Winding up Ch. 2 of “The Sane Society” — including an excerpt from Sigmund Freud’s book

Finishing out Chapter 2 of Erich Fromm’s book The Sane Society, picking back up on page 27 where he has in the preceding paragraph just mentioned Freud’s book Civilization and Its Discontents (the first part of Chapter 2 was transcribed a couple days ago and can be found here):

He starts out with the premise of a human nature common to the human race, throughout all cultures and ages, and of certain ascertainable needs and strivings inherent in that nature. He believes that culture and civilization develop in an ever-increasing contrast to the needs of man, and thus he arrives at the concept of the “social neurosis.” “If the evolution of civilization,” he writes, “has such a far-reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization—or epochs of it—possibly even the whole of humanity—have become ‘neurotic’ under the pressure of the civilizing trends? To analytic dissection of these neuroses, therapeutic recommendations might follow which could claim a great practical interest. I would not say that such an attempt to apply psychoanalysis to civilized society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behooves us to be very careful, not to forget that after all we are dealing only with analogies, and that it is dangerous, not only with men but also with concepts, to drag them out of the region where they originated and have matured. The diagnosis of collective neuroses, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment which we assume to be ‘normal.’ No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way. And with regard to any therapeutic application of our knowledge, what would be the use of the most acute analysis of social neuroses, since no one possesses the power to compel the community to adopt the therapy? In spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture upon this research into the pathology of civilized communities.”

This book does venture upon this research. It is based on the idea that a sane society is that which corresponds to the needs of man—not necessarily to what he feels to be his needs, because even the most pathological aims can be felt subjectively as that which the person wants most; but to what his needs are objectively, as they can be ascertained by the study of man. It is our first task then, to ascertain what is the nature of man, and what are the needs which stem from this nature. We then must proceed to examine the role of society in the evolution of man and to study its furthering role for the development of men as well as the recurrent conflicts between human nature and society—and the consequences of these conflicts, particularly as far as modern society is concerned.

[Italicized emphasis his.]

That concludes Chapter 2 of Erich Fromm’s book The Sane Society (1955), a personal favorite of mine and the first of his writings I came across a few years back.

Tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Winding up Ch. 2 of “The Sane Society” — including an excerpt from Sigmund Freud’s book

  1. Pingback: On Defective Individuals and Sick Societies — an excerpt from Erich Fromm’s book “The Sane Society” - Wayward Blogging

Leave a Reply