Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Homo Consumens"

"Homo Consumens is the man whose main goal is not primarily to own things, but to consume more and more, and thus to compensate for his inner vacuity, passivity, loneliness and anxiety. In a society characterized by giant enterprises and giant industrial, governmental and labor bureaucracies, the individual, who has no control over his circumstances of work, feels impotent, lonely, bored, and anxious. At the same time, the need for profit of the big consumer industries, through the medium of advertising, transforms him into a voracious man, an eternal suckling who wants to consume more and more and for whom everything becomes an article of consumption - cigarettes, liquor, sex, movies, television, travel and even education, books and lectures. New artificial needs are created and man's tastes are manipulated. (The character of homo consumens in its more extreme forms is a well known psycho-pathological phenomenon. It is to be found in many cases of depressed or anxious persons who escape into overeating, overbuying, or alcoholism to compensate for the hidden depression and anxiety.) The greed for consumption, an extreme form of what Freud called the "oral-receptive character," is becoming the dominant psychic force in present-day industrialized society. Homo consumens is under the illusion of happiness, while unconsciously he suffers from his boredom and passivity. The more power he has over machines, the more powerless he becomes as a human being; the more he consumes, the more he becomes a slave to the ever increasing needs which the industrial system creates and manipulates. He mistakes thrill and excitement for joy and happiness and material comfort for aliveness; satisfied greed becomes the meaning of life, striving for it a new religion. The freedom to consume becomes the essence of human freedom."

Erich Fromm, "The Application of Humanist Psychoanalysis to Marx's Theory" in Socialist Humanism:An International Symposium (New York: Doubleday, 1965) Pre-dating the latest works of Oliver James by 40 odd years!

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At 8:04 pm, Anonymous Katye said...

Wow! Right you are. This is so on-target. I think that we all have this inner anxiety and restlessness that is part of our condition as finite human beings. Indeed, we often try to alleviate this pain and discomfort by consuming-- more and more and more until it kills us. This is the epidemic of our day...

At 2:59 pm, Blogger Sabina S. said...

Thank you Greenman for posting this extract by Erich Fromm. He is 100% right and it is so sad that only a few of us see this, and ACT. But we can always hope for some kind of snowball effect... I will surely use quotes from this article either in my blog or in the newsletter I send out weekly. Thanks again for the inspiration!


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