Social character: Erich Fromm and the ideological glue of neoliberalism

  • Several thinkers have expressed the view that the central nostrums of neoliberalism, including self-reliance, personal responsibility and individual risk, have become part of the >common sense< fabric of everyday life. My paper argues that Erich Fromm’s idea of social character offers a comprehensive and persuasive answer to this question. While some have sought the answer to this conundrum in Foucault’s notion of governmentality, I argue that, by itself, this answer is not sufficient. What is significant about the notion of social character, I claim, is that it manages to unify >top-down< approaches like governmentality focused on ideas and policy, with >bottom-up< approaches focused on how the insights of day to day experience are mediated through culture. Adapting this theory to neoliberalism, I argue, means that the >common sense< nature of neoliberalism, and the lack of a reckoning for its massive economic failure (as evidenced by the 2007 Great Recession), are explicable through the formation of a neoliberal social character, by means of which experiential processes align with cultural meanings and, subsequently, fuse with social expectations.

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Author:R. Foster
Parent Title (English):Critical Horizons, Vol. 18, pp. 1-18.
Document Type:Articles
Year of first Publication:2017
Release Date:2022/05/04
Format:PDF-scan upon request / PDF-Scan auf Anfrage
Writings about Erich Fromm (Secondary Literature):Articles / Artikel
Erich Fromm's Library and Erich Fromm Archive:Articles / Artikel
Licence (German):
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