Personality - Human Nature and Character

Man for Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics - Erich Fromm 2013

Human Nature and Character

Men are alike, for they share the human situation and its inherent existential dichotomies; they are unique in the specific way they solve their human problem. The infinite diversity of personalities is in itself characteristic of human existence.

By personality I understand the totality of inherited and acquired psychic qualities which are characteristic of one individual and which make the individual unique. The difference between inherited and acquired qualities is on the whole synonymous with the difference between temperament, gifts, and all constitutionally given psychic qualities on the one hand and character on the other. While differences in temperament have no ethical significance, differences in character constitute the real problem of ethics; they are expressive of the degree to which an individual has succeeded in the art of living. In order to avoid the confusion which prevails in the usage of the terms “temperament” and “character” we shall begin with a brief discussion of temperament.

a. Temperament

Hippocrates distinguished four temperaments: choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic. The sanguine and choleric temperaments are modes of reaction which are characterized by easy excitability and quick alternation of interest, the interests being feeble in the former and intense in the latter. The phlegmatic and melancholic temperaments, on the contrary, are characterized by persistent but slow excitability of interest, the interest in the phlegmatic being feeble and in the melancholic intense.26 In Hippocrates’ view, these different modes of reaction were connected with different somatic sources. (It is interesting to note that in popular usage only the negative aspects of these temperaments are remembered: choleric today means easily angered; melancholic, depressed; sanguine, overoptimistic; and phlegmatic, too slow.) These categories of temperament were used by most students of temperament until the time of Wundt. The most important modern concepts of types of temperament are those of Jung, Kretschmer, and Sheldon.27

Of the importance of further research in this field, particularly with regard to the correlation of temperament and somatic processes, there can be no doubt. But it will be necessary to distinguish clearly between character and temperament because the confusion of the two concepts has blocked progress in characterology as well as in the study of temperament.

Temperament refers to the mode of reaction and is constitutional and not changeable; character is essentially formed by a person’s experiences, especially of those in early life, and changeable, to some extent, by insights and new kinds of experiences. If a person has a choleric temperament, for instance, his mode of reaction is “quick and strong.” But what he is quick and strong about depends on his kind of relatedness, his character. If he is a productive, just, loving person he will react quickly and strongly when he loves, when he is enraged by injustice, and when he is impressed by a new idea. If he is a destructive or sadistic character he will be quick and strong in his destructiveness or in his cruelty.

The confusion between temperament and character has had serious consequences for ethical theory. Preferences with regard to differences in temperament are mere matters of subjective taste. But differences in character are ethically of the most fundamental importance. An example may help to clarify this point. Goering and Himmler were men of different temperaments—the former a cyclothyme, the latter a schizothyme. Hence, from the standpoint of a subjective preference, an individual who is attracted by the cyclothymic temperament would have “liked” Goering better than Himmler, and vice versa. However, from the standpoint of character, both men had one quality in common: they were ambitious sadists. Hence, from an ethical standpoint they were equally evil. Conversely, among productive characters, one might subjectively prefer a choleric to a sanguine temperament; but such judgments would not constitute judgments of the respective value of the two people.28

In the application of C. G. Jung’s concepts of temperament, those of “introvert” and “extrovert,” we often find the same confusion. Those who prefer the extrovert tend to describe the introvert as inhibited and neurotic; those who prefer the introvert describe the extrovert as superficial and lacking in perseverance and depth. The fallacy is to compare a “good” person of one temperament with a “bad” person of another temperament, and to ascribe the difference in value to the difference in temperament.

I think it is evident how this confusion between temperament and character has affected ethics. For, while it has led to condemnation of whole races whose predominant temperaments differ from our own, it has also supported relativism by the assumption that differences in character are as much differences in taste as those of temperament.

For purposes of discussing ethical theory, then, we must turn to the concept of character, which are both the subject matter of ethical judgment and the object of man’s ethical development. And here, too, we must first clear the ground of traditional confusions which, in this case, center around the differences between the dynamic and the behavioristic concept of character.

b. Character

(1) The Dynamic Concept of Character

Character traits were and are considered by behavioristically orientated psychologists to be synonymous with behavior traits. From this standpoint character is defined as “the pattern of behavior characteristic for a given individual,”29 while other authors like William McDougall, R. G. Gordon, and Kretschmer have emphasized the conative and dynamic element of character traits.

