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To Have or to Be? The Nature of the Psyche

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  7,926 ratings  ·  521 reviews
To Have Or to Be? is one of the seminal books of the second half of the 20th century. Nothing less than a manifesto for a new social and psychological revolution to save our threatened planet, this book is a summary of the penetrating thought of Eric Fromm. His thesis is that two modes of existence struggle for the spirit of humankind: the having mode, which concentrates o ...more
Paperback, 182 pages
Published September 6th 2005 by Continuum International Publishing Group (first published 1976)
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May 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pub-1976
To have or to be? Well, it’s simple really. To be, of course. To be rich!
Now, jokes aside.
I don’t normally read philosophical books because I share Lara's, from Doctor Zhivago, view on philosophy. She says: "I am not fond of philosophical essays. I think a little philosophy should be added to life and art by way of spice, but to make it one's speciality seems to me as strange as feeding on nothing but pickles"
Philosophy is, to me, a kind of brain game. A little like Sudoku, only with ideas inst
Nov 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant book. It takes a lot for a book to move me, or present a new idea that totally affects my perceptions of reality. This book got right to core of a deep-seated culturally accepted norm that was so hard to see I didn't even realize it was there. I have been aware of others talking about the alienating nature of Western culture without getting at the heart of why it is alienating. Erich Fromm makes it simple to understand; it is entirely our life-orientation towards having over ...more
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, favorite
To have or to be?

“I have a problem,” or “I am troubled?”

“I have insomnia,” or “I cannot sleep?”

In To Have or To BE?, the psychologist Erich Fromm describes the having and the being modes of existence and argues for the latter. Do we live in the realm of objects, to get them, to manage them, to secure them, to use them? Or do we live in the realm of experiences, to sense our surroundings, to relate to other, to understand ourselves?

To Have or To Be

Fromm published the book in 1976, but his analysis of society r
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An amazing read! Fromm completely changes your perspective on life and what it means to truly live... I recommend reading it not only once, but multiple times throughout life...
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Classic introduction on an important question: how to live?

I particularly, like the way Fromm tears slowly and gradually our commonsensical beliefs. Be it, the views on love or sanity or living itself. He firstly presents the widely accepted belief of having in the modern society.

Having means the belief that the our relation is with an object. A having person derives meaning in life by possessing and accumulating products, ideologies, other people. This way of living is fairly common. Visibly,
Icarus Phaethon
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I consider this book by Erich Fromm to be a masterpiece of thought. I read it in my twenties after returning from a long overseas trip and returning to a large city for work. It just seemed to sum up everything I was thinking about Western society's obsession with materialism and consumerism and the consequential destruction of the environment and the basic values of humanity. It's a short book, but Fromm seems to be able to concisely and eloquently get his point across with incredible impact wi ...more
May 19, 2009 rated it liked it
This book continued my reading into ecology economics. Fromm is a psychoanalyst, genius, German philosopher that promotes radical humanism in response to the dead, capitalistic society that exists in Western countries. The main tenet of the book is the differences between the "having" and "being" modes. The having mode supports greed, envy and an consumption based economy that likens development with growth. He argues that the unlimited growth of economies has failed to produce the greatest good ...more
Juraj Holub
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After finishing To have or to be?, it got among three most important books I’ve read so far. Its main theme is why our current system fails at fulfilling us as human beings. And what we as its agents can do about it to change the frustration.

On the philosophical level, I deeply related to Fromm’s ideas about the causes of our emptiness and existential crises due to placing too much focus on a ‘having’ mode. Be it possessions, work, love, faith, learning. According to Fromm, the mode is too self
Sep 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to break free of the madness!
Shelves: favorites
I could feel my life change while reading this. My copy, which was used in the first place, is now well underlined, dog-eared and full of post-its for easy reference.

