Monday, December 21, 2015

To Have or To Be - Erich Fromm

This one has been on my TBR (To Be Read) list for a long time, I'm sure it was a recommendation from one of the blogs I follow on simplicity or finances.

The original text was written in 1976 and this version was published in 1997 as part of the World Perspective Series.

Fromm's thesis is that if we understand the difference between having and being we will see the advantages of simplicity and realize spiritual wealth.  He begins with illustrating how the idea of possession has crept into our language (example - "I have a problem" instead of "I am troubled") and leads to alienation from who we are.

"The attitude inherent in consumerism is that of swallowing the whole world.  The consumer is the eternal suckling crying for the bottle".

He suggests that reading a novel can be done in the mode of having or being and when read in the being mode the reader "enhances their knowledge and deepens their insight into human nature or gains knowledge about themselves".

He explains that in the being mode "private having (private property) has little affective importance, because I do not need to own something in order to enjoy it or even in order to use it" Sharing creates "one of the deepest forms of human happiness: shared enjoyment".

He contrasts pleasure and joy with joy being "not the ecstatic fire of the moment...but the glow that accompanies being".

He suggests that "most consumption engenders passivity; that the need for speed and newness, which can only be satisfied by consumerism, reflects restlessness, the inner flight from oneself...that looking for the next thing to do or the newest gadget to use is only a means of protecting oneself from being close to oneself or to another person".

The book is complex, addressing not only the individual but society and government.  Definitely food for thought.

Published: 1976  Read: December 2015  Genre: Philosophy, Sociology

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