In principle, work for Fromm is a key expression of our humanity. He argues that in productive activity we transform the world and realize our own nature as rational, creative beings. In his discussion of what constitutes an authentic “self” in Escape From Freedom, he extols the virtues of spontaneous activity and specifies our capacity to love and work as the two foremost components of this spontaneity. He refers to work as an act of creation, which binds us close to nature in distinction from work either as compulsive activity to escape from loneliness, which he characterizes as “busyness,” or as a drive to dominate nature, which ends up enslaving us to technology.1 Later, in The Sane Society, he comments that humans go beyond the animal realm when they work, and in the process they create themselves as social and independent beings. We separate ourselves from nature by molding it in our creations, but we reunite with nature, as “master and builder.”2 The ideal here is the work of the craftsman, the faber of homo faber, exemplified by the great Gothic constructions of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, in which there is no split between work and culture, and expression through work is truly self-expression. “Mastery” is used by Fromm to denote accomplishment rather than to imply “domination,” as in mastering a difficult skill, although he is fully aware that since the development of capitalism there are few opportunities for people to experience the deep pleasure of practising such skills.3


Trade Union Autonomous Activity Basic Income Trade Union Movement Guarantee Income 
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© Lawrence Wilde 2004

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  • Lawrence Wilde

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