Erich Fromm

Topics: Sociology, Psychology, Value Pages: 5 (1168 words) Published: April 22, 2014

According Fromm, there is a connection between social character and the economic basis of that society. To explain this connection, Fromm uses psychoanalysis techniques to bridge the gap. Using Freud’s dynamic concept of character, Fromm identifies that society acts in a majority type way, meaning that a society usually acts in one type of character type way that drives their motivations. Fromm identifies that social character is that which is shared by most members in a society. In reflecting upon the examples Fromm uses to explain social character, such as how in modern industrial society man must be eager and ready to work or how in nineteenth century capitalism man needed to value the necessity of saving; along with reflecting upon where I see social character at work in today’s society, I believe that Fromm made an excellent attempt to fill in the gap between superstructure and economics as he proposed in the beginning of his reading. Of course, as Fromm also pointed out, there are minute differences in the social character, but looking from a macro-view of society; we generally do operate in the same characteristic traits. Our society today values knowledge and education; if we did not all operate with the value of these things we would not have such a large emphasis on education as we do in our society. Instead, you would have those who went along believing in education and those who rebel against this ideal and do not give into the necessity of education. In fact, it is illegal up unto a certain point, to receive education; those children who do rebel against the system of education being ladled as treason. You will of course have the minute differences maybe due to motivational factors such as those who value education more or less show by those who continuously further their education or those who just do the bare minimum required, but overall society sees the necessity for education. It is the same concept with the nineteenth century society’s value of the necessity of saving. There were probably minute differences again maybe due to what motivates the person to conform to this social character of saving, but as a whole, society operated in a saving mannerism. If you did have those who wanted to challenge the social character, their behavior would be seen as deviant from the norm and would not result in a success in that society. The statement “their behavior is not a matter of conscious decision as to whether or not to follow the social pattern” is part of the interesting functioning of social character. In reflecting upon the idea of social character, you can see it functioning in society, but living in society every day you do not think – I need to act in “x,y,z” way in order to be successful and conform to the rest of society. It is an unconscious choice – in fact there is not really a choice at all. Fromm dissects parenting and parental influence in relationship to social character and we find out that we are nurtured into conformity of the social character. Our parents act in the way of the social character and thus their parenting styles reflect this character also. We grow up with the idea of the society without even knowing there is another choice or questioning why we value the things we do. Back to the education example, we never question why education is so important in our society – we just accept and conform to it. Taking yourself out of the equation of social character and instead looking into it; it is so interesting to see how much we are conformed to act and believe in such a way without even exploring further. It reminds me of the concept of natural selection, where the animals of certain environments are born with and develop the skills that are necessary in order to thrive and survive in the environment that their species also lives in. As a species migrates into a new environment due to whatever reason animals migrate, the next generations start to develop new skills and instincts that...
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