Fromm's Human Needs Theory - Essay Example

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“Searching for ‘The Sane Society’: Erich Fromm’s Contributions to Social Theory” examines Fromm’s social theory as laid out in The Sane Society. His theories are based on the need of productive activity, love, and self actualization. Instead of viewing human needs in…
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Fromms Human Needs Theory
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“Searching for ‘The Sane Society Erich Fromm’s Contributions to Social Theory” examines Fromm’s social theory as laid out in The Sane Society. His theories are based on the need of productive activity, love, and self actualization. Instead of viewing human needs in abstract form, Fromm believed these needs could be viewed through specific issues. These issues could be economic to political. The main idea is specific issues can address basic human needs. Fromm believed that in a capitalistic society these needs can not be met. Fromm wanted to change democratic capitalism into a communitarian socialism, which he believed would meet all of a human’s basic needs. The article shows how Fromm’s ideas could be beneficial today.
Brennen article “The Sane Society’: Erich Fromm’s Contributions to Social Theory” evaluates Fromm’s book The Sane Society. In The Sane Society, Fromm attacks Western capitalism and promotes a communitarian socialism. Fromm believed that without specific purposes like productivity and self actualization, humans are alienated and unhappy. Basing the foundation of his theory on Freud and Marx, he asserts that a communitarian socialism is the answers to the capitalism causing mental illness. Despite expanding on Freudian and Marxist thoughts, Fromm had criticism of both men’s ideas. In the end, this article suggests that Fromm’s views might have validity. This article explains Fromm’s theory on human based needs.
Fromm had written a book called Escape from Freedom. In this book Fromm explains the evil of totalitarian regimes. The reason Fromm gives for individuals following a leader in a totalitarian regime is free of freedom and security about one’s role in society. He goes on to explain the totalitarian regimes are evil due to the obliteration of individual rights. On the other hand, Brennen’s article suggests Fromm believes democratic nations give too much freedom. This theory was laid out in Fromm’s The Sane Society.
According to Fromm to be mentally healthy means working at a meaningful task, socializing during work, self actualization, and society working on specific issues together. Psychological issues should be considered of higher value than ownership or monetary concerns (Brennen 2006:8). This vision involves a communist type of government. Communitarian socialism is a government where all citizens contribute according to skills for the good of the community. This allows meaningful tasks can be completed, which in turn allows every citizen to achieve self actualization. Since everyone knows their place and job in this society, self actualization would not be hard to achieve. For example, a farmer knows their place in life is being a farmer. There is no pressure to become a doctor or lawyer. Even the pressure on politicians to fix specific problems such as the economic problems can be overcome, because specific issues are being addressed. Individuals would not feel alienation due to their own self actualization. This type of society would make people confident in their place.
Fromm disagreed with Freud and Marx about some of their theories. Fromm did not believe that “competition and mutual hostility are inherent human nature” as Freud asserted (Brennen 2006:9). According to Fromm, in a communitarian socialism competition would not be an issue and erase all mutual hostility in the end. Fromm also disagreed with Marx’s theory of the “assumption that the natural goodness of human beings would emerge once they were released from their ’crippling economic shackles.’” (Brennen 2006:9). Fromm was aware that humans were not always good, but felt if new society gave them mental sanity, then this society would be worth working for.
Fromm’s theories are outdated according to Brennen (2006:12-13), but can be applied today affectively. However true, Fromm’s communitarian socialism never came about. When writing his theory of human needs, Fromm lived in the United States. The very society that he faulted allowed him to express his views freely. Fromm was also as naïve as Freud and Marx. The problem all three men had was the generalization of human behavior. Humans do have certain similar characteristics. Emotions, food consumption, and other needs are similar, but each individual is unique to themselves. By generalizing all humans into a big picture, the uniqueness of each individual life is lost. Even in a communitarian socialism, mental illness could exist. Societal norms cannot erase all mental illness by meeting human needs. This fact, the uniqueness of individuals, and democracy have made Fromm’s theory of needs outdated.
Brennen, B. (2006). Searching for ’the sane society’: Erich Fromm”s contributions to social theory. Javnost-the public. Vol. 13(3):7-16. Read More
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