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Between 1974 and 1976, while working on the book To Have Or to Be? at his home in Locarno, Switzerland, the aged Erich Fromm wrote far more manuscript and chapters than were actually used in the book, which was published in 1976. Some of these chapters are contained in the present volume. They deal entirely with the "steps toward being" that the individual can take in Between 1974 and 1976, while working on the book To Have Or to Be? at his home in Locarno, Switzerland, the aged Erich Fromm wrote far more manuscript and chapters than were actually used in the book, which was published in 1976. Some of these chapters are contained in the present volume. They deal entirely with the "steps toward being" that the individual can take in order to learn the Art of Being. How can we realize and actualize Love, Reason, and meaningful, productive work? Fromm here offers the Art of Being, a way of living based on authentic self-awareness that comes only through honest self-analysis. Wisely, he warns of the pitfalls of our attaining enlightenment without effort, or believing that life can be lived without pain. The tantalizing "spiritual smorgasbord" offered by our consumer-oriented world, Fromm maintains, only feeds our illusions of "easy awareness." Confronting the psycho-Gurus who preach these shortcuts to enlightenment, Fromm offers another way to self-awareness and well-being, one based on psychoanalysis and self-awareness through meditation. If the Art of Being - the art of functioning as a whole person - can be considered the supreme goal of life, a breakthrough occurs when we move from narcissistic selfishness and egotism - from having - to psychological and spiritual happiness - being. The Art of Being will be one of the most important works in the Fromm canon for years to come.


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Between 1974 and 1976, while working on the book To Have Or to Be? at his home in Locarno, Switzerland, the aged Erich Fromm wrote far more manuscript and chapters than were actually used in the book, which was published in 1976. Some of these chapters are contained in the present volume. They deal entirely with the "steps toward being" that the individual can take in Between 1974 and 1976, while working on the book To Have Or to Be? at his home in Locarno, Switzerland, the aged Erich Fromm wrote far more manuscript and chapters than were actually used in the book, which was published in 1976. Some of these chapters are contained in the present volume. They deal entirely with the "steps toward being" that the individual can take in order to learn the Art of Being. How can we realize and actualize Love, Reason, and meaningful, productive work? Fromm here offers the Art of Being, a way of living based on authentic self-awareness that comes only through honest self-analysis. Wisely, he warns of the pitfalls of our attaining enlightenment without effort, or believing that life can be lived without pain. The tantalizing "spiritual smorgasbord" offered by our consumer-oriented world, Fromm maintains, only feeds our illusions of "easy awareness." Confronting the psycho-Gurus who preach these shortcuts to enlightenment, Fromm offers another way to self-awareness and well-being, one based on psychoanalysis and self-awareness through meditation. If the Art of Being - the art of functioning as a whole person - can be considered the supreme goal of life, a breakthrough occurs when we move from narcissistic selfishness and egotism - from having - to psychological and spiritual happiness - being. The Art of Being will be one of the most important works in the Fromm canon for years to come.

