‘The Radical Humanism of Erich Fromm’ reviewed by Michael Arfken

The Radical Humanism of Erich Fromm

Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2014. 288pp., £62.50 / $105.00 hb
ISBN 9781137436399

Reviewed by Michael Arfken

About the reviewer

Michael Arfken is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Prince Edward Island, …


[Farsi translation]

Although scholarship surrounding the Frankfurt School has become something of an intellectual industry, the bulk of this work has tended to emphasize Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse’s contributions to twentieth century social theory. To the extent that Erich Fromm has attracted interest, he has often been treated as little more than a footnote to these more influential scholars. Yet it seems important to ask whether contemporary social theory is well suited to address the most pressing social, political, and economic concerns of the day. If we discover that social theory has actually come to resemble the structure of modern society with rival intellectual factions competing for material resources then it would appear that the time is ripe to reflect on the circumstances that thrust certain intellectuals into the spotlight while relegating others to the margins of critical thought. Placing Fromm’s work against the background of contemporary social theoretical debates, The Radical Humanism of Erich Fromm explores whether a fresh approach can resolve some of the seemingly intractable issues that have come to dominate the intellectual landscape.

The book begins with an impressive biographical sketch of Fromm’s life focussing on the social and political context of his work and the personal and professional relationships that shaped his thought. Drawing on his extensive work at the Fromm Archives in Tübingen, Durkin paints a portrait of Fromm as a politically engaged intellectual committed to interrogating the social and economic structure of modern society. Throughout the work, the author draws on this biographical sketch to explore Fromm’s engagement with a range of traditions and approaches from psychoanalysis and Marxism to environmentalism and cultural studies. Durkin’s analysis of the role that Judaism and evolutionary theory play in Fromm’s thought will no doubt stand as a lasting contribution to the emerging scholarship surrounding this forgotten intellectual.

At the heart of Fromm’s work, Durkin discerns a radical humanism in stark contrast to the anti-humanism infecting much of contemporary social thought. Because decades of poststructural theory appear to have had little impact on the concrete lives of those living under the crushing weight of various forms of domination and exploitation, he suggests that Fromm’s attempt to resurrect a politically robust humanism is more important now than ever before. This return to humanism is neither an uncritical appropriation of the individual rational actor of classical political economy nor a romantic revival of an asocial human essence but instead represents a détente between the need to establish a solid foundation for political action and a recognition of the social, economic, and political forces that patrol the boundaries of any foundational project. In this sense, Fromm’s thought is best understood as a ‘qualified essentialism’ that exists somewhere between the extreme relativism of postmodernism and the absolute essentialism to which it was a reaction.

According to Durkin, a central feature of Fromm’s radical humanism is a rehabilitation of the much abused notion of human nature. Within contemporary social theory it has become almost a rite of passage to treat the idea that individuals’ possess essential features linking them to a common humanity as an antiquated universalism that subordinates a rich and diverse collection of social practices to a singular, homogenous world view. While Durkin does not deny that human nature has in some cases been used as a tool of domination, he argues that Fromm’s work is in a unique position to tease out the revolutionary dimensions of human nature from those deployed in the service of the status quo. Clearly, much is at stake in this endeavour since Durkin views the identification of something that connects individuals to a common humanity as a vital component of any radical political project worthy of the name.

To some extent, Durkin’s effort to draw a strong and compelling contrast between the unique contributions of a marginalized scholar and the existing social theoretical canon overemphasizes the uniform nature of the contemporary intellectual landscape. His suggestion that modern social theory is fundamentally anti-humanist certainly highlights an important dimension of much of contemporary thought but it also paints in broad strokes a range of perspectives that are arguably humanist – perhaps even radically so – and that nonetheless have little interest in erecting foundations or any commitment to a correspondence theory of truth. The most notable example is of course the work of Richard Rorty.

