Why do we humans love temporary gratification

Summary of The art of love

Mass Consumption and Cultural Criticism in the 1950s

Despite the fear of a nuclear war and the Stalinist Soviet Union, the 1950s in the USA were marked by an unbroken belief in progress and the hope of personal happiness and material prosperity. After the traumatic experience of World War II, Americans mostly oriented themselves towards bourgeois, conservative values. After decades of democratic supremacy came with President Dwight D. Eisenhower In 1953 a Republican came to power again for the first time. The general optimism was also reflected in the steep rise in the number of births, which peaked in 1957 with a reproduction rate of 3.6 children per child-bearing woman. From 1945 to 1964, the American population grew by around 60 million to 193 million.

The optimistic mood of the 1950s was based on stable economic growth of around 4 percent annually. Rationalization and an increase in productivity led to a sharp rise in real wages and thus also in mass purchasing power. As a result, there was a general increase in the standard of living. Millions of Americans are realizing their dream of owning a suburban home. Cars and televisions, washing machines and vacuum cleaners were taken for granted, at least for the white middle class. The popular entertainment shows and commercials in the new medium of television were also shaped by the wealthy white middle class. They conveyed a traditional image of the family, in which women fulfilled their roles as housewives and mothers.

The American model of modern industrial and consumer society made intellectuals uncomfortable. Cultural critics of the Frankfurt School like Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adornowho emigrated to the USA under the National Socialists saw consumption and creativity as incompatible quantities and expressed the fear that culture would be consumed by consumption. Whether in jazz or hits, in Hollywood films, romance novels or magazines: from the point of view of left-wing - as well as more bourgeois-conservative - intellectuals, such products of the culture industry were an expression of general moral decay. In gloomy colors they drew the image of the standardized, uniformed and conformist citizen of modern mass society, who is reduced to a carrier of the exchange of goods.


After the early death of his second wife, Erich Fromm married for the third time in 1953. With his wife Annis Freeman Fromm lived near Mexico City in the 1950s. He soon became the focus of a group of intellectuals who, like him, were striving for concrete social change.

The book The art of love was created at the suggestion of the American philosopher who was friends with Fromm Ruth Nanda Anshenwho have favourited a book series called World Perspective planned. In the foreword to the series, she explained that she wanted to promote an all-disciplinary science of man. She wanted to attract contemporary thinkers from different directions for her project, who should show ways into the future. Anshen's aim was to strengthen belief in people and their power to determine their own history and develop a humane society - an intention that was influenced by Fromm's humanistic psychology. Over the years Fromm published several works in Anshen's series, including 1976 To have or to be.

For The art of love Fromm used some of his earlier writings, for example on The fear of freedom (1941), Psychoanalysis and ethics (1946) or Psychoanalysis and religion (1949). The art of love was published in New York in 1956 in English as the ninth volume in the series World Perspectives.

Impact history

After Erich Fromm with his book To have or to be 1976 had got the breakthrough as an author, too The art of love - 20 years after it was first published - a bestseller and ultimately its greatest success. The book has been translated into 50 languages ​​and has experienced a real boom in recent years, especially in China. With more than 25 million copies sold worldwide, it is one of the most successful non-fiction books of all time. Criticism came from former companions of Fromm such as Herbert Marcusewho accused Fromm of a mutilation of Freud's teaching.