30 review for The Art of Being

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    I approached this work with trepidation. My shuddering become more pronounced when Fromm started talking about mediation and self-awareness and Buddhism. Oh dear, I thought, Were in for one of those books. That it wasnt one of those books really surprised and delighted me. My mum is always at me to take up meditation. Ive, on occasion, even gone to such places and then they talk to me about Chakras and my spiritual self and other rot and nonsense and a deep depression engulfs my soul. The effect I approached this work with trepidation. My shuddering become more pronounced when Fromm started talking about mediation and self-awareness and Buddhism. “Oh dear,” I thought, “We’re in for one of those books.” That it wasn’t ‘one of those books’ really surprised and delighted me. My mum is always at me to take up meditation. I’ve, on occasion, even gone to such places and then they talk to me about Chakras and my spiritual self and other rot and nonsense and a deep depression engulfs my soul. The effect is that I come away more stressed then I went in. Having some idiot telling me to focus on my third eye or visualise my Buddha nature or whatever it is they go on about really just makes me want to run away screaming – with or without my inner child. So, when Fromm started talking about Buddha and meditation I thought this would be a very short read. What a delight to have someone talk about meditation without ‘spiritualism’ and giving practical, no nonsense advice on how and why one ought to do it. One of his major concerns is that as a society we have forgotten how to focus, how to concentrate on things. One of his ‘modes of meditating’ is to sit quietly looking at a coin until you are able to see it in detail when you close your eyes. And not in the sense of ‘The Secret’ – visualising as the path to having, but in the sense that quiet, focused attention in which intrusive thoughts are repressed (or perhaps banished is a better word). The point is to feel relaxed and invigorated, rather than ‘at one with the cosmic essence’. There is a sense in which Fromm suggests this type of mediation as a stepping stone towards greater self-awareness. This greater self-awareness comes via therapy. I’ve always been a bit less than polite when it comes to most ‘therapy’. I have been known to refer at times to ‘money for jam’ or ‘the blind leading the blind’. I guess this is mostly because I see ‘therapists’ as serving the role of secular Priests. When someone close to you dies or your relationship ends you go to a therapist right up until the time when you can’t afford to talk with them anymore. The therapist begins by telling you they can’t cure you (only you can cure you) and anyway, one of the things you learn fairly quickly ought to be that mostly what is wrong with you is called ‘life’ and the alternative is somewhat less than appealing. So eventually you move on, that little bit poorer, that little bit more cynical about the ways of the world and the therapist buys a new Jaguar. A win – win situation if there ever was one. This isn’t quite the therapy that Fromm envisages. For Fromm the key division, the ‘concrete universal contradiction’ in Hegelian language, is between ‘being’ and ‘having’. Capitalist society is obsessed with ‘having’. It is materialist is the worst possible sense of the term. For those who are obsessed with having – the most perfect realisation of such a person is the miser. The miser makes all possessions fetishes. They are coveted, desired and accumulated not for their use, but for his (I assume no one will complain about my use of sexist language in this context) ability to horde them. To Fromm this really is a half-life – but it is remarkable how many people in our glorious capitalist society derive their entire sense of self-worth in precisely this ‘having’ way. Yes, that includes both the women dressed in their ‘born to shop’ t-shirts and the men cruising about town in their Hummers (in the immortal words of Dylan Moran – “Just how small would your penis have to be?”). The therapy that Fromm recommends – even if you can’t afford to get someone to help you with it – is one which gets you to focus on your motivations for engaging in the types of behaviour you engage in. I’m giving away the ending of the book here – I ought to put a spoiler alert on this one – but for Fromm the key to being a grown-up type person (compared to what most of us tend to be most of the time) is to be someone who is much more concerned with ‘being’ than ‘having’. He accepts Marx’s view on the alienation of modern labour completely – at least, that is how it seemed to me. Work becomes increasingly de-skilled and meaningless to the person performing it – and to all those associated with it, including the capitalist. As such, people simply cannot (at least, the vast majority of people cannot) derived any meaning from their labour. This is the most interesting connection that Fromm (for me) makes between Marxism and Buddhism – that both see true liberation in our being truly aware and engaged and present in the moment (the past doesn’t exist, the future doesn’t exist – there is only the eternally present). For Buddhism this is the notion that if you are doing anything you should be doing that thing – focused on doing that thing. When you make tea you are focused on making tea. It is this conscious, focused attention to being that gives life its value and meaning. For Marx modern industrial life strips much of human activity of its meaning and value. He too wants to move toward unalienated labour – labour that is imbued with the worth of the labourer’s love and focused attention. For Marx too, life is a verb, rather than an ever expanding collection of nouns. Fromm views modern consumerism is a mistake, if not a hideous cancerous growth, and it can best be overcome by us learning to move from the obsession which consumerism instils in us that we are what we possess. He has an interesting take on the argument about greed too – the argument often used so as to present alternatives to capitalism as utopian or against human nature. This has always seemed a problem to me. People often do seem to be essentially greedy, and all ‘better societies’ do seem to require some sort of overcoming of this essentially ‘natural’ human greed. I would need to read this section again – but I think Fromm’s argument is that to want more than you can productively use is foolish as it essentially makes no sense. It is like that last part of Chinatown when Nicholson asks why the rich man wants more – given he already has all he could possibly use, given he can’t eat any better, live in any more houses, wear any more clothes. The reason is that we have so constructed our self-worth to be a function of possessions that even this question itself seems to be absurd to us. But if we were to move our construction of our self-worth away from the essentially ridiculous idea that 'what we have is what we are' to 'what what we do is what we are' – that is, from having to being – then greed too would become increasingly foolish. I found this book utterly fascinating and well worth the read. So much so that I will be reading more Fromm.

  2. 5 out of 5

    A

    A reality show in which Kim Kardashian was forced to read this book would be immensely enjoyable to me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    This book contained a line, something like "most conversations are monologues," that has changed my behavior. With that line I realized how frequently I don't fully listen, am not fully present, how often I just want to hear myself speak rather than really connect. There's something powerful about being present.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hans

    I stumbled upon this book on accident. I had never heard of Erich Fromm before. At times I feel like fate is playing games with me when I find something that enlarges and enriches my perspectives on life. This was one of those books. This is a treatise on the identity of man. He brings up Freudian and Marxian theories frequently in discussing the estrangement of modern man from themselves. The middle class feels the bulk of the estrangement as they try to pull off an incredibly difficult balance I stumbled upon this book on accident. I had never heard of Erich Fromm before. At times I feel like fate is playing games with me when I find something that enlarges and enriches my perspectives on life. This was one of those books. This is a treatise on the identity of man. He brings up Freudian and Marxian theories frequently in discussing the estrangement of modern man from themselves. The middle class feels the bulk of the estrangement as they try to pull off an incredibly difficult balance between a life of being and a life of having. Essentially the middle class falls primarily on the side of having, which is to say that their lives are defined by possessing things as opposed to that of being. The irony of possessing is that they become the possessed as their sense of self becomes something to "possess". This causes an unspeakable amount of anxiety because one feels as though their life is without much meaning, depth or purpose that they are just another replaceable cog in a machine. They are never able to completely pour themselves into something. The question "who am I?" torments them as they are unable to answer. Possibly one of the defining attributes of life in the middle is the acceptability of "mediocre", or just enough. The passionless life of going through the motions, living as mere survival. As a child of the middle class myself, I have felt many of these infuriating feelings of estrangement from life. Often I have had the feeling of being a mere spectator of life and that has always driven me crazy. I hate defining myself by things outside of myself or even the idea of "defining" myself which in itself always feels like a lie. The inconsistency of the masks we wear and the misidentification with them has always made me uncomfortable. The person of being is a fully present person, they hold nothing in reserve. Wherever they are or whatever they are doing their whole being is present. No feelings of duplicity. There is a sublime honesty about them.