Given Rorty’s vehement rejection of Marx’s philosophy of history and his disdain for modern political movements inspired by Marxism, it is difficult to see his work as contributing to anything we might call a radical humanism. If we add to this the fact that Durkin views Rorty’s neopragmatism as the very apotheosis of the anti-humanist tradition then it would seem that we have little reason to enlist Rorty in any radical critique of the class structure of society. Unfortunately, this overlooks features of Rorty’s work that are both humanist and highly critical of capitalism. The source of this oversight appears to be Durkin’s exceedingly restrictive notion of human nature. In an effort to rehabilitate human nature, Durkin comes to equate anti-foundationalism with anti-humanism. This not only casts much of contemporary social theory to the curb, it also misses an opportunity to bring Fromm’s thought into a meaningful dialogue with traditions that advance a different understanding of human nature from Aristotelian philosophy and virtue ethics to communitarianism and pragmatism. In Rorty’s case, humanism need not entail a commitment to a universal human nature but instead can develop through a recognition that each of us exist somewhere between the social practices of an established way of life and a radically new form of existence that we can at best only dimly perceive. In this sense, our nature is perhaps best understood as something we move towards rather than something we stand upon. Rorty’s mistake is not his effort to demonstrate that our epistemology and ontology inevitably emerge against the background of the contingent practices of our tradition but his defense of a tradition that is clearly ill equipped to address the depths of modern exploitation.

In the context of reevaluating Fromm’s work, it is also important to reflect on the relationship between psychoanalysis and social theory more generally. For much of the twentieth century, psychoanalysis supplied social theorists with a useful language for exploring the dialectical relationship between human psychology and many of the dominant features of modern society. As Durkin notes, one of Fromm’s major contributions to psychoanalytic theory – and a major factor in Fromm’s split with his colleagues at the Frankfurt School – is his attempt to develop a psychoanalysis grounded in intersubjectivity. While Fromm’s challenge to libido theory appears to have stood the test of time, it seems reasonable to ask whether classical or contemporary psychoanalysis remains our best hope for exploring the political and economic intersection of agency and social structure. Without questioning the utility of psychoanalysis in clinical practice, it remains to be seen whether a perspective that has long been marginalized from mainstream psychology is well suited to bringing something like class struggle to the table. Taking a tip from Marx himself, we can begin with the recognition that the social relations and technology developed under capitalism are an integral part of the process of overcoming capitalism. In the case of psychology, we might begin by focusing on various approaches such as embodied cognition and social neuroscience that are operating at the center rather than the periphery of the discipline. Given the vast resources that are being invested in these areas, a superior strategy with respect to class struggle may be to harness these approaches to something like a corporeal revolution in political and economic theory. While there is certainly no reason to exclude psychoanalysis from this project, it may be strategic mistake to make it the point of departure for such a revolution.

One of the lessons to be learned from contemporary social theory is that our economic and political structures not only draw on but also contribute to the reproduction of a particular conception of the individual – a philosophical anthropology. For some scholars, this fact alone more or less signs the death warrant for meaningful political action. Yet others view something like human nature as the last refuge for challenging institutions that continue to exploit the greater part of the plant for their own material advantage. The Radical Humanism of Erich Fromm argues that for those who see little alternative to surrendering to these institutions, the burden of proof remains dangerously low. In this sense, a reevaluation of Fromm’s work certainly presents a unique and important opportunity for those struggling to establish a viable economic and political alternative to our present condition.

3 February 2015


  1. Whilst I am thankful to Michael Arfken for his review, and while I agree with parts of it, I must take issue with some of what he says, and must do so at some length.

    First of all, I must object to Arfken’s claim that I ‘overemphasise…the uniform nature of the contemporary intellectual landscape’. Although he does qualify this criticism with the cautionary note ‘to some extent’, he moves on to claim that I suggest that contemporary social theory is ‘fundamentally’ anti-humanist. What I in fact argued was not that contemporary social theory was uniformly and fundamentally anti-humanist, but rather that the anti-humanist perspective (which, as I stress in the text, coalesces around what I take to be the excessive problematisation of the axiomatic precepts or central tenets of humanism: the human, the self, and the subject) dominates certain sectors of the academy and has had a lasting effect on the prospects of reviving what I take to be a genuinely humanist schema – i.e., one that accepts and draws on the aforementioned axioms/tenets in at least a weak sense. My main motivation in pitting Fromm’s humanism against a constellation of prominent social theorists who have a connection to what I term the ‘anti-humanist paradigm’, stemmed from the fact that such thinking represents the largest opposition that resurrecting a consistently radical humanist thematic faces.

