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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of Fromm's social psychological analysis
Dont know who choose the cover art for this, I think its supposed to be cardboard packing case or box with peeling red tape but its the only bad thing about this book.

OK, the book comes complete with contents and index, the index is great and makes the book very accessible to anyone flicking through it or using it as a reference when studying, the contents are...
Published on 18 Sep 2008 by Lark

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4 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neo Marxist Insanity
Like many neo-Marxists Eric Fromm was a victim of intellectual schizophrenia, basing his social analysis on Marxist theory while denying the correlation between the theory of freedom he discerned from Marx's early writings and the totalitarian practice of Soviet Communism. This is particularly clear in The Sane Society in which Fromm claims to provide an psychological...
Published on 10 Dec 2009 by Neutral


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of Fromm's social psychological analysis, 18 Sep 2008
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Sane Society (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
Dont know who choose the cover art for this, I think its supposed to be cardboard packing case or box with peeling red tape but its the only bad thing about this book.

OK, the book comes complete with contents and index, the index is great and makes the book very accessible to anyone flicking through it or using it as a reference when studying, the contents are very clearly laid out too. This is characteristic of a lot of Fromm's writing and why he's been popular with the reading public aswell as professionals and academia.

The book begins with a foreword by Fromm and a later foreword in which, interestingly, he counsells against any reader taking too literal or dogmatic a view of the chapters which, broadly speaking, could be considered "prescriptive".

Specifically he addresses how readers have considered his positive appraisal of workers communities in France as the last word in humanising peoples working lives. Would that other authors would seek to incalcate a similar perspective in their readership but then Fromm was always pretty big on personal responsibility and not permitting anyone a back door to escape from it.

This edition has a lengthy introduction by David Ingleby which incorporates a biographical sketch, a synopsis of the argument of the Sane Society, a critical commentary on Fromm's argument, which largely deals with whether or not Fromm is a moralist, modernism and postmodernism (its embarrassing how dated postmodernism appears in the relatively short space of time since it came to prominence) and finally the significance of Fromm's work today.

Ingleby's introduction is broadly sympathetic and the finer points of whether Fromm's argument is objective, dealing with universal truths or a moral perspective from within psychological narrative, I suspect, wont trouble anyone reading the book too much.

Fromm opens the book with a chapter asking the rhetorical question of whether or not "we" are sane, considering how that conclusion is reached traditionally, then goes on to consider, in the second chapter, if an entire society can be sick and what the pathology of normalcy is (this develops themes of social character, a product of culture, social processes and interaction developed in The Fear of Freedom and Man For Himself, which another reviewer has rightly suggested form a trilgoy with this book).

The next chapter focuses upon the Human Situation, as the key to humanistic psychoanalysis and deals expertly with needs as they stem from the conditions of existence. This chapter contains some familiar characterology from Fromm, his alternative and revisionist Freudian perspective is very clear, as is the influence of enlightenment, marxist and other perspectives of "human nature".

The central argument of which is that a fundamental need of humankind is that of relatedness, to the natural world, work and others and that the emancipation of humankind from the chronic shortages and hardships of earlier epoches, ie through developments in means of production and productive practices, have been a kind of false dawn or false awakening. Primary bonds have been desolved without anything really substantive taking their place.

The central nature of relatedness to Fromm's analysis is similar to that of Karen Horney's ideas in her book Our Inner Conflicts and I'd highly recommend that book also to anyone interested in Fromm but Fromm develops this theory further considering not simply the individual's relatedness to others but, importantly, their relatedness to their work, environment, community.

For instance being unrelated to and alienated from their work, Fromm suggests, individuals will, rich or poor, be tempted to achieve a state, which they can never be truly happy with, of "womb like" satisfaction, ie devoid of effort, simply existing.

The next chapters deal with mental health and society and then what Fromm considers the pathology of capitalistic society, there's a balanced consideration of alternative "diagnosis" and then various answers, one of which Fromm describes as "super-capitalism" and which should be familiar to contemporary readers as the sort of market populism of free marketeers revitalised in the eighties.

