I read this in The Guardian today;
The late philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in the 50s that if prevailing trends that put economic production before human engagement continued, we would all eventually occupy a dangerously unbalanced society, peopled by alienated individuals living atomised existences, lacking in empathy, quick to judge because judgment by others is always anticipated, equipped with “the greatest material power without the wisdom to use it”. What might halt the march to misery, he argued idealistically in The Sane Society, was sharing experience, living by “love, reason and faith”.
Very prescient. In the UK our morally bankrupt government is attempting to buy it’s way out of a triple dip recession using a combination of benefits cuts to the poorest and tax cuts to the Corporations whose greed led us into this mess in the first place.
Fromm was a Jew who grew up in Germany, before the rise of Nazism forced him to flee. His writings often struggle with the reality of what world war and genocide can teach us about the development of humanity. He proposed a list of eight basic needs that we all have in order to live a fulfilled life;
Relatedness Relationships with others, care, respect, knowledge.
Transcendence Being thrown into the world without their consent, humans have to transcend their nature by destroying or creating people or things. Humans can destroy through malignant aggression, or killing for reasons other than survival, but they can also create and care about their creations.
Rootedness Rootedness is the need to establish roots and to feel at home again in the world. Productively, rootedness enables us to grow beyond the security of our mother and establish ties with the outside world. With the nonproductive strategy, we become fixated and afraid to move beyond the security and safety of our mother or a mother substitute.
Sense of Identity The drive for a sense of identity is expressed nonproductively as conformity to a group and productively as individuality.
Frame of orientation Understanding the world and our place in it.
Excitation and Stimulation Actively striving for a goal rather than simply responding.
Unity A sense of oneness between one person and the “natural and human world outside.”
Effectiveness The need to feel accomplished.
If he is right, how do we achieve these things in a society captured by commercialism and disembodied lifestyles?
Fromm was a Socialist humanist who nevertheless also said this;
In the nineteenth century the problem was that God is dead; in the twentieth century the problem is that man is dead.