A Brief Book Review: Marx’s Concept of Man by Erich Fromm

I must admit I stumbled upon this copy in the basement of a local bookstore in the used section. Any book about Marx for $3.00 is a steal and before I knew it I was reading my own copy in my light-filled room the next morning. 

In some ways, I agreed with Fromm’s ideas and the Marx work that he drew from. Yet, Fromm who was apparently a self-declared democratic-socialist, fell into the Westernized traps against any sort of economic determination in countries foreign from our own. For example, I absolutely loved Fromm’s point that Marxism in a lot of ways actually helps the individual to create and live into their more personalized identity. Still, his demonization of the Soviet-based systems seemed silly, fragmentary, and sometimes ahistorical. His love for Marx is clear, and in some cases I found myself chuckling at his moments of pure adoration, but likewise, the ways he constructed his ideas of Marxism (perhaps because of his extreme veneration for Marx) seemed to be a little idealistic and quixotic. 

Focusing on the positives from this novel, like mentioned earlier, I really got into the idea that communism can liberate the individual. One fairly good quote from the copious amount of great one-liners comes towards the beginning of his piece:

“For Marx the aim of socialism was the emancipation of man, and the emancipation of man was the same as his self-realization in the process of productive relatedness and oneness with man and nature”

(38).

This reminded me of Che Guevara’s idea of the “New Man.” Oftentimes red-scare myths have created this notion that with communism comes the erasure of the individual self and their own expression. To spend the time diving deep into Fromm’s refutation of that sentiment was instructively pleasant. 

Fromm also included some great pieces from Marx and some letters that gave historical context to Marx’s own personality which I found illuminating. I loved the idea that Marx always attracted the absorption of children because he was fighting for their future. Details like his love for Shakespeare and his relationship with his wife were also gratifying in a time when great thinkers oftentimes have darker personal lives. 

This book was definitely worth $3.00, but I would recommend some sort of already established background in Marxist theory. From the moment I finished this book though and put it down, I have ever thought of this idea of an individual according to Marx, and I am moved to keep understanding it more, every day. 

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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