    From this issue comes a further: namely, Arfken’s claim that I paint ‘in broad strokes a range of perspectives that are arguably humanist – perhaps even radically so’. Arfken’s contention that the thinkers I discuss are arguably radically humanist somewhat misses the point of the distinction that I tried to make between humanism and anti-humanism, and with it my stress on the fundamental axioms/tenets that underlie what I argue is the older and more consistent form of humanism that we should be attempting to more fully reintegrate into social theory and practice. Part of the confusion here seems to stem from the fact that what Arfken means by ‘humanism’ and ‘anti-humanism’ and what I mean are apparently two separate things. Although I explicitly deal with the coining of the term ‘anti-humanism’ by Louis Althusser in the 1960s, and use it in my discussion of the other thinkers in reference to this coinage, it is worth stressing again here that anti-humanism in the sense in which I use it in the book does not refer to a cruel, callous, or authoritarian philosophy or practice that abets capitalist deformation as such, but to the marked subsumption of the human individual to a series of extra-personal processes (history, language, consciousness, etc.), and thus to the undermining of the axiomatic precepts or central tenets of what I argue is traditional humanism (humanism, that is, prior to its problematisation at the hands of structural, poststructural, and ‘postmodern’ thinkers).

    Whilst I can’t deny that my discussion of the thinkers I chose for this section was in fairly ‘broad strokes’, and certainly more brief that it might have been had I been working on a more dedicated study on humanism in itself (i.e. separate from a study of Fromm’s thinking), I do not think that I misrepresented them in any sense. I never suggested that these thinkers lack any ‘humanistic’ tendencies – they are clearly motivated (in different ways and to different degrees) by a progressive urge for some kind of individual/social human betterment in the face of deforming and controlling capitalist (and otherwise) practices. Despite the fact that they renounce talk of ‘man’, the subject, and the self, etc. (again, to varying degrees, and in different ways), the intentions of their theories clearly aim at some form of furthering the free constitution and development of these concepts (even if the language and concepts used are different). It was precisely for this reason that I chose to discuss them in the first place.

    My stated goal in the book was to work towards the achievement of conceptual clarity in relation to radical humanism (understood primarily within Fromm’s writings) as a system of thought taken in itself. In particular, I wanted to reclaim the central analytical and normative categories and schemas of ‘traditional’ humanism as found in Fromm. I wanted to do this partly through suggesting how those thinkers that I grouped under the anti-humanist paradigm (which I do not claim formed an exhaustive list) have a tendency to get caught up in the very problematising logics that they apply to traditional humanist thought, that is to say, in excessive attributions of linguistic and cultural determination or fairly one-sided stresses on fragmentation and discontinuity, which consequently tend to lack any significant reference to the human being and, thereby, a convincing account of subjectivity. As part of this, I strove to argue against the idea that the self is wholly a product of socialization and against the idea of multiple selves, which implies that there can be no dominant, and ‘authentic self’, and, therefore, no relatively sovereign subject. In failing to stress this, Arfken unfortunately misconstrues my central purpose in this instance.

    The misrepresentation that I feel I need to defend myself against above all, however, is Arfken’s contention that I hold an ‘exceedingly restrictive’ notion of human nature. This contention comes amidst his defence of Richard Rorty, who I do criticise in the book (following Norman Geras) for deploying a rhetorical strategy in which talk of essential human qualities are denied but then brought in through the back door. The point in my criticism of Rorty (and the others I group as ‘anti-humanist’) for refusing talk (or denying the intelligibility) of any kind of ‘human nature’ was the fact that the mere mention of ‘human nature’, or something relatively stable and enduring in ‘the human condition’, causes most social theorists to recoil into defensive posturing. Such a reaction is still exceedingly common despite what is perhaps a growing willingness to talk about these things in Marxian circles and elsewhere (recognition of the foundational importance of Marx’s distinction between human nature and general and human nature as modified in each historical epoch being, along with other statements, being a central motivation). Whilst I am not saying that Arfken is guilty of this, his dismissal of my talk of human nature as ‘exceedingly restrictive’ comes close to it. I nowhere reduce human nature to some restrictive set of qualities or pre-requisites (and certainly do not use recourse to human nature as a means of cutting off some progressive, perhaps dimly aware future development), despite the fact that I think that it may be possible to come to an intersubjectively agreed, but never completely fixed substantive definition.