Shane Avery
Apr 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thought
Truly, this is Fromm at his most idealistic and least academic. Fromm identifies two basic modes of human living, one of "having," the other of "being." He characterizes the having mode as developing along with the notion of private property and capitalism, particularly twentieth century capitalism, which is based on maximal consumption. In the having mode of existence, one's relationship to the world is one of possession, possession not only of property and objects, but also of people and ideas ...more
Zachary Moore
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
I read this book after having earlier read the same author's Fear of Freedom. I found To Have or to Be a much weaker effort with much less intellectual "meat" to digest. The first part of the book makes some solid and incisive points while not endlessly repeating the tired theme of the debased state of modern society while the second part issues a call for a new technocratic system constituting the "New Society." Fromm explicitly denounces technocracy at several points in the book but his propos ...more
Stephen Palmer
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fromm's major works were written in the second half of his life, with To Have Or To Be? the last work before his death in 1980. To Have Or To Be? is a kind of manifesto for a humane future, Fromm’s credo it could be said.

Fromm, a Marxist, had long railed against capitalism and what he called the marketing orientation, which he saw as shallow, fulfilling only minor human needs, which anyway were in large measure created by advertising. He saw consumers as children, made infantile by corporate gre
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly well-written, well thought-out book by Erich Fromm wherein he lays out the two fundamental modes of being: having and Being. This idea cuts across a great deal of existential thought and yet somehow synthesizes & clarifies it in a penetrating way. Erich Fromm lays out the basic dichotomy at work, but he does it in a humanistic context: the discussion is not divorced from our current time. On the contrary, the urgency of this book derives from its awareness of the present, our curre ...more
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Andrew by:
I read this book last summer, and I think it has had an impact on my way of thinking. It will be along time before I'm able to fully appreciate and enact the 'prescription' given here by Fromm.

I was editing an essay today that I wrote a while back. One of the sentences was about how father's spend much more time at work than with their children. The phrase 'spending time' didn't sit well with me, but it was really hard to think of an alternative. It honestly wasn't until I recalled Fromm that I
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
The ideas in this book (as in other books of Fromm are) are so damn close to me. But as always Fromm is too much of an idealist, he is so clear-cut about what is "good" and what is "bad", what is "right" and what is "wrong". Sometimes I really miss the scientist in his book, but I share many of his values and his worldview. ...more
Mojtaba Kadkhodaie
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Erich Fromm explains there are two fundamentally different approaches to life: one that is based on having and one that is based on being. In the having mode of existence, one’s relationship to the world is that of possessing and ownership. As he explains, this is the dominant mode for most modern humans and is intensified through the values of a capitalist culture. For instance, unlimited production and consumption, which are at the core of capitalism, intensify and rely on the having mode. In ...more
Fromm here offers a kind of new ethics and spirituality based on cooperation and opposition to the individualistic values of capitalism. using early christianity, budhism and marxism as the ideological bases on which his proposed new human society rests.

While is interesting in parts, It really doesn't offer something groundbreaking if you are familiar with other marxist writings of the 20th century. Also Fromm sometimes falls into very superficial trappings and some kind of naivete when offering
Guido Calderini
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a great book that will provide anyone living in modern occidental society with a new angle through which they can understand their life. I particularly liked the analysis of socialism and the explanation for its requiring a cultural evolution previous to the economic one. Some of the middle chapters concerning meister Eckhart may be of less interest to some readers. If you are having trouble with them, I invite you to just skip them, since they are not truly connected with the rest of the b ...more
Ethan Nguyen
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Are you having a good girlfriend, or are you being a good one? To have or to Be?

It's on you.
Vsevolod Zubarev
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As every good philosophy book, this one — if not outright changes you — will at least affect your outlook on life.
Matt Moyer
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: matt
I absolutely loved this book. I found myself eagerly marking up nearly every page, each filled with thoughtful and relevant passages. Of course, as an education, it causes me to consider if we want students to have an education or to be educated. Fromm obviously explores the teleology much more broadly than this, and it's worth every read and re-read. ...more
Nick Klagge
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another (much later) book from Erich Fromm that I really liked (see my review of "Escape from Freedom"). In this (short) book, Fromm distinguishes two modes of activity that can characterize any aspect of human life: the "having" mode and the "being" mode. Both of these have their roots in natural instincts of human beings: the desire to possess, and the desire to share and love.

