Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sane Society” as Want to Read:
The Sane Society
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Sane Society

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,325 ratings  ·  143 reviews
Social psychologist Erich Fromm’s seminal exploration of the profound ills of modern society, and how best to overcome them

One of Fromm’s main interests was to analyze social systems and their impact on the mental health of the individual. In this study, he reaches further and asks: “Can a society be sick?” He finds that it can, arguing that Western culture is immersed in
Kindle Edition, 386 pages
Published March 26th 2013 by Open Road Media (first published 1955)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,325 ratings  ·  143 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Sane Society
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book has been a psychological survival manual for me. I will always be indebted to Fromm for providing me with a way to hold on to hope in the spiritual progress of the human experiment in what is often a spiritually barren world. After all, without that hope, life doesn't really amount to much, despite all the rewards, recognition and shiny trinkets one might hoard to shore up against facing one's emptiness. He's given me better arguments than I could have forged on my own against falling ...more
A Brilliant work, a brilliant treasure from a brilliant mind. I prefer not to write a review. Just read it.
Arjun Ravichandran
Superb book, which hides under its sober language, an anguished cry of outrage at the incredible violence done to our psyches under capitalism. The author, who was a disciple of Freud and a practising psychologist, delineates what he considers to be a 'sane society' (that is to say, a healthy society from a psychoanalytic perspective), how our society is missing this ideal by a long, long way ; and finally, what can be done to reverse this trend and bring about a state of affairs where such incr ...more
Morgan Blackledge
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the Sane Society, Fromm reiterates and expands upon his earlier works:

1. Escape From Freedom; a critical synthesis of Marx and Freud, and a treatise on what Fromm calls social psychology (but what would in my opinion be more accurately called socialist psychoanalysis).

2. Man for Himself; a treatise on modern humanistic, existential ethics, in which Fromm braids insights from Nietzsche and other existentialists into his psycho-social theory of ‘how to live’.

In the Sane Society, Fromm continue
David Cupples
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most important books ever written BY FAR, by one of the top psychiatrists/social commentators of the 20th Century. I read it as part of my reading list for my graduate exams at UCSB. That was a while ago but the main issue sticks prominently in one's head: Can a person truly be sane (healthy in body, mind and soul) in a society which is insane? In other words, most criteria for judging a person mentally healthy, or not, are based upon the individual's effective adaptation, or not, to ...more
Collin O'Donnell
Erich Fromm, a more rational, humanist successor of Freud, is, historically, a victim of his own temperance. He's not got much of a name in the psychology game anymore, and through the screen of 2016, his diagnoses can come off as incredibly pedestrian and obvious, and his solutions as the stuff pipe-dreams are made of. With his previous work, Escape from Freedom, I chose to judge it based off how I thought someone in the 1940s (when it was published) might view it as opposed to how I actually f ...more
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been 25 years since I first read this book -- and 45 years since it was first published. It's interesting to reflect on why this book resonated so profoundly when I was a teenager. I must have already shared many of its views, but I remember having a revelatory feeling as I read it, as if truly learning something about human nature and the world we live in. I suppose that's an ancient paradox about education: we can't learn something that is utterly foreign to us, yet by definition learning ...more
How can a book like this exist since 1955? I've been hearing all these arguments my entire life, who knew they started even earlier then that (well technically they started around Marx).

Fromm's central premise is that an entire society can have lost its sanity, and as an example for that kind of insane society he uses 1950s capitalism with a few side-excursions into Soviet-style Communism (I wonder what he would think of neoliberalism - probably the same things, but even more disgust). In capita
"...greediness, ambition, and so forth are forms of insanity, although usually one does not think of them as 'illness.'"
Benedictus (Baruch) de Spinoza

Erich Fromm was born in Frankfurt am Main, in 1900, into a cultivated and religious milieu. As an adolescent, he was particularly attracted to the Messianic visions of universal peace and harmony in Jewish thought, and later belonged to the same circle as the existential theologian Martin Buber. After an extensive study of psychology and sociology
Sep 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-college
For the most part, I loved Fromm's analysis of contemporary (industrialized, Western) society (I did, though, see his views on homosexuality and international relations as troubling); I found his critique of Sigmund Freud affirming and highly relevant. As I've found, though, with many who take a critical view of the current state of affairs, Fromm here seems far less imaginative in his prescriptions and suggestions for how to move society beyond the alienation, repression, boredom, anomie, and ...more
Sep 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How sane are we? This is a very hard question to answer because we do not know the line that demarcates sanity and insanity. Erich Fromm investigates the sanity of the present society. He found out that there are manifestations of social sickness that afflicts and distorts human relationship. Freedom is diminished in its worth and human dignity becomes something very ambiguous.
Mikael Lind
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, psychology
A great read. This book gives the reader a good overview of the ideas and ideals behind Fromm's democratic socialism. A critique of both US capitalism and Soviet communism. ...more
Ailith Twinning
Jun 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2019
In retrospect, the early psychologists and sociologists and all philosphers all vaguely remind me of the think-tank writers that flood the space now, they speak in absolute abstractions: abstract ideals which are held to be absolute truths.