    I do not deny the desirability of focusing on the dialectic between the social practices of the life that we live now and a radically new form of existence; I only want to say that this radically new form of existence cannot be conceived without reference to the kinds of beings we are (this is true even in trans- or post-humanist theory), the kinds of things that harm us, and the kinds of thing that make us happy and fulfilled. Whilst each new social system creates different ‘types’ of human beings, it does not do so without creating these different types on top of a central biopsychosocial core which is generally universal and relatively stable across human time and space – as Fromm himself notes: ‘[we] must start out with the premise that something, say X, is reacting to environmental influences in ascertainable ways that follow from its properties’. I was quite clear throughout the book that neither Fromm nor anyone else has produced a sufficient account of human nature and ‘the good life’ that would go with it (if this is ever fully possible); what I did argue for was that a philosophical and empirical anthropology, bounded by socialistic and humanistic concerns over dignity, freedom, autonomy, etc., could assist in breaking through the excessive relativism that seems to me to plague much social theoretical debate and political practice.

  2. I am very much enjoying this exchange on this excellent book on Fromm’s Radical Humanism….

    I won’t enter into the exchange on humanism and anti-humanism, except to say there is an excellent high level debate and discussion, by two first rate young scholars.

    I do wonder, however, it it would be helpful to think about things also in terms the sociology of ideas, and how discipline differ.

    Michael Arfken writes:

    “While Fromm’s challenge to libido theory appears to have stood the test of time, it seems reasonable to ask whether classical or contemporary psychoanalysis remains our best hope for exploring the political and economic intersection of agency and social structure. Without questioning the utility of psychoanalysis in clinical practice, it remains to be seen whether a perspective that has long been marginalized from mainstream psychology is well suited to bringing something like class struggle to the table. Taking a tip from Marx himself, we can begin with the recognition that the social relations and technology developed under capitalism are an integral part of the process of overcoming capitalism. In the case of psychology, we might begin by focusing on various approaches such as embodied cognition and social neuroscience that are operating at the center rather than the periphery of the discipline. Given the vast resources that are being invested in these areas, a superior strategy with respect to class struggle may be to harness these approaches to something like a corporeal revolution in political and economic theory. While there is certainly no reason to exclude psychoanalysis from this project, it may be strategic mistake to make it the point of departure for such a revolution.”

    I would be interested in hearing more about how radical scholars in psychology could engage work in “embodied cognition and social neuroscience” in ways that push class and radical ideas.
    I am not sure psychoanalysis is our best hope myself for radical social theory, but I do think it is one important element, at least in sociology.
    Perhaps there is a lot more room in sociology than in psychology for radical ideas, and perhaps the same is true in philosophy.
    I think, for example, that Bourdieu’s field theory (which is massive in contemporary sociology) could be improved with more attention to a revised psychoanalysis.
    And I wonder how much the differences here are due to coming into the debates, from different disciplinary contexts.

    Neil McLaughlin
    Sociology, McMaster University

  3. Zizek is the one who has, in his own way, brought together (Lacanian) psychoanalysis and radical social theory. I would like Arfken or McLaughlin to comment on how successful is Zizek’s attempt.