From description Fromm then moves to prescription in his final chapter Roads to Sanity, this is a very short chapter and as I have already stated Fromm's suggestions are qualified but it has still lead people with a shallow interest or understanding of Fromm to criticise him as a fatally conceited socialist.

Nothing could be further from the truth, I think its fair that you could say that you believe Fromm is correct in description but not prescription if you are opposed to socialism in any shape, however Fromm's perspective on socialism is highly unique and, I would argue, ground breaking even today. Fromm considers socialism as a problem, giving careful consideration to the failings of both totalitarian and parliamentary socialists policies, outlines in principle what he describes as communitarian socialism, gives space to objections, motivation and then practical suggestions.

In the end Fromm's perspective is very radical, he judges capitalism and socialism to be wanting, not because of their success or failure in creating abundance but in their success or failure in overcoming social malaise, angst and alienation.

Fromm considers economic, political and cultural transformation to be necessary to promote mental health (this analysis is reflected in some ways in contemporary social work theory surrounding anti-discriminatory or anti-oppressive practice and the personal, cultural and structural nature of oppression).

This is a very readable book on a pretty comprehensive topic or field of research, Fromm ranges across a number of disciplines politics, psychology, sociology, history, even theology (which lead to his being shunned by them all) but never in a way that's dull or likely to put of the average reader. I recommend it to everyone but especially for anyone who is really interested in developing a kind of "matrix like" insight into individual and social issues.

If you liked this book check out Surplus Powerlessness by Michael Lerner.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 anyone interested in the mind and how society influences it., 25 July 2007
This review is from: The Sane Society (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
The Sane Society is the ultimate realisation of all the ideas of Eric Fromm. After his brilliant work Fear of Freedom, he takes both his psycholigal insights and his political speculation one step further. What is unique to Fromm is his wide canvas, this sprawling work begins with psychology, then moves to sociology and then ends up with politics. Highlighted throughout like alot of his work is the interlinking of all these areas. Most intellectuals see these various different strands as exclusive whereas Fromm shows how psychology, sociology, politics etc all connect and influence each other.
His politics are interesting as he falls into a small group of thinkers including Bertrand Russell who are liberal socialist, in Fromm's case verging on libertarian socialist. He makes very interesting critiques of both soviet style socialism and capitalism and unlike many people shows that they both fail to fullfill the needs of the individual in society and are equally alienating.
This like the rest of Fromm's work is unique in providing a genre that is rare, social psychology. He neither totally adhered to his mentor Freud nor threw away all his ideas; especially in the opening chapters he utilised the best of Freud's ideas and developed them.
It is better to read his other earlier works first before attempting this as Man For Himself, Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society form a trillogy in my opinion. Each one developes from the last and builds up his ideas. Sain Society is far more complex than his previous works, well in comparison, also its quite chunky so start with something shorter. Anyway enough waffling, go and read some Dr. Fromm!
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brillian and creative analysis with possible solutions, 21 April 2007
By 
Frank Bierbrauer (Manchester, Lancashire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Sane Society (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
I had heard of Erich Fromm for some time but had not read any of his work and then decided I should have a look and see what all the fuss was about. To say the least Fromm does an excellent job of attempting a critique of modern society whether it be western capitalism or eastern communism. He considers the question: is current society sane ? He concludes no and pushes aside the claims of most psychologists that a sane member of society is one who can adjust himself/herself to it. Naturally such a claim means that society itself must be sane. Fromm instead supposes that there are other more objective measures of sanity than the society one is a part of. Such measures were considered by Freud early in the 20th century and led to his idea of the libido which unless satisfied produces insanity and neuroses. Fromm himself studied under Freud in psychoanalysis but came to the conclusion that Freud's ideas, although basically correct in their aims, incorrectly based all of man's behaviour on the libido.

Instead Fromm analyses current society, circa 1950's, on the basis of human nature which arises from the human condition, his whole existence. Fromm finds that man has, over the centuries, removed himself from nature (the metaphor of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden) which formed for him the womb and the spiritual connection needed by him. Instead man developed his own world which was formed through the creation of villages and towns and agriculture and some independence from nature as the provider and sustainer. The eventual extreme aspects of this alienation are found in both communism and capitalism as seen today where the individual no longer feels a relatedness to others in the society, an alienation which itself can lead to insanity. The fact that people are capital and not "people" anymore and that their work becomes capital as well which can be interchanged with other forms of capital which have no human base produces ill health and a mentally ill society. This also applies to communism except with the addition of enforced governmental structures. Fromm notes how sanity can only be achieved through changes in all aspects of the human condition at once rather than piecemeal attempts. That is his economical, political, spiritual and social needs must be satisfied at the same time. He contrasts earlier centuries to the modern one and how a capitalistic view imposes uniformity even under the illusion of individuality.

From attempts some way out of this crisis through what he calls "communitarian socialism" which applies directly and concretely to an individual's present circumstances. Fromm is widely read and never forgets to note the important authors who led the way before him. Similarly he is knowledgable in surveys and studies over the years concerning attempts at an improvement of the human condition applied in industry by others. It is the satisfaction of human needs in the present circumstances which lie on the road to a better society not who controls the means of production.

Unfortunately after a detailed and brilliant analysis of society Fromm does not spend anywhere near the same amount of time in the resolution of its problems. In the second last chapter, about 70 pages of a total of 360, he attempts it. One feels that he never quite finished this chapter and that he had much more to say, or rather there was much he mentioned briefly but did not analyse deeply enough. He did not discuss the problems which could arise in these solutions as they are implemented. This is disappointing.

Nonetheless, simply for a deep and insightful analysis of society and human nature Fromm cannot be faulted. The book is a must read for these reasons alone. It is unfortunate his ideas were never put into practice. Society continues in its march towards insanity as the capitalist ideal is approached and people are more and more dehumanised. No wonder such massive problems exist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pick the Lock, 17 July 2011
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Sane Society (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
Fromm pricks the pretensions of those who reify capitalist production as the pinnacle of human achievement. This follows on from the Nietszchean dictum around mental health being rare in individuals and common in epochs. The premise of the book rests upon the forms of social organisation that have arisone and the general feeling of malaise that arise from how it has been constructed.

Prescient, as this was written in 1955 and still holds relevance within the 21st century. Whereas Marxism bases itself primarily on economics, especially the latter part of Marx, Fromm takes another stance and bases himself on the earlier philosphical Marxist humanism, based upon emotions.

In particular the emotional discourses sublimated by capitalism in its need to unlock the key to nature, are brought to life. The effect of this sublimation, Fromm postulates, is that material needs have been met but a yawning chasm of emotional emptiness. This is an existential chasm of meaning that has opened up and then cluttered with "things" as recompense. Man has divorced himself from nature and created a hierarchical society, in which each individual is asked to sacrifice his emtoional self for the greater good.

The whole edifice rests upon the inculcation of competitiveness as the early emotions of love and connection are perceived as weaknesses. This split between the ties of emotional connection and perceiving others as pawns creates a societal schizophrenia that becomes embedded within a "natural" order. Captitalism creates an emotional schizophrenia.

The book is his attempt to reformulate capitalism as a mental health project. When the taps were turned on during the war, the red scare was in full swing in the USA. The old forms of mutuality forged in war were disappearing. Fromm was issuing a warning about the direction of capitalism. The key issue is alienation, inculcated from an early age. This becomes the template for the later all consuming, self medicating, alienated worker.

Bureaucracy is the burden placed upon the worker as he is objectified into a thing. He is taught and instruced to become an object and to inflict this form of anti social message, not just on himself but those around him. This is the central conflict within the book that Fromm analyses.

This entails the worker playing various roles according to which social situation he finds himself in. The result is a feeling of never being yourself, trapped within various expectations and duties but always thought of, as a "thing," rather than as a person. This objectification mirrors the other objects displayed in shop windows; everything becomes a commodity within a land of plenty.

