In this masterpiece about love, Fromm portraits love not as a feeling but as a productive act of doing. He argues that all efforts of love will fail if the person, who is trying to love, is not developing his or her character at the same time. Moreover, he states that there can not be fulfilling love without charity (Nächstenliebe), humility, courage, belief and discipline. These character qualities are rare in our capitalistic culture, therefore the ability to love is rarely fully developed.
He goes over the faulty assumptions about love:
1. Most people see the problem of love being that they need to be loved, and not them being able to love someone else. This results in loveblenness based on sex appeal and popularity.
2. The assumption that love is an object and not a skill. This results in the idea that loving is easy but that it’s hard to find the right partner to love.
3. That loving does not need to be learned, coming from confusing the feeling in the beginning about “to fall in love” with the permanent status of “to love”.
Fromm’s analisis comes to the conclusion that despite our deep longing for love, we still think other things are more important: success, prestige, money, power.
After laying out his theory about love where he compares the transactional nature of capitalism with the transformational nature of love, he identifies that the ability to love depends on the character of the person having four basic elements for the other person: care, sense of responsibility, respect, and awareness.
One more interesting part is that he distinguishes between different kinds of love: Love between parents and kids, love of thy neighbour, motherly love, erotic love, self love, love to god. And he describes how love relationships are often dysfunctional because of traumas in the younger life of a person that is trying to love.
In the end he calls for a radical and important change in our system and structure of society in order to make love a broad societal phenomenon and not being on the fringes. Because what he is saying is that the goal of the average joe is to produce and to consume – all other activities are subordinated.
“The human has become a well-dressed and well-fed machine, that is not interested in his human qualities and duties. If the human should be able to love, the human needs to be at first position. The economic machine has so serve him, not the other way around.”
“Love is the only reasonable and satisfying solution to the problem of human existence.”
The summary definitely does not do justice to the book. It’s a great read that completely disillusioned my current understanding of love. It once again made me question the current system of capitalism and its negative effects. It made me realize that I need and want to work on my character qualities in order to be a better loving person – not only in romantic love but in loving all people equally. It made me question if my value of “fairness” is right, because it seems too transactional for me. I thinking to replace it with “love” as a better, more giving and more transformational value shaping my life.