  5. 5 out of 5

    William

    This book changed the way I view myself in relation to my culture and society. I would recommend it to any one who has ever felt torn between what they feel is right for them and what their society often suggests is right for them. It is a great and fascinating book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    "If other people do not understand our behavior, so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us... Mostly they resent our freedom and courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting." There were some great pithy take-aways in this book. I also really enjoyed Fromm's talk about mindfulness, decades before it was "jargonized" in the West. First half of the book was the best - broader in scope. Fromm was a prolific writer and "If other people do not understand our behavior, so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us... Mostly they resent our freedom and courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting." There were some great pithy take-aways in this book. I also really enjoyed Fromm's talk about mindfulness, decades before it was "jargonized" in the West. First half of the book was the best - broader in scope. Fromm was a prolific writer and my library has several of his books available as ebooks, so I plan to visit more of his work.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    One could say, justifiedly: Tell me what wakes you up and Ill tell you who you are. (p. 36) I've often said that the Buddha was an early psychologist. Erich Fromm's Art of Being demonstrates the reverse is also true: psychology continues to learn from Buddhism. Fromm is a psychoanalyst and humanist who argues that psychological health, being (as opposed to having), is a consequence of both concentration and self-awareness. Without effort and willingness to experience pain and anxiety, nobody One could say, justifiedly: “Tell me what wakes you up and I’ll tell you who you are.” (p. 36) I've often said that the Buddha was an early psychologist. Erich Fromm's Art of Being demonstrates the reverse is also true: psychology continues to learn from Buddhism. Fromm is a psychoanalyst and humanist who argues that psychological health, being (as opposed to having), is a consequence of both concentration and self-awareness. Without effort and willingness to experience pain and anxiety, nobody grows, in fact nobody achieves anything worth achieving. (p. 62) What are you afraid of? Life is scary and we should, in the normal state of affairs, experience many unpleasant things: pain, anxiety, depression, frustration, and anger. What would life be like without these feelings – or if we avoided the things associated with these feelings? Not anything that I want to live with. I don't want the people in my life to die, but I also don't want to miss a minute of my time with them. I want to recognize, be outraged by, and change the injustices I see. I'm not saying we should wallow in dysphoria; we should also be open to and feel compassion, awe, joy. Being means being open to the whole range of feelings. It means being wise and choiceful, rather than passively floating through life. A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale,” who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence—briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing—cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his “normal” contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from a neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. (pp. 65-66) This is a short book comprised from chapters cut from other books. It is not an easy read (at least on a bike, where I read it), but full of gems.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gergana

    A weird little book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elena Dobre

    Not recommend reading this book unless you first read Fromm's "To Have or To Be: The Nature of Psyche". This book was supposed to be included in "To Have or To Be", but Fromm decided to publish two separate books to avoid confusions among the readers. "The Art of Being" is like a short manual on auto-analysis, meditation, focus, but it doesn't go deep into the methods. I believe that the author is only trying to make us conscious of ourselves and present us some ways of how a human being can Not recommend reading this book unless you first read Fromm's "To Have or To Be: The Nature of Psyche". This book was supposed to be included in "To Have or To Be", but Fromm decided to publish two separate books to avoid confusions among the readers. "The Art of Being" is like a short manual on auto-analysis, meditation, focus, but it doesn't go deep into the methods. I believe that the author is only trying to make us conscious of ourselves and present us some ways of how a human being can "be".