Freud developed not only the first but also the most consistent and penetrating theory of character as a system of strivings which underlie, but are not identical with, behavior. In order to appreciate Freud’s dynamic concept of character, a comparison between behavior traits and character traits will be helpful. Behavior traits are described in terms of actions which are observable by a third person. Thus, for instance, the behavior trait “being courageous” would be defined as behavior which is directed toward reaching a certain goal without being deterred by risks to one’s comfort, freedom, or life. Or parsimony as a behavior trait would be defined as behavior which aims at saving money or other material things. However, if we inquire into the motivation and particularly into the unconscious motivation of such behavior traits we find that the behavior trait covers numerous and entirely different character traits. Courageous behavior may be motivated by ambition so that a person will risk his life in certain situations in order to satisfy his craving for being admired; it may be motivated by suicidal impulses which drive a person to seek danger because, consciously or unconsciously, he does not value his life and wants to destroy himself; it may be motivated by sheer lack of imagination so that a person acts courageously because he is not aware of the danger awaiting him; finally, it may be determined by genuine devotion to the idea or aim for which a person acts, a motivation which is conventionally assumed to be the basis of courage. Superficially the behavior in all these instances is the same in spite of the different motivations. I say “superficially” because if one can observe such behavior minutely one finds that the difference in motivation results also in subtle differences in behavior. An officer in battle, for instance, will behave quite differently in different situations if his courage is motivated by devotion to an idea rather than by ambition. In the first case he would not attack in certain situations if the risks are in no proportion to the tactical ends to be gained. If, on the other hand, he is driven by vanity, this passion may make him blind to the dangers threatening him and his soldiers. His behavior trait “courage” in the latter case is obviously a very ambiguous asset. Another illustration is parsimony. A person may be economical because his economic circumstances make it necessary; or he may be parsimonious because he has a stingy character, which makes saving an aim for its own sake regardless of the realistic necessity. Here, too, the motivation would make some difference with regard to behavior itself. In the first case, the person would be very well able to discern a situation where it is wise to save from one in which it is wiser to spend money. In the latter case he will save regardless of the objective need for it. Another factor which is determined by the difference in motivation refers to the prediction of behavior. In the case of a “courageous” soldier motivated by ambition we may predict that he will behave courageously only if his courage can be rewarded. In the case of the soldier who is courageous because of devotion to his cause we can predict that the question of whether or not his courage will find recognition will have little influence on his behavior.

Closely related to Freud’s concept of unconscious motivation is his theory of the conative nature of character traits. He recognized something that the great novelists and dramatists had always known: that, as Balzac put it, the study of character deals with “the forces by which man is motivated”; that the way a person acts, feels, and thinks is to a large extent determined by the specificity of his character and is not merely the result of rational responses to realistic situations; that “man’s fate is his character.” Freud recognized the dynamic quality of character traits and that the character structure of a person represents a particular form in which energy is canalized in the process of living.

Freud tried to account for this dynamic nature of character traits by combining his characterology with his libido theory. In accordance with the type of materialistic thinking prevalent in the natural sciences of the late nineteenth century, which assumed the energy in natural and psychical phenomena to be a substantial not a relational entity, Freud believed that the sexual drive was the source of energy of the character. By a number of complicated and brilliant assumptions he explained different character traits as “sublimations” of, or “reaction formations” against, the various forms of the sexual drive. He interpreted the dynamic nature of character traits as an expression of their libidinous source.

The progress of psychoanalytic theory led, in line with the progress of the natural and social sciences, to a new concept which was based, not on the idea of a primarily isolated individual, but on the relationship of man to others, to nature, and to himself. It was assumed that this very relationship governs and regulates the energy manifest in the passionate strivings of man. H. S. Sullivan, one of the pioneers of this new view, has accordingly defined psychoanalysis as a “study of interpersonal relations.”

The theory presented in the following pages follows Freud’s characterology in essential points: in the assumption that character traits underlie behavior and must be inferred from it; that they constitute forces which, though powerful, the person may be entirely unconscious of. It follows Freud also in the assumption that the fundamental entity in character is not the single character trait but the total character organization from which a number of single character traits follow. These character traits are to be understood as a syndrome which results from a particular organization or, as I shall call it, orientation of character. I shall deal only with a very limited number of character traits which follow immediately from the underlying orientation. A number of other character traits could be dealt with similarly, and it could be shown that they are also direct outcomes of basic orientations or mixtures of such primary traits of character with those of temperament. However, a great number of others conventionally listed as character traits would be found to be not character traits in our sense but pure temperament or mere behavior traits.

