How The Industrial Revolution Failed to Bring Us Meaning and Well-Being.

33Nicolas's picture

Can you guess where this one comes from?

Eric Fromm, the famous humanistic psychoanalysis rocked the world in the 1970s when he wrote The Art of Loving. It was part of a series of books that shed light on basic human foundations, love, well-being, etc. He also wrote To Have Or To Be? and later The Art of Being, both of which I haven't read yet. Both seems like the perfect read while in this COVID-19 forced rest.

BrainPicking writes on the topic of all humans want to live but don't necessarily think about how:

"That we want to live, that we like to live, are facts that require no explanation. But if we ask how we want to live — what we seek from life, what makes life meaningful for us — then indeed we deal with questions (and they are more or less identical) to which people will give many different answers. Some will say they want love, others will choose power, others security, others sensuous pleasure and comfort, others fame; but most would probably agree in the statement that what they want is happiness. This is also what most philosophers and theologians have declared to be the aim of human striving. However, if happiness covers such different, and mostly mutually exclusive, contents as the ones just mentioned, it becomes an abstraction and thus rather useless. What matters is to examine what the term “happiness” means…"

But from having our needs met and our wishes fulfilled leads to the question of what do we actually want?

Fromm goes on to say:

"...overcoming of greed, illusions, and hate, and the attainment of love and compassion, are the conditions for attaining optimal being. Drawing conclusions from empirical evidence, even if we cannot explain the evidence theoretically, is a perfectly sound and by no means “unscientific” method, although the scientists’ ideal will remain, to discover the laws behind the empirical evidence."

It's a good place to start but I've noticed that while caught in the torment of pain, those finer points don't always make sense and one might even rebel against them.

Finding our potential is one of the biggest task and one I'm still grasping at the age of 54. I still wonder. If Picasso peaked in his early 20s and Matisse in his mid-60s, does that mean I'm that part society has left to the wayside preferring the quick reward of instantaneous pleasure and achievables?

We definitely don't live in the ideal world that fosters happy citizens. Our so-called capitalist industrial society suppressed freedom and replaced it with unnatural desires inculcated to drive an economic demi-god. Fromm goes on to say:

Liberation has been exclusively applied to liberation from outside forces; by the middle class from feudalism, by the working class from capitalism, by the peoples in Africa and Asia from imperialism.

and adds:

This is the case in Western democracy, where political liberation hides the fact of dependency in many disguises… Man can be a slave even without being put in chains… The outer chains have simply been put inside of man. The desires and thoughts that the suggestion apparatus of society fills him with, chain him more thoroughly than outer chains. This is so because man can at least be aware of outer chains but be unaware of inner chains, carrying them with the illusion that he is free. He can try to overthrow the outer chains, but how can he rid himself of chains of whose existence he is unaware?

Any attempt to overcome the possibly fatal crisis of the industrialized part of the world, and perhaps of the human race, must begin with the understanding of the nature of both outer and inner chains; it must be based on the liberation of man in the classic, humanist sense as well as in the modern, political and social sense… The only realistic aim is total liberation, a goal that may well be called radical (or revolutionary) humanism.

You can read the rest of the article on your own. As to me, I'm going to get a copy of The Art of Being. I'm betting it is as relevant today as it was four decades ago.