The Sane Society…


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.

4 thoughts on “The Sane Society…

    • Good old Maslow… and yes, Human Givens has a rather similar list doesn’t it? (From Wikipedia;)

      The basic assumptions of the Human Givens approach are that humans have evolved innate physical and emotional needs called ‘human givens’. Human beings instinctively seek to meet these needs in their environment. When a person’s innate needs are met in the environment, he or she will flourish. When these needs are not met in a balanced way, mental distress results. The focus of the therapy is the discovery and rectification of any blocks to these needs being met. The emotional needs include:
      Security – safe territory and an environment which allows full maturity and development
      Attention (to give and receive it) – a form of “mental nutrition”
      Sense of autonomy and control – having volition to make responsible choices
      Being emotionally connected to others
      Feeling part of a wider community
      Friendship and intimacy with someone who is accepting of the total person, flaws included
      Privacy – opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
      Sense of status within social groupings
      Sense of competence and achievement
      Meaning and purpose

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