  4. اومانیزم رادیکال اریک فروم

    كيران دوركين

    انتشارات: پالگراف مک میلان، نیویورک 2014، 288 ص. 105 دلار/ 63 لیره

    ISBN 9781137436399

    مرور كننده: مايكل آرفكن

    گرچه دانش پژوهیِ حاکم بر مکتب فرانکفورت، خود بخشی از صنعت روشنفکری شده است، با اینهمه بخش اعظم این پژوهش، بر نقش و مشارکت آدورنو، هورکهایمر و مارکوزه در نظریه اجتماعی قرن بیستم متمرکزشده است. گرچه اریک فروم توجه زیادی را به خود جلب نموده اما عموماً در برابر این اندیشمندان معتبر و تاثیر گذار زیاد جدی گرفته نشده است. بنابراین ضروری است این سوال را طرح نماییم که آیا نظریه اجتماعی معاصر آنچنان دقیق طرح و مطالعه شده است که بتواند به مسائل اقتصادی، سیاسی و اجتماعی بسیار تاثیر گذار دوران معاصر پاسخ گوید؟ اگر معتقد باشيم كه تئوري اجتماعي واقعاً منعكس كننده يِ ساختار جامعه مدرن به همراه گرايشات رقيب روشنفكري است كه براي كسب منابع مادي در رقابت اند، آنگاه درمي يابيم كه زمان براي طرح ايده هاي خاص روشنفكرانه و راندن ساير ايده ها به حاشيه يِ تفكر انتقادي آماده است. اگر آثار فروم را در پس زمينه يِ مجادلات نظريِ اجتماعيِ معاصر قرار دهيم، اومانيزم راديكال اريك فروم نشان مي دهد كه چگونه يك رويكرد جديد قادر است مسائل غامض و بظاهر غيرقابل حلي كه چشم انداز روشنفكري را احاطه كرده اند، حل و فصل كند.

    دوركين، نويسنده يِ كتاب « اومانيزمِ راديكالِ اريك فروم» به گفته يِ ميشل آرفكن، توضيح بيوگرافيكي جالبي از زندگي اريك فروم، با تمركز بر كانتكست سياسي و اجتماعي آثار وي و روابط فردي و حرفه اي كه شكل دهنده يِ و مقوم انديشه هايِ او بوده، مطالب آغازين كتاب را تشكيل مي دهد. وي با ترسيم پرتره اي كامل از فروم با مراجعه به انبوه آثار وي در آرشيوها نشان مي دهد كه فروم عميقاً درگير مسائل مبارزاتي روشنفكرانه بوده و بوضوح ساختار اقتصادي و اجتماعي جامعه يِ مدرن را تبيين كرده است. نويسنده در چارچوب گرافيكي خود نشان مي دهد كه فروم با در دست داشتن مجموعه اي از سنت ها و رويكردها، از زاويه يِ روانشناسي تحليلي و ماركسيسم با مطالعات فرهنگي و محيط شناسانه برخورد كرده است. دوركين نقشي را كه نظريه يِ تكاملي در انديشه يِ فروم بازي كرده با جزئيات كامل بازگو مي كند و نشان مي دهد كه تا چه اندازه بر محيط روشنفكري خود تاثير گذار بوده است.

    بگفته يِ دوركين زبده يِ نوشته هايِ فروم جدلِ اومانيزمِ راديكال با ايده هايِ ضداومانيستي دوران خود بوده است. اينك نيز، در دوراني كه بخاطر دهه ها حاكميت ايده هاي فراساختاري و استثماري كه كوچكترين تاثير مثبتي بر زندگي عيني مردم تحت ستم نداشته اند بازگشت به ايده هاي اومانيستي و سياسي فروم ضرورتي حتتا بيشتر از قبل دارد. بازگشت به اومانيسم راديكال فرومي، نه تنها رويكرد غير انتقاديِ فردي فعال و راسيونال در اقتصاد سياسي كلاسيك و نه حتتا احيايِ جوهر اجتماعي انسان نخواهد بود، بلكه دتانتِ ميان لزوم ايجاد بنياني مستحكم برايِ عملِ سياسي و شناسايي نيروهاي اجتماعي، اقتصادي و سياسي كه در تلاقي مرزهاي هر پروژه بنيادي بازي مي كنند، خواهد بود. انديشه يِ فروم از اين زاويه، به مثابه يِ « جوهر كيفي» خواهد بود كه جايي ميان نسبي گراييِ افراطي ِ پست مدرنيسم و جوهر مطلقي كه پست مدرنيسم در برابرش موضع مي گيرد خواهد بود.

