In focusing on alienation in the sphere of consumption, Fromm addresses a distinctly modern concern. The dawn of the age of mass consumption can be symbolized by the Model T Ford, which made the motor car available to a mass market, so that by the end of the 1920s, 27 million Americans owned a car. That decade also saw the spread of cinema and radio to millions of people, opening a vast market for advertisers. The potential for social manipulation was apparent to the novelist Aldous Huxley after visiting the United States in the late 1920s, so much so that his dystopia, Brave New World (1932), depicts a world of total social control through programming, drugs, and instant gratification.1 Fromm regarded the book as so prophetic that he devotes five pages to it in The Sane Society,2 which appeared as the United States was experiencing its second phase of mass consumption, with the spread of television and the expansion of cars and consumer durables. It is now commonplace in sociology to consider the ideological impact of patterns of consumption stimulated through the techniques of mass advertising, but Fromm was one of the first to note the potential significance of consumption as a form of social control. In Escape From Freedom he bemoans the emergence of what he calls “hypnoid suggestion” through advertising techniques, but, ever the dialectician, he also identifies the nascent consumer movement as a means through which the consumer may restore a capacity for discernment and a sense of significance. The consumer movement, he argues, can play a role equivalent to that of the trade unions in the sphere of production.3


Public Provision Consumer Durable Mass Consumption Consumer Society Affluent Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967); on the American influence see David Bradshaw, Introduction to Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (London: Harper Collins, 1994).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (Henry Holt: New York, 1990), pp. 224–228.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), pp. 131–132, cf. Marx, “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, volume 3 (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1975), pp. 322–326 and Lawrence Wilde, Marx and Contradiction (Aldershot and Brookfield, Vermont: Avebury, 1989), pp. 53–56.Google Scholar
  4. 34.
    Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book One, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976), p. 84.Google Scholar
  5. 41.
    Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1991), chapter 1; on the similarities of the approaches of Fromm and Marcuse see Lawrence Wilde, Ethical Marxism and Its Radical Critics (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998), chapter 4.Google Scholar
  6. 43.
    Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Democracy Realized: The Progressive Alternative (New York: Verso, 1998), pp. 19–20.Google Scholar
  7. 52.
    There is now a wealth of literature on this, but see in particular Richard Falk, On Humane Governance: Toward a New Global Politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  8. 53.
    Jon Burchell and Simon Lightfoot, The Greening of the European Union? (New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  9. 56.
    Ronald Inglehart, The Silent Revolution: Changing Values and Political Styles Among Western Publics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997) and Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  10. 59.
    Steve Yearley and John Forrester, “Shell, A Sure Target for Global Environmental Campaigning?” in Robin Cohen and Shirin Rai (eds.), Global Social Movements (Brunswick, NJ and London, 2000), p. 138.Google Scholar
  11. 60.
    Naomi Klein, No Logo (London: Flamingo, 2000), pp. 387–391.Google Scholar
  12. 62.
    Zygmunt Bauman, Work, Consumerism and the New Poor (Philadelphia and Buckingham: Open University Press, 1998), p. 24.Google Scholar
  13. 67.
    Ibid., p. 30, cf. Zygmunt Bauman, Society Under Siege (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002), p. 196.Google Scholar
  14. 69.
    Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (London: Pimlico, 1997), pp. 281–283.Google Scholar
  15. 75.
    Zygmunt Bauman, Postmodern Ethics (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1993), pp. 204–205.Google Scholar
  16. 91.
    James B. Twitchell, Lead Us into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lawrence Wilde 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Wilde

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations