To Have or to Be?

To Have or to Be? is a 1976 book by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, in which he differentiates between having and being.

Fromm mentions how modern society has become materialistic and prefers “having” to “being”. He mentions the great promise of unlimited happiness, freedom, material abundance, and domination of nature. These hopes reached their highs when the industrial age began. One could feel that there would be unlimited production and hence unlimited consumption. Human beings aspired to be Gods of earth, but this wasn’t really the case. The great promise failed due to the unachievable aims of life, i.e. maximum pleasure and fulfillment of every desire (radical hedonism), and the egotism, selfishness and greed of people. In the industrial age, the development of this economic system was no longer determined by the question of what is good for man, but rather of what is good for the growth of the system. So, the economic system of society served people in such a way in which only their personal interests were intended to impart. The people having unlimited needs and desires like the Roman emperors, the English and Frenchnoblemen were the people who got the most out it.

Society nowadays has completely deviated from its actual path. The materialistic nature of people of “having” has been more developed than “being”. Modern industrialization has made great promises, but all these promises are developed to fulfill their interests and increase their possessions. In every mode of life, people should ponder more on “being” nature and not towards the “having” nature. This is the truth which people deny and thus people of the modern world have completely lost their inner selves. The point of being is more important as everyone is mortal, and thus having of possessions will become useless after their death, because the possessions which are transferred to the life after death, will be what the person actually was inside.

Published on Jun 28, 2013
Erich Fromm Interview about his book “To Have or to Be?”
“As always, Erich Fromm speaks with with wisdom, compassion, learning and insight into the problems of individuals trapped in a social world that is needlessly cruel and hostile” – Noam Chomsky.

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