Erich Seligmann Fromm (23 March 1900 – 18 March 1980) was a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory.
- See also:
- The Sane Society (1955).
- 1 Quotes
- 2 Quotes about Erich Fromm
- 3 External links
- 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.
- Human history began with an act of disobedience, and it is not unlikely that it will be terminated by an act of obedience.
- "Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem" in On Disobedience and Other Essays (1981).
- 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.
- Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (1956), p. 100–101.
- 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).
- His concept of the anal character as one that has not reached maturity is in fact a sharp criticism of bourgeois society of the nineteenth century, in which the qualities of the anal character constituted the norm for moral behavior.
- "To Have or to Be?" (2005) page 68.
Escape from Freedom (1941)
- 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
- 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 Art of Loving (1956)
- 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.
- 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 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)
- 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 (1973)
- People have committed suicide because of their failure to realize the passions for love, power, fame, revenge. Cases of suicide because of a lack of sexual satisfaction are virtually nonexistent.
- p. 30.
- Psychoanalysis is essentially a theory of unconscious strivings, of resistance, of falsification of reality according to one's subjective needs and expectations.
- p. 109.
- The existential split in man would be unbearable could he not establish a sense of unity within himself and with the natural and human world outside.
- p. 262.
- Neurosis can be understood best as the battle between tendencies within an individual; deep character analysis leads, if successful, to the progressive solution.
- p. 264.
- Chronic boredom — compensated or uncompensated — constitutes one of the major psychopathological phenomena in contemporary technotronic society, although it is only recently that it has found some recognition.
- p. 273.
- 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. In the context of this study the crucial question is whether the hypothesis of a quasi-autistic or of low-grade schizophrenic disturbance would help us to explain some of the violence spreading today.
- p. 395.
- Exploitation and manipulation produce boredom and triviality; they cripple man, and all factors that make man into a psychic cripple turn him also into a sadist or a destroyer. This position will be characterized by some as "overoptimistic," "utopian," or "unrealistic." In order to appreciate the merits of such criticism a discussion of the ambiguity of hope and the nature of optimism and pessimism seems called for.
- p. 483.
- Optimism is an alienated form of faith, pessimism an alienated form of despair. If one truly responds to man and his future, ie, concernedly and "responsibly." one can respond only by faith or by despair. Rational faith as well as rational despair are based on the most thorough, critical knowledge of all the factors that are relevant for the survival of man.
- p. 483.
Quotes about Erich Fromm
- Fromm revives all the time-honored values of idealistic ethics as if nobody had ever demonstrated their conformist and repressive features. He speaks of the productive realization of the personality, of care, responsibility, and respect for one’s fellow men, of productive love and happiness – as if man could actually practice all this and still remain sane and full of “well-being” in a society which Fromm himself describes as one of total alienation, dominated by the commodity relations of the “market.” In such a society, the self-realization of the “personality” can proceed only on the basis of a double repression: first, the “purification” of the pleasure principle and the internalization of happiness and freedom; second, their reasonable restriction until they become compatible with the prevailing unfreedom and unhappiness. As a result, productiveness, love, responsibility become “values” only in so far as they contain manageable resignation and are practiced within the framework of socially useful activities (in other words, after repressive sublimation); and then they involve the effective denial of free productiveness and responsibility.
- Herbert Marcuse, “Critique of Neo-Freudian Revisionism,” Eros and Civilization (1955).