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ci

    The author, Erich Fromm, was as social psychologist of renown, and was associated with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. This book was published in 1989, with its English version in 1992. I mention the years of publishing to highlight its prescience and foresights into our own time. What is the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory? It is based on principles from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud in attempt to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them. The circumstances The author, Erich Fromm, was as social psychologist of renown, and was associated with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. This book was published in 1989, with its English version in 1992. I mention the years of publishing to highlight its prescience and foresights into our own time. What is the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory? It is based on principles from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud in attempt to “liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them”. The circumstances include obstacles in ideologies and un-productive orientation of personalities and activities. This book is decidedly secular, individualistic and rational, emphasizing on self-awareness and self-reliant while rejecting self-centeredness. While such approach may benefit the others and the society in general, Fromm’s central interest is to releases the “psychic energy” from the individual in order to achieve a state of optimal well-being. In the main body of the book, the author analyzed methods populating the self-help shelves yet maintained a scholarly, more detached aplomb than the overzealous promissory language in self-help industry pulps. The main theme is to examine what Fromm considered a way of living from possession to a state of optimal being. The transition is from “I am what I have”, to “I am what I do (in the sense of un-alienated activity)” which leads to the ultimate “I am what I am”. I notice the sly man-made God reference, the pronouncement of God encountering Moses as in “I am Who I am”. On the other note, the “un-alienated activity” is a fully committed praxis with purpose and attention, not a distracted, forced, mechanized, and fragmented body motions. The concept echoes Marx’s theory of alienation in the modern stratified, mechanized society. “What I have” is the default position of most people, either in basic level of survival or the higher level of pursuing of fame and prestige. In today’s relative peaceful and affluent western society, some of the impulse of “having” have become subtler. The impulse may be fitness and beauty, or a social cause, even the “not-having” such as being a vegetarian on a social-causes basis. The test of whether one’s “having/not-having” defines his/her identity is to see if the changing position of possession can shift one’s psychic center. This reminds me of Seneca’s Letters on not being bothered by either poverty nor wealth. One’s core identity does not change with any changing status of “having to not-having” or vice versa. I thought about the movie “Dark City” in its experiment on human conducts by changing their environment overnight and see if they become different people. Fromm here refrained from the lofty concept of “soul” to a neutered phrase of “psychic center”. The “having/not-having” that most hold on us is not the “outer chain” but our inner ones. “The desires and thoughts that the suggestion apparatus of society fills him with, chain him more thoroughly than outer chains.” That is the central theme of Fromm’s theme on cultivating one’s Will and discipline to achieve freedom internally. Even though Fromm showed no allegiance to religion, he said “The Church still by and large speaks only of inner liberation, and political parties, from liberals to communists, speak only about outer liberation.” This may be related more to Eastern religions’ emphasis on “detachment” instead of Christianity’s concept of Mortal Sins. Fromm devoted significant yardage in describing Buddhism/Zen philosophy and meditation practices, but little about Christian mystics. How does one achieve inner freedom? Fromm mentioned about the preparatory exercise such as meditation and body relaxation such as “autogenic training” by I.H. Schultz, but Fromm is emphatic that such exercise achieves a base level of relaxation and body peace, but the deeper and enduring work in transforming one’s psyche requires additional systematic work in daily life. One particularly point that would be dismayed by today’s self-broadcasting Social Media is against the “trivial talk”, a damaging social interaction. Quoting Buddha’s teaching: “[one] shall not engage in the low kind of talk that is vulgar, worldly and unprofitable; that does not lead to detachment, dispassionateness, cessation, tranquility, direct knowledge, enlightenment, Nirvana; namely talk about kings, thieves, ministers, armies, famine and war; about eating, drinking, clothing and lodgings; about garlands, perfumes, relatives, vehicles, villages, towns, cities and countries; about women and wine, the gossip of the street ….”. Well, is the list containing 99% of our social interactions? I can not see human society reduces to a silent mediation retreat and be able to function. Moderation is probably a better policy. The other point is to define a fully invested engagement with actions, with Will, not Whim. One of soul’s diseases is boredom, which likely to lead activities based on Whim instead of Will. “Following a whim is, in fact, the result of deep inner passivity blended with a wish to avoid boredom. Will is based on activity, whim on passivity.” Consumerism encourages Whim to fuel its dominance in our daily life. Not just goods and services, but news as infotainments, sports and politics, all can feed into the cascading of Whim. A few days ago I browsed Carl Newport’s useful “Deep Work” which shares similar views. Whim is a major driving energy in the internet economy from dating, shopping to politic opinionating. Yet is inner freedom always a good thing? By taking away illusions and deceptions of the world, by thinking deeply, would not our psyche suffering a different sort of pain which alien us from the normal, obliviousness of busy life? Julian Barnes mentioned in his 2008 memoir “Nothing to be frightened about” that for most people, normal life requires “constant small worries” that can take away our sense of fear of morality. The “deep work” may not be able to counter the darker specter of Nihilism hovering and whispering “nothing matters in the end”. This thought arrives at my unresolved question of the “Art of Being”. The innermost center of human soul must contain that piloting flame of desire. The validity of the argument of “being” instead “having” holds only if the very center of human vitality remain intact. The “eudaemonia” — human flourishing and human happiness — is linked with the well-being of our attending soul, the “daemon”, which guides our intention and actions. Like all secularistic psychologist, Fromm is silent on daemon, an ancient name faded with the coming of modernity.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tabs