    گوهر بنيادي اومانيسم راديكال فروم به ادعاي دوركين، بازسازيِ ايده يِ طبيعت انساني است كه بسيار مورد سوءاستفاده واقع شده است. در نظريه يِ اجتماعي معاصر، ايده اي كه مدعي است وجوه بنيادي فرد او را به انسانيت مشترك به مثابه يِ يونيورساليسمِ صلب شده اي پيوند مي زند كه مجموعه اي متنوع و غني از اعمال اجتماعي را به فرديت تقليل مي دهد و در پي ايجاد ديدگاه جهاني همگن برمي آيد، به صورت انديشه اي آيئني در آمده است. البته دوركين منكر اين نيست كه طبيعت بشر در مواردي به مثابه يِ ابزار سلطه مورد استفاده واقع شده است اما مي گويد كه اثر فروم در نشان دادن جنبه هاي انقلابي طبيعت انسان ومتمايز كردن آن از وجوهي كه در خدمت وضع موجوداند، مقام بسزايي دارد. بنابراين درك و شناسايي چيزهايي كه فرد را به انسانيت مشترك پيوند مي زند ، محتوايِ حياتيِ هر پروژه يِ سياسي راديكال است كه ارزش مطالعه دارد.

    در بعضي موارد، تاكيد بيش از اندازه يِ دوركين براي ايجاد تقابل قوي و رقابت آميز ميان فعاليت هاي منحصربفرد روشنفكران حاشيه و توپخانه يِ تئوريك وضع موجود اجتماعي ماهيت همدلانه يِ چشم انداز روشنفكري معاصر را تيره و تار مي كند. ادعاي وي مبني بر اينكه نظريه يِ اجتماعي مدرن اساساً غير اومانيستي است، گرچه وجه مهمي از انديشه يِ غالب معاصر را برجسته مي كند، در عين حال اما در عرصه اي گشوده تر مجموعه اي از تفكراتي را مطرح مي كند كه اومانيستي بودن آنها محل شبهه است – حتتا اگر مدعي راديكال بودن باشند- زيرا كوچكترين علاقه اي به برپايي بنيانهاي ِ تئوري حقيقت ندارند. يكي از نمونه هاي بارز اين ادعا ريچارد رورتي است.

    با توجه به رد شديد فلسفه يِ تاريخ ماركس از سويِ رورتي و توهين هاي مبتذلانه اش به جنبش هاي سياسي ملهم از ماركسيسم، بسختي مي توان آثار وي را در زمره يِ اومانيسم راديكال قرار داد. اگر اين حقيقت را كه پراگماتيسم جديد رورتي در واقع تكرار سنت ضد اومانيستي گژذشته در قالب نو است، به گفته هاي دوركين اضافه كنيم، هيچ دليل قانع كننده اي در دست نداريم كه بتوانيم با استناد به آن رورتي را حتتا در زمره منتقدين راديكال ساختار طبقاتي جامعه بشمار آوريم.

    متاسفانه ادعاهايي موجود است كه رورتي را هم اومانيست و عميقاً منتقد كاپيتاليسم جا مي زنند. ظاهراً منبع اين ادعاها در مفهومِ بسيار بسته يِ طبيعت انساني است. دوركين در تلاش براي بازسازيِ طبيعت انساني، آنتي فونداسيوناليسم را معادل آنتي اومانيسم قلمداد مي كند. اين كار نه تنها بسياري از نظريات معاصر در حوزه يِ علوم اجتماعي و سياسي را از شكل مي اندازد بلكه فرصت بركشيدن انديشه يِ فروم را به عرصه يِ ديالوگ منطقي با سنت هايي كه در ك هايِ متفاوتي از طبيعت انسان از فلسفه و اخلاقِ ارسطويي تا كمونيتاريانيسم و پراگماتيسم معاصر را عرضه مي كنند، از دست مي دهد. در مورد رورتي، اومانيسم نيازي به آويزان شدن به طبيعت عام بشر ندارد بلكه به جاي آن مي تواند از اين نقطه عزيمت كند كه هريك از انسانها در جايي ميان فعاليت هاي اجتماعي شيوه يِ جا افتاده يِ زندگي و شكل نوين و راديكالي از حيات قرار دارند كه قادر به درك كليت آن نيستيم.از اين زاويه، احتمالاً طبيعت ما در هيات چيزي كه به سويش حركت مي كنيم بهتر درك مي شود تا در قامت چيزي كه رويش ايستاده ايم. اشتباه رورتي در تلاشش نيست كه مي خواهد نشان دهد اپيستمولوژي و آنتولوژي ما ضرورتاً در تضاد با پس زمينه يِ فعاليت هاي سنتي ما قرار مي گيرد، بلكه دفاع او از سنتي كه آشكارا ناسالم است عمق دريافت هايِ او را آلوده مي كند.

    در كانتكست ارزيابي مجدد آثار فروم، بيان رابطه ي ِ ميان روانشناسي تحليلي و نظريه اجتماعي عموميت يافته ضروري و بسيار حائز اهميت است. در اكثر سالهاي قرن بيستم روانشناسي تحليلي با زباني مناسب براي بيان رابطه ي ِ ديالكتيكي بين روانشناسي انسان و اغلب جنبه هاي حاكم در جامعه مدرن، به ياري تئوري هاي ِ اجتماعي آمده است.مطابق گفته دوركين يكي از مهمترين خدمات فروم به نظريه روانشناسي تحليلي – و يكي از عوامل اصلي جدايي وي از دوستانش در مكتب فرانكفورت- تلاش وي جهت توسعه يِ روانشناسي تحليلي در درون سوژه گي است. در حاليكه چالش فروم با تئوري ليبيدو به ظاهر در آزمون زمان است ، عاقلانه است اگر تحليل هاي روانشناسانه يِ كلاسيك يا معاصر در تبيين ساختار اجتماعي و دخالت علايق اقتصادي به پرسش كشيده شود. بدون اينكه در كارآيي روانشناسي تحليلي در فعايت هاي كلنيكي شك كنيم مي توانيم چشم انداز هاي حاشيه اي از جريان اصلي روانشناسي را به مبارزه يِ طبقاتي تعميم دهيم. شناخت را مي توان با تاسي به خود ماركس آغاز كرد كه معتقد بود روابط اجتماعي و تكنولوژي توسعه يافته در كاپيتاليسم بخش جدايي ناپذير پروسه يِ غلبه بر كاپيتاليسم است. در اين روانشناسي مي توان با تمركز بر رويكردهاي گوناگوني آغاز كرد كه شناخت ذاتي و علم اعصاب اجتماعي نه در حاشيه امور بلكه در بطن و درون آنها فعاليت مي كند. با توجه به منابع عمده اي كه در اين حوزه ها ريشه دوانده، استرات‍ژي اصلي با توجه به مبارزه طبقاتي قادر است به عنوان مقوم در رويكرد انقلاب در تئوري اقتصادي و سياسي بكار گرفته شود. در حاليكه هيچ دليلي براي مستثنا كردن روانشناسي تحليلي از اين پروژه وجود ندارد، اما اگر همين روانشناسي، نقطه يِ عزيمت چنين انقلابي در نظر گرفته شود ممكن اين راه به خطا ببرد.

    يكي از درس هايي كه مي توان از تئوري اجتماعي معاصر گرفت اين است كه ساختارهاي اقتصادي و سياسي ما از بازتوليد مفهوم خاصي از فرد – آنتروپولوژي فلسفي – اخذ و قوام مي گيرد. از نظر بعضي از انديشمندان خود اين حقيقت كمابيش علامت مرگ عمل سياسي معنادار است. در حاليكه عده اي ديگر طبيعت بشر را آخرين پناهگاه نهادهاي ِ متعارض مي شمارند كه به بهره كشي از بخش اعظم جهان به نفع منافع شخصي خود ادامه مي دهند. اومانيسم راديكال اريك فروم خاطرنشان مي سازد كساني كه آلترناتيوي در برابر تسليم به اين نهادها نمي بينند، بطور خطرناكي با جريان اصلي همسو مي شوند. به اين ترتيب بررسي مجدد آثار فروم فرصت منحصر بفرد و بسيار مهم در اختيار كساني قرار مي دهد كه براي ايجاد آلترناتيوي سياسي و اقتصادي در برابر شرايط حاضر مبارزه مي كنند.

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