Conclusion: Radical Humanism and Human Solidarity

  • Lawrence Wilde


What is unique about Fromm’s social theory is its explicit ethical commitment to the universal realization of human potentials. He is convinced of the need for an ethical turn to be taken in order to open up a real possibility of the achievement of a condition of human solidarity. His humanism is radical because it opposes all antagonistic social structures that reproduce exploitation and oppression. It is universal in a twofold sense; philosophically, in that it is based upon a philosophical anthropology that yields universal norms, and empirically, in the sense that it involves a global vision of overcoming relationships of domination and subordination in all aspects of human life. From an early age Fromm accepted the fundamental truth of Marx’s critique of capitalism, placing particular emphasis on the alienation thesis with its stress on how capitalism shapes and distorts social relations. His own work attempts to rectify a fault that he identified in Marxist theory, namely, its tendency to analyze socioeconomic development largely in structural terms while paying little attention to the consciousness of those identified as the agents of radical social change. His development of “social character” as an analytical framework enables him to analyze the phenomenon of affluent alienation in terms of the development of the marketing character. Although at times this alienation is presented as being totally pervasive, his emphasis on the question of what we are alienated from opens up the positive questions about the tasks of emancipation in late capitalism. In other words, how can we envisage a de-alienated character in a de-alienated world? In order to develop a positive conception of freedom Fromm draws on his special skills in psychoanalysis, resulting in his pathbreaking exposition of the productive character and the ideal of the being mode of existence.


Human Nature Marxist Theory Global Politics Philosophical Anthropology Universal Realization 
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© Lawrence Wilde 2004

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  • Lawrence Wilde

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