    A good book, succinctly written and referencing some big names like Marx and Freud... but 95% is quite depressing. Again highlighting how behind every good intention is greed, egoism and fear, I'm starting to think that maybe some philosophers just took themselves a bit too seriously? It ain't all that bad... The final chapter (3 short pages) was uplifting and much more positive: if you can overcome selfishness and narcissism you can have a genuine interest in art, culture, other people etc. and A good book, succinctly written and referencing some big names like Marx and Freud... but 95% is quite depressing. Again highlighting how behind every good intention is greed, egoism and fear, I'm starting to think that maybe some philosophers just took themselves a bit too seriously? It ain't all that bad... The final chapter (3 short pages) was uplifting and much more positive: if you can overcome selfishness and narcissism you can have a genuine interest in art, culture, other people etc. and experience joy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Four stars for the first half of the book, Fromm's postulating on the myriad ways we prevent ourselves from just being, mostly through the obsession with acquiring possessions, becoming distracted with technology, or gaining the esteem of others. When these impulses are strong in a person, we may not have strong convictions, reason or love to share. It is very sad to think about people who turn to objects to justify their identity or their very existence, or people who are unable to talk about Four stars for the first half of the book, Fromm's postulating on the myriad ways we prevent ourselves from just being, mostly through the obsession with acquiring possessions, becoming distracted with technology, or gaining the esteem of others. When these impulses are strong in a person, we may not have strong convictions, reason or love to share. It is very sad to think about people who turn to objects to justify their identity or their very existence, or people who are unable to talk about themselves and must resort to talking about their things. 40 years after this was written, I believe this tendency has manifested in the predominant get-together talk of "What shows are you watching?" The idea of unrestricted personal freedom has developed as a salve to the unconscious feeling that we have divested our free will to bureaucracy and consumerism. We have also become unable to concentrate, feeling it is too strenuous, and besides, our modern workplace rewards busy-ness over deep knowledge and decision-making, so concentration is not encouraged anymore. At times when reading this book, I felt like Fromm was talking about today, not 1976. In some ways the book is dated, particularly in speaking of the Great Shams, of which there were many in the 1970s, particularly in quasi-religions and the self-help world. However, Fromm warns against the public's increasing desire to either become famous or respond to others' fame, and the growing inability to discern what is real and what is false, which may have now (as of the presidential election of 2016) reached its logical conclusion/zenith. We have become easily deceived. The second half of the book is very dry and dated. Fromm takes down much of traditional psychoanalysis which had a certain set of explanations for disturbance and used material disclosed by the patient to support these theories. However, what Fromm espouses instead is almost as shaky, which is self-analysis, doing a constant inventory on oneself with little input from another professional. He does suggest a pattern of therapy in which the patient meets regularly with the therapist for a long initial period, and then does routine check-ins later on, which works well today. The second half can be quickly skimmed. This is the case with so many psychological theory books of this period. The author says some amazing stuff, and then drones on about how he thinks psychology should be practiced. It was a developing craft back then.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Adekunle

    This is a very profound look into the human condition in the modern world. A harsh but revealing opinion of Fromm is showed in the quote below: "In summary, modern man has many things and uses many things, but he is very little. His feelings and thinking processes are atrophied like unused muscles. He is afraid of any crucial social change because any disturbance in the social balance to him spells chaos or death - if not physical death, the death of his identity." The book discusses the state of This is a very profound look into the human condition in the modern world. A harsh but revealing opinion of Fromm is showed in the quote below: "In summary, modern man has many things and uses many things, but he is very little. His feelings and thinking processes are atrophied like unused muscles. He is afraid of any crucial social change because any disturbance in the social balance to him spells chaos or death - if not physical death, the death of his identity." The book discusses the state of being, in parallel to, the state of having; which is the condition of most modern people. Having is the desire to accumulate nonfunctional possession, the alienation of man from life and all its experiences in pursuit of greed, avarice and the virtues of capitalism. Being is the transformation of the individual, being awake and aware to life, courageous and open to new experiences...the expression of 'man's productive development'. Fromm also explores possible ways to transition into this state of being. I picked up a lot from this book and I must say, I admire the mind of Erich Fromm. Let me end this review with one quote from the book that I found really thought-provoking: "The idea of effortless learning has still another root: Technical progress has indeed diminished the amount of physical energy necessary for the production of goods. In the first industrial revolution, animal and human physical energy were replaced by the mechanical energy of the machine. In the second industrial revolution, thinking and memorizing are replaced by machines up to the large computers. This liberation from hard work is experienced as the greatest gift of modern “progress.” And it is a gift—provided that the human energy thus liberated be applied to other, more elevated and creative tasks. However, this has not been the case. The liberation from the machine has resulted in the ideal of absolute laziness, of the horror of making any real effort. The good life is the effortless life; the necessity to make strong efforts is, as it were, considered to be a medieval remnant, and one makes strong efforts only if one is really forced to do so, not voluntarily. You take your car to the grocery store two blocks away in order to avoid the “effort” of walking; the clerk in the store punches three figures on the adding machine to save the mental effort of adding."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mack Hayden

    This is a book I know Ill be returning to time and again. My second from Fromm and hes solidifying his place as one of my all time favorite voices. His insights on his own field of psychoanalysis shortcomings and successes were especially interesting, but this has the feel overall of Marcus Aurelius meditations. Its an all encompassing look at humanitys ability to both sell themselves short in a million ways through their own neuroses and occasionally find their way out of it from switching from This is a book I know I’ll be returning to time and again. My second from Fromm and he’s solidifying his place as one of my all time favorite voices. His insights on his own field of psychoanalysis’ shortcomings and successes were especially interesting, but this has the feel overall of Marcus Aurelius’ meditations. It’s an all encompassing look at humanity’s ability to both sell themselves short in a million ways through their own neuroses and occasionally find their way out of it from switching from an attitude of having (finding temporary existential satiation through the accrual of material or psychological dopamine kicks) to being (finding true existential satisfaction in coming to terms with the human condition, your own psyche, and resting in meditative, reflective, content, and truly self-aware consciousness). This is one I’d recommend to literally anyone.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elke de Echte

    In The Art of Being Erich Fromm makes no bones about it: authentic self-awareness takes practice, a lot of honest and painful practice. After pointing out the great shams in the field of self-help and any so-called shortcuts to enlightenment, he explains what exactly is at stake. His clear, (literally) down-to-earth approach to often-used floaty terms makes it all the more plausible: well-being as the supreme goal of life can only be attained when one moves from having as in narcissistic In The Art of Being Erich Fromm makes no bones about it: authentic self-awareness takes practice, a lot of honest and painful practice. After pointing out the great shams in the field of self-help and any so-called shortcuts to enlightenment, he explains what exactly is at stake. His clear, (literally) down-to-earth approach to often-used floaty terms makes it all the more plausible: well-being as the supreme goal of life can only be attained when one moves from ‘having’ as in narcissistic selfishness and egotism to ‘being’, as in psychological and spiritual happiness. A book to reread on the path to true self-knowledge.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Audrey2

