Top critical review
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on 8 April 2011
This book was written a long time ago and it shows. Whilst I thought the overall message was very good - that is, in order to love you need to develop your entire personality - the book only takes male sexuality into account. The pronoun is always he, except in one or two brief sections where Fromm talks about mothers. He is entirely dismissive of gay people, writing "the homosexual deviation is a failure to attain this polarised union [male/female unity] and thus the homosexual suffers from the pain of never-resolved separateness, a failure, however, which he shares with the heterosexual who cannot love." As a queer person I thought this was an extremely limited view, and if Fromm was so willing to call the love between two consenting adults a 'deviation', then it makes his entire thesis on love suspect; this is especially so if we take into account the fact that the longest chapter in the book, by far, is the section on loving God.
There is a lot to be taken from this text, but it is too brief, too theoretical and too sterile. Fromm states that anyone who came to this book looking for easy guidance about learning to love will be disappointed, but I wonder why he didn't elaborate on the two quite difficult steps the book recommends: first, to meditate and second to learn self-discipline. If you have a philosophical / religious interest in the theme of love, then I recommend this as an antiquated example of what writers on love were thinking in the mid twentieth century. If you actually have a problem, I still recommend it despite its failure to take into account different sexualities, but maybe only after you've read some other texts which *do* offer a few practical tips on getting over your insecurities.