Therefore the programme of living and inhabiting an authentic life is the key issue. The book posits a number of answers to the central question in the latter chapters. The notion of making work interesting rather than a drudge is a key organisational issue he investigates. Currently there is a huge swathe of ennui rolling across those in work, as they hang onto their jobs during a recession.

Fromm highlights other organisational forms other than bullying. This book opens up a wide door to all forms of debate. The lock however has barely been picked.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant and though provoking., 11 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Sane Society (Kindle Edition)
I have been a fan of Erich Fromm almost since I could read. He writes in a clear easy to follow style but leads you to understand complex relationships and social connections and how they impact on individual feelings of self worth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and Important, 26 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Sane Society (Kindle Edition)
I originally read this book several years ago after my flatmates rescued a tattered 1970s edition from a wheelie bin in Edinburgh. From the opening paragraphs it gripped me almost like a novel and I am so pleased there is now an edition on Kindle so that I can take it with me everywhere.

The text itself is a classic. In it Fromm explains several ways in which modern, western society operates in a fashion that could be legitimately claimed to be 'insane' (and even, on occasion, 'pathological'). Despite the apparent strength of this claim, this is not, fortunately, another flaming tirade about the corruption and ills of modern society, but rather a careful and considered analysis from a leading psychoanalyst of his day. It is also notable for being one of the rare instances where such a book dares to propose solutions as well as simply identifying problems.

Fromm's style of writing is also praiseworthy. For the general reader this is most definitely an academic book filled with challenging concepts and ideas, but Fromm (most of the time) manages to engage the reader without ever slipping into the light and familiar tone of so many pop-psychology books published today. He treats the reader as neither an expert nor an idiot, but as what his book tells us man should be: a thoughtful and curious creature, engaged with his world and surroundings.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Fromm... Swift Intellect.. Master of Word... True Artist-Philosopher, 12 Oct 2012
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This review is from: The Sane Society (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
There is something special about Fromm's style. I read his Fear of Freedom, The Art of Loving (which by the way is absolutely beautiful)and now I've been several pages through The Sane Society.
First of all Fromm is not a system creator, he is not a Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud type of man - he did not create great 'philosophy'. So as such there is no system. Fromm is foremost a magnificent individual-observer characterised by personal subjectivity which has reached a level of profound universality and objectivity in the sphere of ethics and morals (if such objectivity is possible).
He is mainly criticising modern consummerist/capitalist society, for example, accusing modern man of inability to meaningfully manage his own time, to create and to judge 'value'. One must remember that Fromm sees the man and society from his own point of view, i.e. from perspective of increadibly talented writer, a moralist and magnificent intellectualist. This is the view an average man and often well educated men with no moralist/artistic background will never have of their own, unless similar depth of thinking and human vision of the man is suggested to them from outside. This is the power of Fromm. He suggest to the reader things that the reader had never dreamed of, and being vulnerable to that vision, the reader will be confused, surprise and often convinced. The effect which we get as a consequence is that either 1) the world really is the way how Fromm describes it, or 2) what Fromm says is so confincing and powerful that it affects our perception of the world and we accept it to be possible or true.
Most importantly, and this is his greatest strength, Fromm is not scientific but imaginative. He is not a positivist who suffering lack of intellect and creativity came up with boring research, gathered loads of data and typed up a dry list of findings continuously repeating them across 100 pages. No, Fromm is a living spirit and an intellectual force. In his case how he says things is as much if not more important than what he says - his style makes him a true genius of literature (rather than philosophy or psychology). I write myself, Ive read many great novels and texts in philosophy, and I must say that there are not many artists who could write sentences and short paragraphs as great and breath taking as those one finds in Fromm... his books are full of such little gems...
I recommend Fromm especially to young philosophers and literature students; as well as those who seek literature written by great intellectualist who had writing genius and simplicity of expression in many respects matching if not surpassing genius of artists like Plato...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 15 July 2013
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This review is from: The Sane Society (Kindle Edition)
This is a great read and a really thought provoking book. Enjoyed it enormously. Helps us remember that just because things are a certain way, doesnt mean that's the best way.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed my life, 15 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Sane Society (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
Set me on a path to better understand the world and maybe just maybe help improve it. Absolute must read!!!
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4 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neo Marxist Insanity, 10 Dec 2009
By 
Neutral "Phil" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sane Society (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
Like many neo-Marxists Eric Fromm was a victim of intellectual schizophrenia, basing his social analysis on Marxist theory while denying the correlation between the theory of freedom he discerned from Marx's early writings and the totalitarian practice of Soviet Communism. This is particularly clear in The Sane Society in which Fromm claims to provide an psychological analysis while actually writing a manifesto for the socialist humanism in which he mistakenly believed. In essence, Fromm was the continental version of Evan Durbin's Democratic Socialism with each author characterised by the same cultural differences which separates continental and British philosophy.

