Assignment on answer to dilemma

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Assignment on answer to dilemma

Assignment on answer to dilemma

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Assignment: What is the answer to this dilemma? Man can either unite himself with other people in the spirit of love and shared work or he can find

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security by submitting to authority and conforming to society. In the one case, man uses his freedom to develop a better society; in the other, he acquires a new bondage. Escape from freedom was written under the shadow of the Nazi dictatorship and shows that this form of totalitarianism appealed to people because it offered them a new se- curity. But as Fromm points out in subsequent books (1947, 1955), any form of society that man has fashioned, whether it be that of feudalism, capitalism, fascism, socialism, or communism, represents an attempt to resolve the basic contradiction of man. This contradic- tion consists of man being both a part of nature and separate from it, of being both an animal and a human being. As an animal he has certain physiological needs which must be satisfied. As a human being he possesses self-awareness, reason, and imagination. These two aspects constitute the basic conditions of man’s existence. “The under- standing of man’s psyche must be based on the analysis of mans needs stemming from the conditions of his existence” (1955, p. 25).

What are the specific needs that rise from the conditions of man’s existence? They are five in number: the need for relatedness, the need for transcendence, the need for rootedness, the need for identity, and the need for a frame of orientation. The need for relatedness stems from the stark fact that man in becoming man has been torn from the animal’s primary union with nature. “The animal is equipped by nature to cope with the very conditions it is to meet” (1955, p. 23) but man with his power to reason and imagine has lost this intimate interdependence with nature. In place of those instinctive ties with nature which animals possess man has to create his own relationships, the most satisfying being those which are based upon productive love. Productive love always implies mutual care, responsibility, respect, and understanding.

The urge for transcendence refers to man’s need to rise above his animal nature, to become a creative person instead of remaining a creature. If his creative urges are thwarted, man becomes a destroyer. Fromm points out that love and hate are not antithetical drives; they are both answers to man’s need to transcend his animal nature. Ani- mals can neither love nor hate, but man can.

Man desires natural roots; he wants to be an integral part of the world, to feel that he belongs. As a child, he is rooted to his mother but if this relationship persists past childhood it is considered to be an unwholesome fixation. Man finds his most satisfying and healthiest roots in a feeling of brotherliness with other men and women. But man wants also to have a sense of personal identity, to be a unique

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individual. If he cannot attain this goal through his own creative effort, he may obtain a certain mark of distinction by identifying him- self with another person or group. The slave identifies with the master, the citizen with his country, the worker with his company. In this case, the sense of identity arises from belonging to someone and not from being someone.

Finally, man needs to have a frame of reference, a stable and con- sistent way of perceiving and comprehending the world. The frame of reference that he develops may be primarily rational, primarily irrational, or it may have elements of both.

For Fromm these needs are purely human and purely objective. They are not found in animals and they are not derived from observing what man says he wants. Nor are these strivings created by society; rather they have become embedded in human nature through evolu- tion. What then is the relation of society to the existence of man? Fromm believes that the specific manifestations of these needs, the actual ways in which man realizes his inner potentialities, are deter- mined by “the social arrangements under which he lives” (1955, p. 14). His personality develops in accordance with the opportunities that a particular society offers him. In a capitalistic society, for example, he may gain a sense of personal identity by becoming rich or develop a feeling of rootedness by becoming a dependable and trusted employee in a large company. In other words, man’s adjustment to society usually represents a compromise between inner needs and outer de- mands. He develops a social character in keeping with the require- ments of the society.

From the standpoint of the proper functioning of a particular society it is absolutely essential that the child’s character be shaped to fit the needs of society. The task of the parents and of education is to make the child want to act as he has to act if a given economic, political, and social system is to be maintained. Thus, in a capitalistic system the desire to save must be implanted in people in order that capital is available for an expanding economy. A society which has evolved a credit system must see to it that people will feel an inner compulsion to pay their bills promptly. Fromm gives numerous examples of the types of character that develop in a democratic, capitalistic society (1947).

By making demands upon man which are contrary to his nature, society warps and frustrates man. It alienates him from his “human situation” and denies him the fulfillment of the basic conditions of his existence. Both capitalism and communism, for example, try to make

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man into a robot, a wage slave, a nonentity, and they often succeed in driving him into insanity, antisocial conduct or self-destructive acts. Fromm does not hesitate to stigmatize a whole society as being sick when it fails to satisfy the basic needs of man (1955).

Fromm also points out that when a society changes in any important respect, as occurred when feudalism changed into capitalism or when the factory system displaced the individual artisan, such a change is likely to produce dislocations in the social character of people. The old character structure does not fit the new society, which adds to man’s sense of alienation and despair. He is cut off from traditional ties and until he can develop new roots and relations he feels lost. During such transitional periods, he becomes a prey to all sorts of panaceas and nostrums which offer him a refuge from loneliness.

The problem of man’s relations to society is one of great concern to Fromm, and he returns to it again and again. Fromm is utterly con- vinced of the validity of the following propositions: (1) man has an essential, inborn nature, (2) society is created by man in order to fulfill this essential nature, (3) no society which has yet been devised meets the basic needs of man’s existence, and (4) it is possible to create such a society.

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