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The Art of Being

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  3,589 ratings  ·  216 reviews
Between 1974 and 1976, while working on the book To Have Or to Be? at his home in Locarno, Switzerland, the aged Erich Fromm wrote far more manuscript and chapters than were actually used in the book, which was published in 1976. Some of these chapters are contained in the present volume. They deal entirely with the "steps toward being" that the individual can take in orde ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by Bloomsbury Academic (first published 1989)
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Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
I approached this work with trepidation. My shuddering become more pronounced when Fromm started talking about mediation and self-awareness and Buddhism. “Oh dear,” I thought, “We’re in for one of those books.”

That it wasn’t ‘one of those books’ really surprised and delighted me. My mum is always at me to take up meditation. I’ve, on occasion, even gone to such places and then they talk to me about Chakras and my spiritual self and other rot and nonsense and a deep depression engulfs my soul. Th
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
A reality show in which Kim Kardashian was forced to read this book would be immensely enjoyable to me.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it liked it
This book contained a line, something like "most conversations are monologues," that has changed my behavior. With that line I realized how frequently I don't fully listen, am not fully present, how often I just want to hear myself speak rather than really connect. There's something powerful about being present. ...more
I stumbled upon this book on accident. I had never heard of Erich Fromm before. At times I feel like fate is playing games with me when I find something that enlarges and enriches my perspectives on life. This was one of those books.

This is a treatise on the identity of man. He brings up Freudian and Marxian theories frequently in discussing the estrangement of modern man from themselves. The middle class feels the bulk of the estrangement as they try to pull off an incredibly difficult balance
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every one
This book changed the way I view myself in relation to my culture and society. I would recommend it to any one who has ever felt torn between what they feel is right for them and what their society often suggests is right for them. It is a great and fascinating book!
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it
"If other people do not understand our behavior, so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us... Mostly they resent our freedom and courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting."

There were some great pithy take-aways in this book. I also really enjoyed Fromm's talk about mindfulness, decades before it was "jargonized" in the West.

First half of the book was the best - broader in scope. Fromm was a prolific writer an
One could say, justifiedly: “Tell me what wakes you up and I’ll tell you who you are.” (p. 36)

I've often said that the Buddha was an early psychologist. Erich Fromm's Art of Being demonstrates the reverse is also true: psychology continues to learn from Buddhism. Fromm is a psychoanalyst and humanist who argues that psychological health, being (as opposed to having), is a consequence of both concentration and self-awareness.

Without effort and willingness to experience pain and anxiety, nobody gr
A weird little book.
Elena Dobre
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
Not recommend reading this book unless you first read Fromm's "To Have or To Be: The Nature of Psyche". This book was supposed to be included in "To Have or To Be", but Fromm decided to publish two separate books to avoid confusions among the readers. "The Art of Being" is like a short manual on auto-analysis, meditation, focus, but it doesn't go deep into the methods. I believe that the author is only trying to make us conscious of ourselves and present us some ways of how a human being can "be ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book, succinctly written and referencing some big names like Marx and Freud... but 95% is quite depressing.

Again highlighting how behind every good intention is greed, egoism and fear, I'm starting to think that maybe some philosophers just took themselves a bit too seriously.

The final chapter (3 short pages) was uplifting and much more positive: if you can overcome selfishness and narcissism you can have a genuine interest in art, culture, other people etc. and experience joy.
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
The author, Erich Fromm, was as social psychologist of renown, and was associated with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. This book was published in 1989, with its English version in 1992. I mention the years of publishing to highlight its prescience and foresights into our own time.

What is the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory? It is based on principles from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud in attempt to “liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them”. The circumstances inc
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh, kinda lightweight...I don’t understand why the edition I read is 235 pages while all the others that I can find are <180...but after reading it I wish that I had got the shorter version from my library. I think the books message is a fairly simple one but the exposition was way overlong!

Ages ago I read at least a couple of other books by Fromm and found them a lot more interesting and thought provoking than this one, perhaps because of my youth...I will have to revisit them sometime soon to
Lily Borovets
I'm coming back to Fromm from time to time to keep myself sane and remind myself what does it mean to be and how to get there (or not to lose it).

Complementary to his earlier works "Escape from Freedom" and "To have or To be"
Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Four stars for the first half of the book, Fromm's postulating on the myriad ways we prevent ourselves from just being, mostly through the obsession with acquiring possessions, becoming distracted with technology, or gaining the esteem of others. When these impulses are strong in a person, we may not have strong convictions, reason or love to share.

It is very sad to think about people who turn to objects to justify their identity or their very existence, or people who are unable to talk about th
Patrick Adekunle
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This is a very profound look into the human condition in the modern world.

A harsh but revealing opinion of Fromm is showed in the quote below:

"In summary, modern man has many things and uses many things, but he is very little. His feelings and thinking processes are atrophied like unused muscles. He is afraid of any crucial social change because any disturbance in the social balance to him spells chaos or death - if not physical death, the death of his identity."

