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ON BEING HUMAN by Erich Fromm


By Erich Fromm

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1994
ISBN: 0-8264-0576-2
Publisher: Continuum

Posthumous gathering of thoughts by the late socialist/humanist of The Art of Loving, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, etc.

Fromm (1900-80), a German psychoanalyst who came to the US in 1934 and lectured at Columbia, Yale, Bennington, Michigan State, and NYU while publishing books on Western man facing his own alienation, wrote most of these formerly uncollected pieces, or delivered them off the cuff, during the 60's and 70's. Most of them circle around a common thought: alienation as a disease of modern man and the need for a humanist socialism "as distinct from existing capitalism as from the falsification of socialism that Soviet communism calls itself.'' How can a call for "a new humanism as a condition for one world'' (as one piece herein is entitled by the book's editor, Rainer Funk) be answered by that creature whom Fromm describes as so utterly alienated by his fixation on "things'' and "having'' and by his blind eye to "being''? To locate some possible firm ground on which to begin building this new humanist/socialist, Fromm digs into unlikely places and finds a humanist bond between the concepts of man in Karl Marx and the treatises and sermons of the medieval German Catholic mystic Meister Eckhart. Both writers focused on poverty and "having'' and "being'' for their visions of man's social possibilities. Like Marx, Fromm says, "Eckhart denounces the property structure of existence as the evil that stands in the way of man's freedom, his aliveness, his finding himself.'' Some of this reads like a period piece, hinging as it does on our postwar Big Bomb anxieties and on depression flooding from the cold war- -decades of bad feelings that still abound but are fading into new horrors.

Fromm's large, keen mind and attractive, likable voice strives for heart as he asks himself the hardest questions of his day.