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To Have or to Be? by Erich Fromm

To Have or to Be? (1976)

by Erich Fromm

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: World Perspectives (50)

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English (7)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Excerpts from my original GR review (Aug 2011):
- Written in 1976,..this book delineates and attempts to explain what Fromm considers are two fundamental states of being in today's industrialized and consumer-driven society: the having mode, represented by acquisitiveness, power, selfishness - a virtual mindset of entitlement..; and the being mode, exemplified by experiencing life, sharing, loving, etc. The author lays out the problem of uninhibited consumption and greed as a serious threat to the ongoing viability of our society.
- Fromm draws many of his thoughts, as discussed in the book, from earlier thinkers, such as the German theologian Master Eckhart (1260- c. 1327), whose views of having came from his sermon on Mathew: "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". He also echoes some of the philosophies of Marx, who asks, "what is more preferable, wealth or life?" Sigmund Freud, whom Fromm championed at one time but later maligned, goes so far as to claim, as Fromm writes, "the person exclusively concerned with having and possessing is a neurotic, mentally sick person."
- There are many points to ponder here. One that caught my attention was his claim that the elements of antagonism and competition existing between individuals can be equally applied to relations between nations. In effect, he says periods of peace are only transitory, for, "as long as nations are composed of people whose main motivation is having and greed, they cannot help waging war...The idea that one can build peace while encouraging and striving for possession and profit is an illusion.."
- Fromm, aside from philosophical dictates, was a political psychologist and ethicist, and authored many books, so he knew how to simplify his message for the casual reader it seems. To me, the weakest section of this book, by far, was the latest two chapters, where he proposes a "new era" and a "new man", which begins to sound utopian, and even tyrannical. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Aug 2, 2018 |
Favourite quotes:
Pg. 95: The powers of reason, of love, of artistic and intellectual creation, all essential powers grow through the process of being expressed. What is spent is not lost, but on the contrary, what is kept is lost.
Pg. 108: Death does not concern us Epicurus said, since while we are, death is not yet here,; but when death is here we are no more.(Diogenes Laertius)
Pg. 158: By participating in the community, people find life becomes more interesting and stimulating.Indeed, a true political democracy can be described as one in which life is just that, interesting.
Pg. 165: The guaranteed yearly income would ensure real freedom and independence. For that reason, it is unacceptable for to any system based on exploitation and control, particularly the various forms of dictatorship. ( )
  flydodofly | Nov 9, 2017 |
I saw this book in the secondhand shop in Sharrow and didn't buy it. Then yesterday I cycled down to say goodbye to the Greek man selling his gift shop and to buy a lunch in the Sharrow Marrow and after locking up the bike I went back into the book shop and bought this book after all. I read some in the cafe spilling tea on its early pages then I biked through Endcliffe Park and got off the bike, sat on the grass and read some more. When I got home I read some more. All the time thinking - he wrote this in the seventies and yet it is fresh and speaks to us from the author's grave. No higher praise than this. ( )
  adrianburke | Aug 7, 2014 |
Attualmente è il libro che più mia ha colpito e cambiato. Semplice e tecnico allo stesso istante,Fromm promuove una concezione della vita,e dei valori che ne concerne, nuova, oserei rivoluzionaria. Rigetta con eleganza i capisaldi delle società edonistiche coltivando nel cuore del lettore il sentimento più sincero e onesto,avvicinandolo all'utopia in realtà possibile. ( )
  Pemo | Aug 7, 2013 |
Fromm states that people in our society have become obsessed with acquiring property, keeping it and increasing it. People become property to be owned and used. He rejects the ideas of the enlightenment and those thinkers who believe people can live freely and trade with one another maintaining a respect for each other through sharing mutual values. His views about people seem to stem from a static view of power rather than a dynamic view of the possibilities for individuals who choose to live a flourishing life. He claims that humans have a deeply rooted desire to express themselves, yet he does not explain the apparent contradiction between this view and the social structure that forces people to have rather than to be. Joy is experienced through productive behavior which, for Fromm often ends in sadness. It was disappointing to read a book that was contradictory on so many levels. ( )
  jwhenderson | May 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erich Frommprimary authorall editionscalculated
Saba Sardi, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Way to do is to be. [Lao-tse]
People should not consider so much what they are to do, as what they are. [Meister Eckhart]
The less you are and the less you express of your life - the more you have and the greater is your alientated life. [Karl Marx]
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The Great Promise of Unlimited Progress - the promise of domination of nature, of material abundance, of the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and of unimpeded personal freedom - has sustained the hopes and faith of the generations since the beginning of the industrial age.
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Erich Fromm's groundbreaking examination of an age-old question, and a stunning look at how to pursue a life with purpose and meaning Life in the modern age began when people no longer lived at the mercy of nature and instead took control of it. We planted crops so we didn't have to forage, and produced planes, trains, and cars for transport. With televisions and computers, we don't have to leave home to see the world. Somewhere in that process, the natural tendency of humankind went from one of being and of practicing our own human abilities and powers, to one of having by possessing objects and using tools that replace our own powers to think, feel, and act independently. Fromm argues that positive change-both social and economic-will come from being, loving, and sharing. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Erich Fromm including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author's estate.… (more)

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