Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Human Problem of Modern Capitalism

The Art of Loving is the title of a book by Erich Fromm, a social psychologist, and is certainly one of the sappiest titles for a book that I've ever come across. At first glance it appears to contain some mushy bullshit about love and what have you, but after inspection, it contains some deep psychological and philosophical analysis of humans from a lot of different angles. It covers many topics I've often thought about and has expressed in words a lot of thoughts that were in my head but never made their way to paper.

This is an extract on one of the issues of the modern capitalist society that I've observed, and this was written in the mid fifties! How far along have we come along from then? Note that because the book was written in the mid fifties, I forgive its really sappy name. At that time the name would have sounded better I suppose not having been distorted by all these chicken soup for the soul and power of positive thinking corny crap.

The human problem of modern capitalism can be formulated in this way:

Modern capitalism needs men who cooperated smoothly and in large numbers; who want to consume more and more; and whose tastes are standardized and can be easily influenced and anticipated. It needs men who feel free and independent, not subject to any authority or principle or conscience - yet willing to be commanded, to do what is expected of them, to fit into the social machine without friction; who can be guided without force, led without leaders, prompted without aim - except the one to make good, to be on the move, to function, to go ahead.


Modern man is actually close to the picture Huxley describes in his Brave New World; well fed, well clad, satisfied sexually, yet without self, without any except the most superficial contact with his fellow men, guided by the slogans which Huxley formulated so succinctly, such as: ‘When the individual feels, the community reels’; or ‘Never put off till tomorrow the fun you can have today,’ or, as the crowning statement: ‘Everybody is happy nowadays.’

Man’s happiness today consists in ‘having fun.’ Having fun lies in the satisfaction of consuming and ‘taking in’ commodities, sights, food, drinks, cigarettes, people, lectures, books, movies - all are consumed, swallowed. The world is one great object for our appetite, a big apple, a big bottle, a big breast; we are the suckers, the eternally expectant ones, the hopeful ones - and the eternally disappointed ones. Our character is geared to exchange and to receive, to barter and to consume; everything, spiritual as well as material objects, becomes an object of exchange and of consumption.

~ Erich Fromm

1 comment:

Jade said...

Never judge a book by it's cover...