    Beautiful The takeaways from this book are powerful, and the fundamental principles are laid out clearly enough to be easily remembered. Excellent.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gada

    it about the difference between Being & Having

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    From an academic standpoint, I largely agree with Noam Chomsky's hot take: "I liked Fromm's attitudes but thought his work was pretty superficial." But as a general read that skims across topics of meditative practices, psychoanalysis, and Marxist critique, this book has a nice bite to it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zahra'a Bin Shaibah

    We live in this cybernetic world where humans are living symbiotically with machines, reaching a point in which they are transformed into automatons. With ego, selfishness and narcissism forming their core, while consumerism and materialism are introjected into their brains, as a result possession is their only way of interaction and is reflected in their habits. . The question is how to be a LIVING human/ how to maintain our liveliness, and avoid being a living-dead human ? Fromm answers these We live in this cybernetic world where humans are living symbiotically with machines, reaching a point in which they are transformed into automatons. With ego, selfishness and narcissism forming their core, while consumerism and materialism are introjected into their brains, as a result possession is their only way of interaction and is reflected in their habits. . The question is how to be a LIVING human/ how to maintain our liveliness, and avoid being a living-dead human ? Fromm answers these questions in multiple sections, starting first with acknowledging factors contributing to the descending of our well being, into non living machine creatures. . Followed by the first step in the antidote; self awareness and different methods of psychoanalysis. Along with comprehending the nature and the mentality behind possessive possession, functional and nonfunctional consumption. . An enlightening book, this is the third work I read for Fromm. It really helps in your introspection to discover and understand yourself. Transcend to a higher level from the illusion of consumerism and materialism that control the society, by adapting new motto, I am not what I have, But “I AM WHAT I DO ! I AM WHAT I AM”

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ian Russell

    So the answer to the art of being is Popeyes quote? I am what I am. (Or Gloria Gaynors though I think that anthem came a little too late.) But Popeye, yes. Im disappointed Fromm chose to end his book with that sentence without any reference to the sailor man. Im disappointed that the art of being apparently has no room for humour. I dont recall reviewing a book on Goodreads which fitted so neatly into my two star category - disappointing but with some redeeming qualities. Usually I erm and ahh So the answer to the art of being is Popeye’s quote? “I am what I am”. (Or Gloria Gaynor’s though I think that anthem came a little too late.) But Popeye, yes. I’m disappointed Fromm chose to end his book with that sentence without any reference to the sailor man. I’m disappointed that the art of being apparently has no room for humour. I don’t recall reviewing a book on Goodreads which fitted so neatly into my two star category - “disappointing but with some redeeming qualities”. Usually I erm and ahh over giving one more star or taking one away. Its redeeming qualities were the little insight into the world of psychoanalysis, something I’ve only been aware of through Woody Allen movies. The earlier sections, where he writes about the malaise of modern man, his alienation, his perverse notion of successful, his powerlessness, was probably fresher in the 70s than it is now. It’s more so now, I believe, which makes his ideas all the more relevant, but it’s preaching to the choir. Who reads a book like this without thinking that in the first place? Fair enough, he couldn’t miss it out. I liked the bit about dream analysis too. I began thinking we were deep in Woody Allen territory with the funny examples he offered but further reading had me wondering about my dreams. I don’t dream, or rather I can’t recall any on waking, but I thought about past vivid dreams and I could make some sense of them using his methods. Of course, I don’t know if my analysis was correct or fanciful, but it was entertaining to do. The long discussion on the three isms - Buddhism, Marxism, Freudism - I found a bit tiring. Only Freud seemed relevant to the subject; this couldn’t be about changing religion or politics. But Freud, the anal man? As a universal pathology, I don’t buy it. Fromm was by accounts a brilliant psychoanalyst and philosopher but, based on this book, writing wasn’t amongst his talents. It lacked clarity, it too often missed out on explanation, it contained jargon, it laboured the point long after the point was made. It wasn’t easy reading but not because of the science, that was quite superficial. It wasn’t helpfully structured and the final chapter, which should held the answer, or presented a clear reiteration of the steps towards the art of being was kind of nothing. Disappointing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Asli

