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The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness Paperback – February 15, 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“If any single work could bring mankind to its senses, this book might qualify for that miracle. . . . This book is the product of one of the most penetrating, most mature minds of our time.” ―Lewis Mumford

“In this perhaps most important of his pioneering theoretical works, the distinguished author writes with brilliant insight in attempting to break the deadlock in the struggle between the instinctivism of Konrad Lorenz . . . and behaviorist B.F. Skinner. He moves toward a provocative conclusion which involves a critical revision of Freud's theory of a "death instinct" in man. . . . Fromm's studies of Stalin and Himmler, and especially his penetrating psychobiography of Hitler, fascinatingy support his thesis.” ―Publisher's Weekly

“Rich and provocative . . . a major book from the pen of a major writer.” ―The Washington Post Book World

“Fromm is an original thinker. . . . His analysis of the causes of destructiveness is unique, and he has an enviable skill in the lucid presentation of intricate material.” ―Atlantic Monthly

“By far the best book I have ever read on the subject and by far the most absorbing.” ―Ashley Montagu

About the Author

Erich Fromm was a German-born U.S. psychoanalyst and social philosopher who explored the interaction between psychology and society. His other major works include The Art of Loving, Escape from Freedom, and Man for Himself. He died in 1980.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (February 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080501604X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805016048
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Derrick Jensen on September 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
I encountered this book in 1988 or so, and it changed my life. It is I think Fromm�s best and most important book. This is the book that first let me know that the violence of the dominant culture is not biological in its origin.
The book is centered around the question, obviously, of why humans commit atrocities. Fromm begins this book by exploring many of the theories, such as the notion that we are biologically overdetermined to be so violent. But he conclusively shows that cannot be the case. He then gives examples of nonviolent cultures, and explores why these cultures are the way they are. He then concludes with a powerful and detailed exploration of Hitler, showing how Hitler manifests the essence of this awful civilization that is killing the planet. A powerful book that helped form the foundations of my thinking.
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Format: Paperback
Fromm's text discussing and analyizing human destructiveness through comparisson and psycholanalysis. From Konrad Lorenz to B.F. Skinner to Stanley Milgram. Covering agression theories; behaviorism; narcissism; and necrophilia. Giving fairly objective views of all and conluding with a wonderful psychoanalysis of Adolf Hitler defining his as a malignant necrophiliac. (Need to be read to fully understand those implications; can be misleading). The book was written well enough for just about anyone to read without it ever becoming dry. Invaluble reference as well! A very thorough read without being overwhelmed, Fromm has definately understood, probably better than most, human nature and human destructiveness.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book over 30 years ago and many years later realized that it had changed my life. What I took from this book was the danger of being one of the herd. To this day the concepts in this book are a driving force in my life, I see situations in the framework of individuality vs the going along to get along mentality, and believe whole heartedly that it is the mob mentality that is the true destructive force in our world.

For those interested in human nature, which should be all people, it is a must read. As a side note, those interested in human nature might want to read the negative comments and low rating for this book, then read those contributors other reviews. Fascinating that there were two reviewers that gave this one star, and also gave many one star/negative reviews for other products (movies, games, books etc) but gave high marks for violent video games. Hmmmmmmm.
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Format: Paperback
Whichever path through this masterpiece you take, you will need to keep reminding yourself that you entered the land of the brave and you need to go through things that may be too recognizable to accept without resistance. But when you do, it will make you a better person. Then, you may need to be brave enough to forget the part of what you read if you start recognizing too many rationalizations in your everyday walk and talk of life.

This work has amazing composition that allows you to read it in different ways. You can skip the whole Part I, if you don't have time and you know that Fromm knows what is he attacking and why, and you can skip big case studies, if you don't have time and don't particularly care for the brains of Stalin and Hitler :-). And still you will get the whole and earth-shattering definition of the human nature and how and why a human can get hurt so easily and can hurt others so easily.

Or, you can start with big case studies, if that is what motivates you to read, and in order to read through them you will have to read the rest, probably with your own pattern of chapters.

Or, you can start from the page one, to see how deeply wrong currently popular behavioral theory is and take it from there in a linear fashion.
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Format: Paperback
If your questioning the sanity of this culture this book is a must read. I've seen this book recommended on Derrick Jensen's book list. Who probably is the best cultural critic I have read.

In my mind this book has put to rest the myth that the destruction and violence done by civilized man is instinctual. It takes a culture like ours to condition us into hating ourselves and the rest of life around us.
Fromm explores non-violent cultures to show us that humans havn't always been so hell bent on destruction and death. That there actually was life affirmative cultures. Fromm's final final chapter has really stuck with me. One of his suggestions for our survival is that the biophiliacs(life loving)people have to have their voices heard and object to the sadistic tendancies of this culture. A must read for anybody who is trying to imagine a better way.
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I read this in the 1970's and was greatly impressed, because I was a child during WWII and often wondered about how and why some personalities were so inhumane. As the years have gone by and our children have established families of their own, I have frequently referred to this book and finally bought one for our son, now a criminal defense lawyer. The writing is lucid, direct, and helpful.
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By A Customer on March 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
The photo of Hitler unable to pull his eyes away from adecaying corpse is alone worth the price of admission. As this was aBook of the Month Club "featured selection" about 25 years ago, Pr. Fromm explores the dark side of humanity, from ego-centrism, to our twisted love of death. Hurtful at times, addressing basal issues most of us would rather deny, this is a truly life-changing volume. Fromm discusses our vanity and obsessions so objectively, we can actually wade through it without getting mad. A Freudian Delight!
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