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Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 09:48 AM

13. Erich Fromm

Marx's Concept of Man

online at

http://www.marxists.org/archive/fromm/works/1961/man/index.htm

It is one of the peculiar ironies of history that there are no limits to the misunderstanding and distortion of theories, even in an age when there is unlimited access to the sources; there is no more drastic example of this phenomenon than what has happened to the theory of Karl Marx in the last few decades. There is continuous reference to Marx and to Marxism in the press, in the speeches of politicians, in books and articles written by respectable social scientists and philosophers; yet with few exceptions, it seems that the politicians and newspapermen have never as much as glanced at a line written by Marx, and that the social scientists are satisfied with a minimal knowledge of Marx. Apparently they feel safe in acting as experts in this field, since nobody with power and status in the social-research empire challenges their ignorant statements.[1]

Among all the misunderstandings there is probably none more widespread than the idea of Marx's "materialism." Marx is supposed to have believed that the paramount psychological motive in man is his wish for monetary gain and comfort, and that this striving for maximum profit constitutes the main incentive in his personal life and in the life of the human race. Complementary to this idea is the equally widespread assumption that Marx neglected the importance of the individual; that he had neither respect nor understanding for the spiritual needs of man, and that his "ideal" was the well-fed and wellclad, but "soulless" person. Marx's criticism of religion was held to be identical with the denial of all spiritual values, and this seemed all the more apparent to those who assume that belief in God is the condition for a spiritual orientation.

This view of Marx then goes on to discuss his socialist paradise as one of millions of people who submit to an all-powerful state bureaucracy, people who have surrendered their freedom, even though they might have achieved equality; these materially satisfied "individuals" have lost their individuality and have been successfully transformed into millions of uniform robots and automatons, led by a small elite of better-fed leaders.

Suffice it to say at the outset that this popular picture of Marx's "materialism" -- his anti-spiritual tendency, his wish for uniformity and subordination -- is utterly false. Marx's aim was that of the spiritual emancipation of man, of his liberation from the chains of economic determination, of restituting him in his human wholeness, of enabling him to find unity and harmony with his fellow man and with nature. Marx's philosophy was, in secular, nontheistic language, a new and radical step forward in the tradition of prophetic Messianism; it was aimed at the full realization of individualism, the very aim which has guided Western thinking from the Renaissance and the Reformation far into the nineteenth century.

Also from Fromm, The Sane Society

http://www.amazon.com/Sane-Society-International-Library-Sociology/dp/0415605865/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324048972&sr=8-1

First published in 1956, "The Sane Society" is widely recognized as being one of the most powerful and eloquent explorations of the human condition in modern society. Fromm argues that modern society subjects humans to continuous disenchantment from the world which they created. People in modern society are estranged from other people, from the objects which they produce and consume, from their government and from themselves. Capitalism has produced "the manipulated personality". To allow present trends to continue unchecked will result, Fromm contends, in an insane society in which alienation is the order of the day. Rejecting the options of both capitalism and communism, Fromm discusses a third way of exploring things. He writes of a form of organization in which no individual is a means towards another's ends, where the well-being of individuals is the focus of society, and where personal growth complements economic growth. Fromm presents a complete outline of the concept of humanistic psychoanalysis, and charts the paths which can divert us from the tendency to robotism. He looks forward to "the sane society" in which individuals are productive, healthy and responsible. This book should be of interest to students of sociology and psychology.

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