A Study on Fromm's Critical Concept of Consumption Alienation, Doctoral dissertation, Marxist Philosophy, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang, Guizhou, China 2021.

  • [Chinese abstract not available.] Erich Fromm was a famous American psychologist, philosopher and one of the most influential thinkers in the 20th century. His consumption alienation theory provides a theoretical perspective to analyze the crisis of human nature development in capitalist society. He used Freudian psychoanalysis to analyze Marx’s theory of alienation, and combined the two theories to analyze the social contradictions of capitalism, especially the spiritual crisis and the crisis of human nature, which enriched the social psychology content of Marx’s critical theory of capital. Avoiding consumption alienation is not only conducive to promoting the harmonious development of our society and economy, but also conducive to reducing the pressure on resources and environment. Here, based on Marx’s theory of labor alienation, the perspective of contemporary Chinese Marxist theory to the thought of Fromm’s consumption alienation from Fromm, but is not limited to Fromm’s economic philosophy interpretation, it can be seen that Fromm adopted Freud to the unconscious mental analysis method, (1)analysis of the capitalist society inevitably causes of consumption alienation, namely to boost consumption is to alleviate the crisis of overproduction of capitalism;(2)From the perspective of social psychology, this paper analyzes the negative effects of con¬sumption alienation on human beings, which means that human beings lose their rational and loving ability and are reduced to >robots< under the control of capital logic. (3)It predicts the bleak prospect of the collapse of the logic of capital. Consumption alienation has brought about a negative effect on the capitalist society, leading to the crisis of human nature and natural ecology, and finally the collapse of the capitalist society. (4)Finally, the author gives a utopian plan of >sound society< to cure capitalist group neurosis from three aspects of economy, politics and culture. Sublation of Fromm’s thought of consumption alienation, in under the guidance of Marxist theory, social psychology on the basis of critique of capital and the consumption object, subject, consumption process in the dual economic philosophy and social psychology, aiming at the current situation and existing problems of consumer, to evade the potential consumption alienation, put forward the corresponding countermeasures. Therefore, it will be discussed from the following five aspects. The first chapter aims to clarify the philosophical and psychological origins of Fromm’s idea of consumption alienation. Fromm’s alienation of consumption is the derivation theory of Marx’s alienation of labor. The focus of contemporary capital logic is shifted from the field of production to the field of consumption, which leads to the transformation of alienation of labor to alienation of consumption. Consumption alienation also includes the ideological control of capitalism, which is unconscious. Freud’s individual unconscious can be extended to Fromm’s collective unconscious, which can reveal the social psychological manipulation mechanism behind consumption alienation. The second chapter discusses the variation of the relationship between consumer object and human in the consumption alienation from the theoretical level, which is an abstract analysis, and analyzes the philosophical and psychological reasons of consumption alienation. In the alienation of consumption, people pay more attention to the symbolic value and non-functional attribute of goods, and people’s >false demand< is stimulated. This further leads to the variation of human relationships, including the lack of human initiative, the materialization of human relationships, and human’s demand for nature. Although these are not conducive to the development of human nature, they are conducive to the logic of infinite capital appreciation, which means the inherent irreconcilable conflict between >humanism< and >capital<. The third chapter discusses the internal destruction of human nature caused by consumption alienation, the illusion of happiness deliberately created, and the inevitable ecological crisis. This is an empirical analysis, which analyzes the multiple serious consequences brought by consumption alienation. In the alienated consumption, human beings do not establish their subjectivity, but become >robots< of unconscious consumption. The happiness gained through consumption is based on >false satisfaction< and can only be illusory happiness. Excessive consumption stimulates the expansion of production, which surpasses the carrying capacity of natural resources and ecology, and inevitably leads to ecological crisis. The fourth chapter discusses the way of sublating consumption alienation from the socialist market economy. The foothold is to sublating the logic of capital and establish the primacy of >people-oriented< rather than >capital<. At the individual level, we should establish human subjectivity through creative labor, emphasize fraternity and cooperation, and realize human’s free and comprehensive development. At the social level, based on the character cultivation of the productive society, we should discard the logic of capital appreciation, establish a green consumption culture, and promote the construction of a harmonious society in economic, cultural and political aspects. The fifth chapter discusses the limitations of Fromm’s criticism of consumption alienation. Fromm’s critique of consumption alienation is a profound revelation of the social contradictions of contemporary capitalism, which is characterized by social psychological deconstruction. However, Fromm overstated the influence of psychological factors, and his >healthy society< program was Utopian in nature, which deviated from the Marxist standpoint to a certain extent. On the whole, (1)Based on Marx’s criticism of political economy, this paper analyzes Fromm’s idea of consumption alienation in both philosophy and social psychology, and this reinterpretation undoubtedly has the background of Marxism in contemporary China. (2)To reveal the >conscious< and >unconscious< control of the whole society by the capital logic behind consumption alienation, especially its suppression of human nature in both physical and mental dimensions;(3)Let people see the real mask of consumerism in the ideological control and economic expansion in the capitalist society, as well as the inherent paradox and inevitable collapse trend of the logic of capital;(4)The criticism of Fromm’s criticism of consumption alienation is for the purpose of >the West serves China<, so as to strengthen the Marxist view of green consumption with Chinese characteristics and promote the healthy and orderly development of China’s socialist economy. [Translation: www.cnki.net, 9/2021]

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Author:Yifei An
Document Type:Dissertations
Year of first Publication:2021
Release Date:2022/05/04
Format:no download and copy possible
Writings about Erich Fromm (Secondary Literature):Dissertations / Dissertationen
Erich Fromm's Library and Erich Fromm Archive:Dissertations / Dissertationen
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