THE ANATOMY OF HUMAN DESTRUCTIVENESS by Erich Fromm

THE ANATOMY OF HUMAN DESTRUCTIVENESS

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Hailed as an ""original and far-reaching contribution"" to psychoanalytic theory and social thought, this is Fromm's ambitious and rather complicated rebuttal of Lorenz' innate aggressive instinct, built upon an amended version of the Freudian dichotomy between Eros and Thanatos. Animals act by instinct but people have ""character-rooted passions,"" an inner map which mediates and is largely formed by physiology and the social environment, which can be either ""biophilic"" (""life-loving"") or necrophilic (""death-loving""); considered as a set they constitute a person's character. Aggressive acts can also be either life-serving and hence ""benign"" or death-serving, hence ""malignant""; while benign aggression is reactive, self-terminating and undertaken in defense of what is deemed to be a ""vital"" interest, malignant aggression aims at controlling others, destruction and cruelty for its own sake, for the pleasure the aggressor gets. In sane life-loving societies it would be recognized as the pathology that it is; malignant character-types like Stalin, Hitler and Himmler -- Fromm's models -- would be ""harmless"" because they wouldn't have a chance to come to power. But one might ask, is it possible to draw a line between these categories? Are passions such as unquestioning patriotism, greed, jealousy and vengeance less destructive to life because the damage done was not consciously or unconsciously intended? Don't we also need a set of standards by which we could decide what ""vital interests"" to defend? And if the same goals can be achieved by less aggressive means, how can such choices be encouraged? Fromm's latest book -- eclectic but. labyrinthine -- digs up the roots of man's pathology, but he has no life-promoting prescriptions beyond those offered in his earlier Escape From Freedom, The Sane Society and The Revolution of Hope.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1973
ISBN: 080501604X
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston