Erich Fromm’s ‘The Sane Society’

One of my favourite philosophical works is Erich Fromm’s 1955 tour de force ‘The Sane Society’…
These parts have always given me particular pause for thought:

 

“It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing whatsoever on reason or mental health. Just as there is a folie à deux there is a folie à millions. The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same mental pathology does not make these people sane.”

– Ch.2, Page 14

 

“Suppose that in our Western culture movies, radios, television, sports events and newspapers ceased to function for only four weeks. With these main avenues of escape closed, what would be the consequences for people thrown back upon their own resources? I have no doubt that even in this short time thousands of nervous breakdowns would occur, and many more thousands of people would be thrown into a state of acute anxiety, not different from the picture which is diagnosed clinically as “neurosis.” If the opiate against the socially patterned defect were withdrawn, the manifest illness would make its appearance.”

– Ch.2, Page 24

 

“The pace of science forces the pace of technique. Theoretical physics forces atomic energy on us; the successful production of the fission bomb forces upon us the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. We do not choose our problems, we do not choose our products; we are pushed, we are forced — by what? By a system which has no purpose and goal transcending it, and which makes man its appendix.”

Ch.5, Page 87

 

In a nutshell Fromm is asking to what degree might our rampant consumerism be based on a system that we believe we control, which in fact might actually control us? And if this is the case, what does it do to our collective mental health when even our most basic human desires are subservient to that system and perhaps in conflict with it?

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