    Fromm hesitantly dedicates a chapter to "the sham" surrounding the new age spiritual movement. His arguments hold up, maybe even more judiciously today. He describes the teachings, and the gurus of meditation, of taichi, and of yoga, as salesmen of ethereal products to help achieve short-term success. I agree with Fromm. While I witness society benefiting from a growing appetite for self-realization, oozing with love, peace, and respect, I also observe people opt into the fad for selfish Fromm hesitantly dedicates a chapter to "the sham" surrounding the new age spiritual movement. His arguments hold up, maybe even more judiciously today. He describes the teachings, and the gurus of meditation, of taichi, and of yoga, as salesmen of ethereal products to help achieve short-term success. I agree with Fromm. While I witness society benefiting from a growing appetite for self-realization, oozing with love, peace, and respect, I also observe people opt into the fad for selfish reasons. When religious practice is sold as a product with applications in the material world, it becomes stripped from morality, and asceticism required to achieve the essential purpose of the practice. Yoga studios, meditation camps, spiritual festivals of today may sustain pure intentions at their roots. However, in order to survive financially, they comply with the mechanisms of a consumerist society. The wisdom is mainstreamed. It is mass-produced. Astute life guidance is transformed into 5-second life hacks. Stolen templates dress humans in pretty shells empty of souls. While reading Fromm's observations, I kept asking myself why the spiritual movement keeps failing at defending itself from opportunism and greed. Is it end-days prophecy being fulfilled? Or is it part of the process of ironing out the glitches of our civil design striving for perfection? ---- Fromm's own template suggests that steady self psychoanalysis is a requirement of enlightenment. One segment that took me back to "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" which I recently read. Fromm asserts: "no need to explain," when walking away from evil. I was less interested in the last chapter about the handling of material property, although Fromm's intro to Marx is something to note. A peculiar discovery in his mention of an ancient Babylonian doctrine: "gold is the feces of hell." ---- Important bits for me to revisit as they apply to my work and explorations: On original thought and the meaning of words.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Richardson

    I cannot know who I am, because I don't know which part of me is not me. I dont normally read so-called self-help books but I was intrigued with this one. Mr. Fromm was a well-known psychologist and this is one of his best works. Although a bit dated, this book holds up well in this society. We are even more isolated in this age than when the book was originally written. Mr. Fromm talks about being versus getting. Acquiring things instead of acquiring life experiences. Everything he said made “I cannot know who I am, because I don't know which part of me is not me.” I don’t normally read so-called self-help books but I was intrigued with this one. Mr. Fromm was a well-known psychologist and this is one of his best works. Although a bit dated, this book holds up well in this society. We are even more isolated in this age than when the book was originally written. Mr. Fromm talks about being versus getting. Acquiring things instead of acquiring life experiences. Everything he said made perfect sense to me. I especially liked his chapter on self-analysis. He says we are all capable of analyzing ourselves if we take the time to do it. Go through your day and take time to say, how am I feeling? Why do I feel this way? Could I do something differently that would have changed things? You get the point. If we take the time to unwind from our day and analyze how we did and if we could do better, each day is a learning experience. I found the message empowering. I checked this book out from my local library. I recommend this to anyone trying to de stress and learn more about themselves.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ravi Raman

    Listened to the audiobook version. The overarching concept of being vs having is a powerful one. However the book is overly formal and psychoanalytical in nature. It does a good job of dispelling the belief some may have in "new age gurus" to lead one to enlightenment and instead indicates that the key to personal fulfillment lies in self awareness (through meditation and self analysis) and the casting away of a consumerist lifestyle hell bent on defining ones life by acquisition of things and Listened to the audiobook version. The overarching concept of being vs having is a powerful one. However the book is overly formal and psychoanalytical in nature. It does a good job of dispelling the belief some may have in "new age gurus" to lead one to enlightenment and instead indicates that the key to personal fulfillment lies in self awareness (through meditation and self analysis) and the casting away of a consumerist lifestyle hell bent on defining ones life by acquisition of things and achievement of goals/outcomes. I don't recommend this book unless you are a psychiatrist or fascinated with related topics. For a reader interested in a general personal development oriented book it is too arcanely written.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Krysztina

    For all his professing on freeing yourself from the confines of your narcissistic views, the author seems rather stuck in his own value judgements. While his considerations might have been relevant at some point, in this humble reader's opinion, that is no longer the case. The only reason this review is a 2* instead of 1* is that I found a modicum of practical advice that transcends the author's musings.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Javier

    After reading To Have or to Be?, I guess I expected a lot from Fromm. This book fails to meet such expectations. It really just seems like a severely watered-down version of To Have or to Be?--read that one instead of this one if you're interested in Fromm's (important!) analysis regarding the having and being modes of human existence.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Pyjov

