This prolific social psychologist and psychoanalyst, as well as a humanist philosopher, is one of the innovators of the psychoanalytic school of the twentieth century. His questioning of the interpretation of the theories of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud also forced its way out of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory; Fromm was then to raise a conception of psychoanalysis tied to Marxism. Far from any totalitarianism, Fromm says that humankind has been plunged into a fierce consumerism and has lost sight of their own self, identifying success and failure with material rather than spiritual possibilities, and living for the approval of others, to be accepted by the mass. To overcome this passivity and self-destruction, people should look within themselves, regain their learning and take back their souls.
A Jewish German (Frankfurt am Main, 1900), he studied Law in Frankfurt and Sociology in Heidelberg. Later on, he had to flee to the U.S. due the pressure of Nazi advance, and was one of the founding members of the School of Psychiatry of Washington, as well as a contributor to other institutions and a teacher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a country he moved to in the 50s.
Married three times, he was also a convinced defender of women’s rights. Out of his essential books, ‘The Heart of Man’, ‘The Art of Loving’, ‘Escape from Freedom’ or ‘The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness’. He died in Muralto (Switzerland) in 1979. His commmitted, high-level, lucid and erudite work, gives us interesting insights about the human dimension.
These days I have been revisiting some of his books and I would like to share some excerpts of his best known one, ‘The Art of Loving’. Here you are are:
“The only way to achieve full knowledge consists in the act of love.”
“Love is not the result of proper sexual satisfaction; on the contrary, sexual happiness –even the knowledge of sexual technique– is the result of loving.”
“The capacity of thinking is objectively right; the emotional attitude for reason is humility. Being objective, using of reason itself, it is only possible if one has reached an attitude of humility, if one has emerged from the dreams of omniscience and omnipotence of childhood.”
“Modern man thinks he loses something –time– when not acting quickly; however, they do not know what to do with the time –except killing it.”
“Education means helping the child to realize their potential. Side note: The root of the word education is e-ducere, literally to drive from, or to bring up something that potentially exists.”
“While for many, power is the most real of all things, mankind’s history has shown that the it is also the most unstable of all human achievements.”
“People capable of loving in the present system is perforce the exception; love is inevitably a marginal phenomenon in contemporary Western society.”
“Society must be organized so that the social and loving nature of man is not separated from his social existence, but is due to rejoin it. If this is true, as I have tried to show, love is the only satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence, then any society which excludes, relatively, the development of love, eventually perishes from its own contradiction with basic needs of human nature. Talking of love is not ‘preaching’, for the simple reason that it means to speak of the fundamental and real need of every human being. This need has been obscured, which does not mean it does not exist. Analyzing the nature of love is to discover its general absence in the present and to criticize the social conditions responsible for this absence. Having faith in the possibility of love as a social phenomenon and not just an exceptional and individual one, is to have a rational faith based on understanding the nature of man.”
Erich Fromm, as you can see, is more than ever a necessary author I invite you to know and to read.
All the best,
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