Fromm says that almost any activity can be conducted in either mode, and the character of the activity can be complete
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this book, because my professor of History of Religion had suggested it and now that I've finished it I'm sure it's impact will stay with me for a long time. This book is a mix of different ways on how to perceive two ways of living - to be, and its antithesis - to have. It's not only a philosophical study, as it searches through economical and social factors as key elements that establish the way of life. My knowledge of philosophy is limited, but feel like the basis of the point of view ...more
Eric Franklin
First, you identify a problem; then, you solve it. That's the way it's supposed to work, right? This book had a lot to commend it for the initial 2 of 3 sections. I was fully onboard for the explanation of the differences between having and being, and then the analysis between those modes of existence.

Things go completely off the rails in part 3, where Fromm lays out his view on society will need to change to avoid catastrophe. It's filled with overly-specific prescriptions that have 0% chance
Omar Delawar
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you are unaware of who Erich Fromm was, do a quick Wikipedia search. It's pertinent. This is not an overly-abstract, philosophical read; it's easygoing, not too long, and it's insightful.

I first read this as a recreational read in my teenage years and it made a positive impression. Read this book and you'll be able to answer this question for yourself: What is the Point of Living: To Have or To Be?

I was most impressed with this quote (capitalization is mine): "If you are what you HAVE and you
Jul 15, 2008 rated it liked it
To Have or to Be? 1976, differentiates between having and being, how the modern society has become materialistic and prefers "having" than "being". The question should be what is good for man, rather what is good for the growth of the system. The materialistic nature of people of "having" has been more developed than "being". This is the truth that people of modern world have completely lost their inner selves.
این کتاب دو ترجمه از دو مترجم دارد. و به دلیل تفاوت های آشکار در مفاهیم، این تردید از
Ylli Tafarshiku
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
An interesting read, on Fromm’s view of the concept of possession versus being, describing it from different perspectives. While reading it, it reminded me of Paul McCarney’s “Fool on the hill”, and it’s main character Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, part of the lyrics which go like this:

“Day after day, alone on the hill
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he's just a fool
And he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun goi
Oleg Kubrakov
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Erich Fromm continues a discussion about man's choice of having something or being something. I was reading this book while experiencing a society environment where "having" is praised and desired in many ways, where capital is accessible and it's fruits are sharply visible. So why "to be" if you can have and be happy about it? Simply because if you are not being who does exist then. So one of the great achievements of the book is exposure of a human who attaches to material things that she owns ...more
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans everywhere
Another mind-blower of a book - another one that read like a meditation - running the ideas though my mind was like adopting a new world view - THIS is what I want from a book.

It also opened my eyes to serious Talmudic and Biblical study from a POV I only suspected it contained - a great feat seeing as I'm a former Hebrew School drop out. Actually made the ideas of a religion I always associated with authoritarianism and dogma (like most people tend to feel about a religion forced on them) seem
Dec 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
This book outlines two orientations to the world: "having" and "being." Fromm argues that much of the frustration of modern life stems from too much emphasis on "having," which does not provide as much satisfaction as "being." "Having" is a game we cannot win, there's always more we could have, and thus we become dissatisfied. Instead, he urges us to prioritize "being," focusing on sensory awareness, social activity, and other experiential pursuits that can provide a bounty of happiness, nearly ...more
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Erich Fromm, Ph.D. (Sociology, University of Heidelberg, 1922), was a psychoanalyst and social philosopher who explored the interaction between psychology and society, and held various professorships in psychology in the U.S. and Mexico in the mid-20th century.

Fromm's theory is a rather unique blend of Freud and Marx. Freud, of course, emphasized the unconscious, biological drives, repression, and

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“We are a society of notoriously unhappy people: lonely, anxious, depressed, destructive, dependent — people who are glad when we have killed the time we are trying so hard to save.” 83 likes
“If I am what I have and if what I have is lost, who then am I?
Nobody but a defeated, deflated, pathetic testimony to a wrong way of living.”
More quotes…