Modern psychology evaluates an individuals sanity by their relationship to our society, are they successful socially, materially?
With suicide and depression rates rising fastest in the very societies with the greatest access to modern psychological medicine, is reconciling an individual to our society really the path of sanity? The question Fromm is asking is whether our society, on the whole, is sane and whether asking an individual to judge themselves by their relationship to it is, in fact, leading them away from sanity.
The first part of the book generally revolves around this theme, and whilst I agree wholeheartedly with it, I found that I enjoyed the book more as I got further into it. At this point, Fromm talks about modern industrial society and how it might be reconciled with sanity, how it might become as productive for the human spirit, as it currently is at producing materialism.
He discusses socialism as the way forward for humanity, his primary focus is based on two flawed visionaries, Marx and Freud. His choice of these two people who have had such a huge influence on our world is indicative of the tone of the book, Freud with his concern about the psychological state of humanity, and Marx with his emphasis on the materialistic sphere. Fromm sees the truth as dwelling somewhere between (and above) these.
This book is fascinating, I couldn't put it down. It started out quite slowly, but by the end, I was well and truly hooked, and Fromm had given me a more mature view of steps towards the ideal society I and most people I know would like to see.
I bought this book by chance, and it has inspired me to read more alternative thinkers of the past (Fromm quotes a number in this book). Fromm may have written this in the fifties, but it could not be more relevant today.