Erich Fromm (1900-1980) is known to most readers as the author of the international bestseller The Art of Loving (1956). What may be less widely known is that Fromm was a social psychoanalyst whose psychoanalytic theories, developed around a humanistic concept of man and society, have had a profound impact on many fields and disciplines: on social life and societal organization, on politics, on religion, on psychotherapy and, last but not least, on the practice of mindfulness.
Rainer Funk was Erich Fromm's last assistant. He wrote his dissertation about Fromm, was designated by Fromm's last will to be his sole literary executor, and is the editor of Fromm's writings. From his very intimate knowledge of Fromm's life and ideas, and his access to an archive that includes 6,000 letters, Funk introduces Fromm's central concepts and examines them in relation to Fromm's lived experiences and to his idea that life itself is an art.
The question of "the art of living" runs through all of the chapters, from the Introduction, in which Funk describes meeting Fromm for the first time in 1972, to the last chapter, in which Funk reflects on the impact of Fromm's social-psychoanalytic writings and his efforts to live well.
About the Author
Rainer Funk is Director of the Erich Fromm Institute Tuebingen, Co-Director of the Erich Fromm Study Center at the International Psychoanalytic University (IPU) in Berlin, and a practicing psychoanalyst based in Tuebingen, Germany. He is Erich Fromm's sole Literary Executor and among his publications are the 10-volume German edition of Erich Fromm Collected Works (1980 and 1981; expanded to 12-volumes in 1999).
To borrow a phrase from Rainer Funk's penetrating study, it is an 'exhilarating experience' to follow the course of Erich Fromm's thinking as he developed his intriguing ideas on sociopsychology and the intricate web of personal interactions and social conditions that enter into the 'art of living' - the guiding concern of his remarkable life and work. * Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (emeritus) of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and author of The Responsibility of Intellectuals (2017) *
In this well-documented and beautifully written book, Rainer Funk provides challenging reflections on Erich Fromm's trans-disciplinary and cross-cultural analysis of social and clinical issues within a socio-psychoanalytic perspective. Fromm's existential humanism combines traditional depth psychological approaches with an analysis of the intricate linkages between the psyche and the social. In my clinical practice, Fromm's vision has opened up a shared space for issues of ethical concern and social responsibility around thirdness. Fromm's ideas were prophetic and must be central to the collaborative work we need between sociologists, psychoanalysts, journalists, and policymakers to help combat narcissism in all its forms and protect basic freedoms. Rainer Funk's insightful reading of Fromm will attract and inspire people across generations and fields of knowledge. * Catherine Silver, Professor Emerita of Sociology, CUNY, USA, and Training and Supervising Analyst, National Psychological Association of Psychoanalysis *
No one knows Erich Fromm as well as Rainer Funk, and this book tells the compelling story of the Frankfurt-born critical theorist and psychoanalyst who was one of the dominant intellectual figures of the twentieth century and whose work is undergoing a major revival by scholars and clinicians seeking solutions to the crises that face us today. Funk traces how Fromm came to Freud and Marx, and then revised and synthesized their concepts in dialogue with his own Jewish religious roots, his sociological training with Alfred Weber, and his humanistic ethics. Funk brings Fromm alive as a person, but even more importantly he brings Fromm's concept of social character back into the discourse of contemporary social theory. Funk is a mature scholar at the top of his game, and this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of psychoanalysis and psychology, the thought of Freud, and the theoretical foundations of the sociology of emotions. * Neil McLaughlin, Professor of Sociology, McMaster University, Canada *
Life Itself Is an Art is an outstanding achievement. Having worked closely with Erich Fromm and then served for nearly four decades as his literary executor, Rainer Funk has devoted his professional career to disseminating and expounding Fromm's thinking. With superb scholarship and clinical acumen, he illuminates Fromm's insight into the human condition. By giving us glimpses into Fromm's personal impact on him, Funk brings Fromm's conceptual framework to life and connects what Fromm thought to how Fromm behaved. The reader emerges with a profound understanding of Fromm's beliefs, as he articulated them, and as he lived them. Funk engages the reader in an exploration of the art of living a meaningful and fulfilling life. Life Itself Is an Art demonstrates the connection between experience in the personal realm and the analyst's focus in sessions. I would recommend it to anyone contemplating a clinical career. But I think it would be of great value well beyond the consulting room. It is that rare book that engages the mind, inspires the soul, and touches the heart. * Sandra Buechler, Ph.D., Training and Supervising Analyst, William Alanson White Institute, USA *