Fromm's earlier thesis, The Fear of Freedom, postulated that "totalitarian movements appealed to a deep-seated craving to escape from the freedom man had achieved in the modern world; that modern man, free from medieval ties, was not free to build a meaningful life based on reason and love, hence sought new security in submission to a leader, race or state." In The Sane Society Fromm used Marx's theory of alienation to suggest society was prevented from fulfilling its destiny by the false consciousness that passed for the social values of the ruling elite. The populace as a whole had not grasped the revolutionary opportunities open to them, thwarting the all singing, all dancing socialist utopia Fromm envisaged, and must therefore be insane by virtue of "mental health" deficiency.

This "mental health" problem was measured by examining suicides rates, destructive acts (homicide and suicide) and alcoholism statistics in which Denmark, Switzerland, Finland and the United States were prominent. Even allowing for the limited availability of statistics those which Fromm produced were hopelessly inaccurate while contemporary suicide statistics show that eight of the top ten countries were part of the old Soviet Union. By contrast seven of the top ten places for homicides are now occupied by countries in central America.

Although Fromm and Freud used similar objective measurements Fromm disagreed with the sexual imperative explicit in Freud and sought refuge in proclaiming the evils of "robotism." However, man's alienation from himself, which Fromm traced to monotheistic religion, was little more than a restatement of Ludwig Feuerbach's critique of Christianity, in which mankind was portrayed as deprived of his essential humanity by the pursuit of psychological fulfilment in the external loving of gods and other humans. As an explanation of reality Fromm's analysis was unrealistic.

Fromm sought to refashion Marxism in the form of a critique of the two superpowers for whom the balance of power was determined by the threat of nuclear war. Like the rest of the intellectual Left in Europe and the United States during the Cold War he was politically nave and unable to comprehend how the world would develop in the nuclear age. Regrettably the influence of Fromm and others of the Frankfurt School led many students in the 'sixties into the mistaken belief that socialist revolution was both possible and desirable. Soviet tanks put an end to the idea of socialism with a human face in Czechoslovakia in 1968 to reinforce the lessons not learned from the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Power was not explained by theories of alienation but by the effectiveness of firepower.

Fromm's economic ideas included worker participation which British left wing thinkers had abandoned forty years earlier. His notion of reducing voting units to residential groups made it as far as an episode of Yes Prime Minister while his thoughts on cultural change were as woolly as anything which second rate sociology departments of the new universities could churn out.

Fromm was a product of his time and his work serves as a typical example of the erroneous thinking of the postwar Left. Neo-Marxism was as useless as analysis of contemporary society as Marxism was of historical development. Both were fatally flawed and it was Fromm's lack of objectivity which prevented him from recognising that society was sane whereas he dwelt in an unreal world which sought to deny the realities of power politics. The Cold War was not the nuclear madness the Left suggested but a bulwark against the imposition of "socialist" freedom on free societies. Ultimately it was neo-Marxist mythology which collapsed along with the oppressive Communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

Fromm never confronted the ultimate question as to why those who considered society to be insane should be trusted to have the sanity to make such a judgement. While a prophet may be without honour in his own country Fromm was honoured in many countries. Maybe they were all insane. Three stars for historical curiosity.
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The Sane Society (Routledge Classics)
The Sane Society (Routledge Classics) by Erich Fromm (Paperback - 11 Oct 2001)
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