The book discusses the state of
Mack Hayden
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psych
This is a book I know I’ll be returning to time and again. My second from Fromm and he’s solidifying his place as one of my all time favorite voices. His insights on his own field of psychoanalysis’ shortcomings and successes were especially interesting, but this has the feel overall of Marcus Aurelius’ meditations. It’s an all encompassing look at humanity’s ability to both sell themselves short in a million ways through their own neuroses and occasionally find their way out of it from switchin ...more
Elke de Echte
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: stefaan viaene
Shelves: tao
In The Art of Being Erich Fromm makes no bones about it: authentic self-awareness takes practice, a lot of honest and painful practice. After pointing out the great shams in the field of self-help and any so-called shortcuts to enlightenment, he explains what exactly is at stake. His clear, (literally) down-to-earth approach to often-used floaty terms makes it all the more plausible: well-being as the supreme goal of life can only be attained when one moves from ‘having’ as in narcissistic selfi ...more
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2-re-read
it about the difference between Being & Having
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The takeaways from this book are powerful, and the fundamental principles are laid out clearly enough to be easily remembered. Excellent.
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Like Fromm's other works, also this one promises a lot but fails to convince me. Some of the book's inadequacies may be related to the fact that it is something like a bin for the unused chapters of another book. The biggest problem is, I think, that it is tries to make scholarly arguments, but its main content is in the area of self-help. His philosophy is lame, because he does not really see any problem in seeing the "body" merely as a property, object or instrument. Self-analysis can be a goo ...more
Ian Phillips
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had pretty high hopes for this, but for me this one didn’t work at all. The most compelling part of this was the forward, honestly. And maybe this is the wrong work by Fromm and I’d be interested in reading more stuff, but this became insufferable old man yelling at cloud when it wasn’t a serious consideration of Freudian psychology. It’s just hard to take any of that stuff even remotely seriously in 2020.
Kasey Denton
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m not very knowledgeable on psychology or Sigmund Freud but Erich Fromm does excellent job tying Freudian theory with Marxist social theory, property rights and with different parts of Buddhism and self-analysis with meditation. There’s a lot of interesting ideas in here that I wish to explore more.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
From an academic standpoint, I largely agree with Noam Chomsky's hot take: "I liked Fromm's attitudes but thought his work was pretty superficial."

But as a general read that skims across topics of meditative practices, psychoanalysis, and Marxist critique, this book has a nice bite to it.
Zahra'a Bin Shaibah
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
We live in this cybernetic world where humans are living symbiotically with machines, reaching a point in which they are transformed into automatons. With ego, selfishness and narcissism forming their core, while consumerism and materialism are introjected into their brains, as a result possession is their only way of interaction and is reflected in their habits.
The question is how to be a LIVING human/ how to maintain our liveliness, and avoid being a living-dead human ?
Fromm answers these que
Apr 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“With changing methods of production, particularly the increasing role of machines, and with the change from the idea of hard work and saving to the ideal of consumption (“happiness”), overt personal obedience to a person was substituted by submission to the organization: the endless belt, the giant enterprises, governments which persuaded the individual that he was free, that everything was done in his interests, that he, the public, was the real boss. Yet precisely because of the gigantic powe ...more
Ian Russell
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, science
So the answer to the art of being is Popeye’s quote? “I am what I am”. (Or Gloria Gaynor’s though I think that anthem came a little too late.) But Popeye, yes. I’m disappointed Fromm chose to end his book with that sentence without any reference to the sailor man. I’m disappointed that the art of being apparently has no room for humour.

I don’t recall reviewing a book on Goodreads which fitted so neatly into my two star category - “disappointing but with some redeeming qualities”. Usually I erm a
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fromm hesitantly dedicates a chapter to "the sham" surrounding the new age spiritual movement. His arguments hold up, maybe even more judiciously today. He describes the teachings, and the gurus of meditation, of taichi, and of yoga, as salesmen of ethereal products to help achieve short-term success. I agree with Fromm. While I witness society benefiting from a growing appetite for self-realization, oozing with love, peace, and respect, I also observe people opt into the fad for selfish reasons ...more
Kristi Richardson
“I cannot know who I am, because I don't know which part of me is not me.”

I don’t normally read so-called self-help books but I was intrigued with this one. Mr. Fromm was a well-known psychologist and this is one of his best works.

Although a bit dated, this book holds up well in this society. We are even more isolated in this age than when the book was originally written. Mr. Fromm talks about being versus getting. Acquiring things instead of acquiring life experiences. Everything he said made
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Having and Being are two modes for approaching life itself. If asked what one values, and that question is answered with some means of possession, this is a Having attitude towards life. Having shouldn’t be connected with one’s purpose in life. The difference is in having a possession versus a activity-orientation towards life. The process of evolution embeds in all living things the will to live, with all other thoughts as secondary. Capitalism conditionally reinforces each individual’s percept ...more
Ravi Raman
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Listened to the audiobook version. The overarching concept of being vs having is a powerful one. However the book is overly formal and psychoanalytical in nature. It does a good job of dispelling the belief some may have in "new age gurus" to lead one to enlightenment and instead indicates that the key to personal fulfillment lies in self awareness (through meditation and self analysis) and the casting away of a consumerist lifestyle hell bent on defining ones life by acquisition of things and a ...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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“A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet "for sale", who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence - briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing - cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his "normal" contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity,his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.” 1049 likes
“If other people do not understand our behavior—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being "asocial" or "irrational" in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to "explain," which usually implies that the explanation be "understood," i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience—and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.” 613 likes
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