Freud was the first to draw our attention to the dark forces driving us beneath the level of our consciousness towards particular forms of behavior. But he was a traditionalist who accepted the evilness of man's anti-social nature. He believes that although society must allow man some room for the direct satisfaction of some of his ineradicable biological drives, he must be domesticated by social mores: society must refine and skilfully check man's basic impulses. In doing so, society drives some of man's instinctual needs underground, forcing man to express his basic urges into socially acceptable and culturally valuable forms like art by sublimating them. However when the forces of suppression is greater than man's capacity for sublimation, man becomes neurotic. Thus the more suppression, the more culture for some and the greater the risk of neurotic disturbance for others. For Freud, the passions and anxieties characteristic of modern man were treated as if they were eternal forces rooted in the biological constitution of all men. Man's anti-social hostility may seek to express itself in different forms within the family eg.the Oedipus complex, the so-called castration complex. In the same way that man treats others primarily as "objects" or as means to the end of selling or purchasing various products and services in the market, man seeks an exchange of satisfaction of biological needs in a relationship in which the other individuals are treated as a means to an end but never an end in itself.
Instead of treating man's relationship to others as "static"or "mechanical" like Freud, Fromm thinks that although there are certain fixed relatively inflexible biological needs like hunger, thirst, sex, the need for sleep and rest (the need for self preservation) "common" to all men, the most beautiful and the most ugly drives which makes for "differences" in men's characters like love, hatred, the lust for power, the yearning for submission, the enjoyment of sensuous pleasure and the fear of it , the desire for self-aggrandizement, the passion for thrift, desire for detachment and which are all products of the social process itself and which are not particularly flexible because once formed, they do not easily disappear or change into some other drive but which are flexible in so far as they may develop the one or other need according to the whole mode of their life in childhood he happens to find himself in but none of such needs is as fixed or rigid as his biological need for self-preservation. Thus society not only has a repressive function, as Freud thinks, it has a creative function too. To Fromm, man's nature, his passions and anxieties are all cultural products and the most important creation and achievement of man's continuous effort to remould himself in history is man himself. He therefore seeks to understand why certain historical period like e.g. the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and man under conditions of monopolistic capitalism produce different character structure of man.Thus the Renaissance man is filled with a burning ambition for fame and possesses a sense of appreciation for the beauty of Nature and in Northern Europe from the 16th century on, an obsessional craving for work which were lacking in the free man in the Middle Ages. He says, "man is not only made by history--history is made by man.".(FOF 10). If so, then the particular form of how men's passions, desires and anxieties are shaped by social expectations will themselves turn around as productive forces to mould and shape the social process e.g the craving for fame and success and the drive to work to fuel both production and consumption and the form taken by capitalism.. In other words, Fromm thinks that man's history is shaped not just by independent psychological forces which are not themselves socially conditioned but also by the psychological changes in men's character structure in the form of their new "habits" as they adapt to new cultural patterns. He thinks that there is "no fixed human nature" and that "we cannot regard human nature as being infinitely malleable and able to adapt itself to any kind of conditions without developing a psychological dynamism of its own" To him, "human nature, though being the product of historical evolution, has certain inherent mechanism and laws".
Fromm distinguishes between two types of adaptive behavior in man: the static, which leaves the basic character structure unchanged eg. Chinese adoption of Western eating habits, using knife and fork instead of chopsticks and which does not give rise new drives or character traits and the dynamic the type of adaptation a child adopts when he submits to his authoritarian and threatening father's command to become a "good" boy. In the latter case, the boy may harbor an intense repressed hostility against his father which may create a new anxiety and may lead to still deeper submission or lead to a vague and generalized defiance against all forms of authority but not directed at any one in particular but towards life in general. To him, every neurosis is an example of this type of dynamic adaptation: an irrational adaptation to eternal circumstances especially those in early childhood generally unfavourable to his growth and development. Likewise, there can be analogous socio-psychological adaptation comparable to neurotic adaptation (but not strictly speaking "neurotic) like those people adopt towards strong, destructive or sadistic impulses in social groups which are irrational and harmful to the development of men.
To Fromm, two other factors determine a man's behavior profoundly. The first is work. To satisfy his fixed biological and inflexible biological and existential needs, he must work in a concrete and specific type of job, occupation, profession or career within a specific kind of economic system,whether as a slave under a feudal system, a peasant in an Indian pueblo, an independent businessman, a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant, an architect, an engineer, a government administrator in a capitalist society, a sales girl in a modern department store, a worker on the endless belt of a big factory, a technician in a service company or a bus or lorry driver , a pilot or sailor or even a street sweeper or an artist or performer. To a certain extent, his stage is set for him when he is born. "Both factors, his need to live and the social system, in principle are unalterable by him as an individual, and they are the factors which determine the development of those other traits that show greater plasticity." and determine his whole character structure. But this does not mean that he cannot with the others effect certain economic and political changes but primarily his character is moulded by his particular social circumstances in childhood, exemplified by his family, which is a microcosm of social and cultural values, which influences him largely through the operation of a second need, which though not necessarily rooted in bodily processes, is no less compelling viz. his need to feel connected and related to the world outside of himself, the need to avoid emotional or spiritual solitude or aloneness or loneliness. This sense of relatedness is not necessarily physical: an individual may be alone physically for many years and yet may feel related to others through ideas, symbols, values or feeling of "belonging" e.g. a Christian monk who believes he is with God or a political prisoner who believes he is one with his fellow-fighters though in fact isolated in a prison cell and the petty bourgeois who, though deeply isolated from his fellow-men, feels one with his nation or its symbols and by contrast, a man may be physically cheek by jowl with others as part of an urban crowd and yet be overcome by an utter sense of isolation which, if it transcends a certain limit, may turn him into a schizophrenic. Religion and nationalism and any customs or hobby or belief, however absurd, if it connects an individual with others, are social and emotional refuges from what man dreads most: the horror or terror of social or emotional isolation!
(To be cont'd)