. But it seems to me essential that in a certain sense he transcends his society. You may say he transcends it because of the new historical developments and possibilities he is aware of, while the majority still think in traditional terms.
  • What about the utopian thinkers of all ages, from the Prophets who had a vision of eternal peace, on through the Utopians of the Renaissance, etc.? Were they just dreamers? Or were they so deeply aware of new possibilities, of the changeability of social conditions, that they could visualize an entirely new form of social existence even though these new forms, as such, were not even potentially given in their own society? It is true that Marx wrote a great deal against utopian socialism, and so the term has a bad odor for many Marxists. But he is polemical against certain socialist schools which were, indeed, inferior to his system because of their lack of realism. In fact, I would say the less realistic basis for a vision of the uncrippled man and of a free society there is, the more is Utopia the only legitimate form of expressing hope. But they are not trans-historical as, for instance, is the Christian idea of the Last Judgment, etc. They are historical, but the product of rational imagination, rooted in an experience of what man is capable of and in a clear insight into the transitory character of previous and existing society.

The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1992)

  • “…the sick individual finds himself at home with all other similarly sick individuals. The whole culture is geared to this kind of pathology. The result is that the average individual does not experience the separateness and isolation the fully schizophrenic person feels. He feels at ease among those who suffer from the same deformation; in fact, it is the fully sane person who feels isolated in the insane society — and he may suffer so much from the incapacity to communicate that it is he who may become psychotic.”

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Erich Pinchas Fromm (March 23, 1900March 18, 1980) was an internationally renowned Jewish-German-American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, and humanistic philosopher. He was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory.

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