    ⭐''the full humanization of man requires the breakthrough from possession-centered to the activity-centered orientation.'' p. 1 ⭐''All great teachers of man have arrived at essentially the same norms for living, the essence of these norms vein the overcoming of greed, illusions, and hate, and the attainment of love and compassion, are the conditions for attaining optimal being.'' p. 4 ⭐ Happiness is not harming your body or mind - happiness is being centered: ''Assuming a person has a craving for ⭐️''the full humanization of man requires the breakthrough from possession-centered to the activity-centered orientation.'' p. 1 ⭐️''All great teachers of man have arrived at essentially the same norms for living, the essence of these norms vein the overcoming of greed, illusions, and hate, and the attainment of love and compassion, are the conditions for attaining optimal being.'' p. 4 ⭐️ Happiness is not harming your body or mind - happiness is being centered: ''Assuming a person has a craving for sweets and cakes, becomes fat and endangers his health, they do not say: 'If eating constituted his greatest happiness, he should go on with it and not persuade himself, or let himself be persuaded by others, to renounce this pleasure.' They recognize this craving as something different from normal desired, precisely because it damaged the organism. This qualification is not called subjective - or a value judgment or unscientific - simply because everyone knows the connection between overeating and health. But then, everyone also knows today a great deal about the pathological and damaging character of irrational passions such as the craving for fame, power, possessions, revenge, control, and can indeed qualify these needs as damaging, on an equally theoretical and clinical basis. One has only to think of the 'manager sickness,' peptic ulcers, which is the result of wrong living, the stress produced by over-ambitiousness, dependence on success, lack of a truly personal center.'' p. 5 ⭐️⭐️''Relation of freedom from greed and the primacy of reason ... Our reason functions only to the degree to which it is not flooded by greed.'' p. 6 ⭐️ ''The person who is the prisoner of his irrational passions loses the quality of objectivity and is necessarily at the mercy of his passions; he rationalizes when he believes he is expressing the truth.'' p. 6 ⭐️⭐️''[The artisan] did not want to have or consume more, because not the acquisition of riches but the productive use of his faculties and the enjoyment of being were his goal.'' p. 93 ⭐️⭐️''the having orientation and its satisfaction weakens the effort and eventually the capacity to make productive efforts. The more a person has, the less he is attracted to making active efforts. Having and inner laziness ultimately form a vicious circle, reinforcing each other.'' p. 110 ⭐️⭐️''In the same way, the miser tends to save words, feelings, and thoughts. He does not want to spend energy in feeling or thinking; he needs this energy for the necessary and unavoidable tasks of life. He remains cold and indifferent to the joy and sorrows of others, even his own.'' p. 112 ⭐️⭐️''He [the miser] is feeling little, but he is sentimental; sentimental being used here in the sense of 'feelingless feelings,' the thought of or the daydreams of feelings, rather than the *felt* feelings.'' p. 112 ⭐️''Those whose inner security is by and large based on possession are necessarily conservative and ardent opponents of movements that want to reduce the state's monopoly of force.'' p. 113 ⭐️ ''For those whose security rests on the possession of living beings, especially of human beings, the situation is more complex. They, too, are dependent on the state's capacity of 'enforcing' the law, but they are also confronted with the resistance of the human being to being possessed, to being transformed into a thing that can be *had* and controlled.'' p. 113 ⭐️''A mode of experience that is fundamentally akin to that of having is consuming.'' p. 114 ⭐️''The very narcissistic person is by no means necessarily selfish, egocentric, or property-oriented. He can be generous, giving, and tender, although all these characteristics must be qualified by the fact that to him the other person is not fully experienced as real.'' p. 118

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pablo Flouret

    There's a few somewhat interesting points in the beginning, but i imagine this would've been a better read in the 70s; now it just sounds dated to me. It's mostly a bunch of bad amateur-ish psycho-babble, coupled with overdone, dated evolutionary psychology and trite discussions of leftist politics, the industrial age, the primitive man, blah blah. Anyone familiar in passing with modern CBT, mindfulness, meditation, and anti-capitalism concepts would probably find a lot of this laughable in this There's a few somewhat interesting points in the beginning, but i imagine this would've been a better read in the 70s; now it just sounds dated to me. It's mostly a bunch of bad amateur-ish psycho-babble, coupled with overdone, dated evolutionary psychology and trite discussions of leftist politics, the industrial age, the primitive man, blah blah. Anyone familiar in passing with modern CBT, mindfulness, meditation, and anti-capitalism concepts would probably find a lot of this laughable in this modern world. Admittedly, i started skimming half-way through before giving it up completely, so there's that.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    It's a great book... typical of Fromm. It seemed though a bit off compared to some of the others I have read (The Sane Society, Man For Himself). There was quite a bit of ranting about our human flaws and the society we currently live in. To be fair, he was not wrong. However, it left me anxious and confused for the most of the book. It's only in the last part (chapter 4) where an actual advice and solution is given. And it's good one hence why I'm giving this 4 stars, instead of 3. The book is It's a great book... typical of Fromm. It seemed though a bit off compared to some of the others I have read (The Sane Society, Man For Himself). There was quite a bit of ranting about our human flaws and the society we currently live in. To be fair, he was not wrong. However, it left me anxious and confused for the most of the book. It's only in the last part (chapter 4) where an actual advice and solution is given. And it's good one hence why I'm giving this 4 stars, instead of 3. The book is weak only compared to his other work which is superb. Compared to similar books in the genre, it's great!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rodrigo Quintanar

    This is a good analysis of different psychological and social thoughts. It is mainly based on Freud's different theories although explained in a more "down to earth" way. Interesting perspectives appear often: "Most importantly, one forgot entirely that man can be a slave even without being put in chains.." or "If one is unaware of what to avoid, all of ones efforts will be in vain." Quick, enjoyable and with some practical advices on mindfulness and concentration. Interesting note: Fromm used to This is a good analysis of different psychological and social thoughts. It is mainly based on Freud's different theories although explained in a more "down to earth" way. Interesting perspectives appear often: "Most importantly, one forgot entirely that man can be a slave even without being put in chains.." or "If one is unaware of what to avoid, all of one’s efforts will be in vain." Quick, enjoyable and with some practical advices on mindfulness and concentration. Interesting note: Fromm used to be a professor at UNAM (Mexico) University.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Morad

    The occasional flashes of brilliance weren't enough to keep me interested. I got bored and stopped about halfway through. Interesting ideas: - Socializing from a distance! - using psychoanalysis to procrastinate necessary confrontations with one's self, and to justify their own "mideocracy". The book is understandably outdated. Science brought many new possibilities and new interpretations to our lives that philosophy doesn't take into consideration.

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