This book, it's pompous, it's nonsense, it's sexist as hell, and generally exhausting. There's a reason I can't stand "philosophers" -- well, most of them were actively hateful people, but apart from that -- philosophy is verbal masturbation, receding into co
Mohammed Hindash
I like how the author explains his theories and defends them with other sources and also criticizes the sources at the same time. This way of writing can be misinterpreted, but the author revisits and explains every contradicting thought or something related to that.
Even though this was written in 1950s, yet the book is very accurate on various aspects of modern society mental problems that are rooted in the problems of materialism and overconsumption. As the author says, this is mainly due to t
Oct 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Writing in the era of encroaching Communism and the rise of the Evil Empire, 2 years before the successful launch of Sputnik. One choice excerpt from pg. 363:

"Man today is confronted with the most fundamental choice; not that between Capitalism or Communism, but that between robotism (of both the capitalist and the communist variety), or Humanistic Communitarian Socialism."
May 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mind
"good quote"; "fantastic quote"; "good quote"; "good quote"; "good quote"; "good quote"; "good quote"; "good quote"; "holy shit"; "good quote"; "wow";"good quote"... you get the idea.

True enlightenment is on the horizon...a MUST read!
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ideally, this book would be the canonical text on which licensing exams for politicians and leaders of industry were based.
Jennie Rogers
Everyone needs to read this.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ma..mama we're all crazy now!! from the Rockformation Slade was one of my favorite songs.
I used the songtitel in one of my email adresses!
Even a most brilliant analysis of an Erich Fromm about the structures of our society fades away, lets us continue unchanged like the centuries before.
But the question stays unanswered: Why we don't change? Why i don't change?
Faris Alsaleh
Dec 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
I gave this book 4 stars for two reasons:

1) I've read alot of his work and there's significant overlap in some chapters.
2) Some chapters just dragged on way too long.

Otherwise if this was my first Fromm book it would be an easy 5/5. The chapter "Man in Capitalistic Society" in particular, is one of the best things I've read in a very long time.
Callum Bennett
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I disagree with a decent amount of this book but it's still excellent. ...more
RK Byers
Jan 10, 2021 rated it liked it
I think I’m suffering from herd immunity to philosophy.
Jul 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a little difficult to unpack the parts that are mistaken or just products of the time, and those that at least so far still seem to be very true, since they are so well intertwined. But the basic message that the entire structure and expectations and ambitions of a society can, in fact, be insane I believe to be undoubtedly the case, and it's somewhat depressing to realize that this book was written 55 years ago, and that the message has been repeated, and even accepted and believed countle ...more
Riccardo D
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still very relevant, possibly even more so today, which says something about how we have evolved as societies since the 50s when it was published. It formed the base for my Master's dissertation, and opened me up to a bold and different viewpoint from which to reconsider myself and others in society. Its proposal for a reintroduction of 'ritual' time/places in our lives, so as to honour , acknowledge and allow the expression of the chaos and 'madness' that are part of every human's condition, th ...more
J. Todd
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The three of Fromm's books I am familiar with - To Have Or To Be, The Sane Society, and Escape From Freedom - rank above what could be called extremely important. That would be an understatement. In an insane society, and modern society is undoubtedly insane, Fromm's books are among the few that can help us to find our way back to basic sanity, and to simply to survive, and not destroy ourselves; and beyond that, to a decent, just, peaceful, compassionate and free society, and possibly even an e ...more
This may have been considered revolutionary at one point, but all these old-left guys have started to sound the same to me. Ultimately, they're espousing the Ten Commandments. Which is fine, but it's as watery as hell and has all the intellectual rigor of a human interest special on the local news.

But Fromm is a bit better than that. He does a pretty good job of winnowing what's valuable about Freud from what's not. And his warnings against the economism of society are as prescient as ever. That
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The first few chapters present some enlightening observations of the ails of the human societal condition. Like Marx in his manifesto, he appears to have his finger placed upon the beating pulse of the shifting undercurrents of the collective social experience and its stresses thereupon. Also like Marx, the solutions he presents are detached from his initial observations and more rooted in reverential belief. After an auspicious beginning, Fromm launches into a myriad tirade of the travails of c ...more
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some good diagnosis, poor treatment

Fromm has some decent insights into man's problems: his fear of freedom, his alienation, his tendency toward self destruction. His remedies, however are inadequate in the first place, and are worse than the disease in the second. The book is dated, the industrial revolution is over, many of the opportunities Fromm pined for are realized, yet man is as sick and alienated as ever. His brokenness lies elsewhere; his sickness is alienation from God, not from himsel
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: labor, health, psychology, work
hmmmmm i like a lot of things about this book and i have reservations about some parts. fromm provides some pretty poetic descriptions of mental health and the development of human potential, as well as some beautiful criticism of capitalist society. but i do wonder if the 'roads to sanity' that he suggests are actually radical enough to make such a huge change in people's lives.

at the very least, it made me feel 18 again, reading something exciting about how the world could be......
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved his take on the religious, God-parent-child, take on how we interact or see or feel about God, or whatever it is you choose to call "Higher Self". ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy
  • Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy
  • One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society
  • Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung
  • Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
  • The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity
  • A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions
  • Vatra i ništa
  • Collapse of Complex Societies
  • How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
  • Kraj raspusta i druge priče
  • Besnilo
  • The Secret Life of the Mind: How Your Brain Thinks, Feels, and Decides
  • Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Towards Self-Realization
  • Totem and Taboo
  • A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution
  • The Poverty of Philosophy
  • The Complete Stories
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
27 likes · 7 comments
“That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.” 365 likes
“The whole life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself; indeed, we should be fully born when we die - although it is the tragic fate of most individuals to die before they are born.” 111 likes
More quotes…