The main difference in the theory of character proposed here from that of Freud is that the fundamental basis of character is not seen in various types of libido organization but in specific kinds of a person’s relatedness to the world In the process of living, man relates himself to the world (1) by acquiring and assimilating things, and (2) by relating himself to people (and himself). The former I shall call the process of assimilation; the latter, that of socialization. Both forms of relatedness are “open” and not, as with the animal, instinctively determined. Man can acquire things by receiving or taking them from an outside source or by producing them through his own effort. But he must acquire and assimilate them in some fashion in order to satisfy his needs. Also, man cannot live alone and unrelated to others. He has to associate with others for defense, for work, for sexual satisfaction, for play, for the upbringing of the young, for the transmission of knowledge and material possessions. But beyond that, it is necessary for him to be related to others, one with them, part of a group. Complete isolation is unbearable and incompatible with sanity. Again man can relate himself to others in various ways: he can love or hate, he can compete or cooperate; he can build a social system based on equality or authority, liberty or oppression; but he must be related in some fashion and the particular form of relatedness is expressive of his character.

These orientations, by which the individual relates himself to the world, constitute the core of his character; character can be defined as the (relatively permanent) form in which human energy is canalized in the process of assimilation and socialization. This canalization of psychic energy has a very significant biological function. Since man’s actions are not determined by innate instinctual patterns, life would be precarious, indeed, if he had to make a deliberate decision each time he acted, each time he took a step. On the contrary, many actions must be performed far more quickly than conscious deliberation allows. Furthermore, if all behavior followed from deliberate decision, many more inconsistencies in action would occur than are compatible with proper functioning. According to behavioristic thinking, man learns to react in a semiautomatic fashion by developing habits of action and thought which can be understood in terms of conditioned reflexes. While this view is correct to a certain extent, it ignores the fact that the most deeply rooted habits and opinions which are characteristic of a person and resistant to change grow from his character structure: they are expressive of the particular form in which energy has been canalized in the character structure. The character system can be considered the human substitute for the instinctive apparatus of the animal. Once energy is canalized in a certain way, action takes place “true to character.” A particular character may be undesirable ethically, but at least it permits a person to act fairly consistently and to be relieved of the burden of having to make a new and deliberate decision every time. He can arrange his life in a way which is geared to his character and thus create a certain degree of compatibility between the inner and the outer situation. Moreover, character has also a selective function with regard to a person’s ideas and values. Since to most people ideas seem to be independent of their emotions and wishes and the result of logical deduction, they feel that their attitude toward the world is confirmed by their ideas and judgments when actually these are as much a result of their character as their actions are. This confirmation in turn tends to stabilize their character structure since it makes the latter appear right and sensible.

Not only has character the function of permitting the individual to act consistently and “reasonably;” it is also the basis for his adjustment to society. The character of the child is molded by the character of its parents in response to whom it develops. The parents and their methods of child training in turn are determined by the social structure of their culture. The average family is the “psychic agency” of society, and by adjusting himself to his family the child acquires the character which later makes him adjusted to the tasks he has to perform in social life. He acquires that character which makes him want to do what he has to do and the core of which he shares with most members of the same social class or culture. The fact that most members of a social class or culture share significant elements of character and that one can speak of a “social character” representing the core of a character structure common to most people of a given culture shows the degree to which character is formed by social and cultural patterns. But from the social character we must differentiate the individual character in which one person differs from another within the same culture. These differences are partly due to the differences of the personalities of the parents and to the differences, psychic and material, of the specific social environment in which the child grows up. But they are also due to the constitutional differences of each individual, particularly those of temperament. Genetically, the formation of individual character is determined by the impact of its life experiences, the individual ones and those which follow from the culture, on temperament and physical constitution. Environment is never the same for two people, for the difference in constitution makes them experience the same environment in a more or less different way. Mere habits of action and thought which develop as the result of an individual’s conforming with the cultural pattern and which are not rooted in the character of a person are easily changed under the influence of new social patterns. If, on the other hand, a person’s behavior is rooted in his character, it is charged with energy and changeable only if a fundamental change in a person’s character takes place.

In the following analysis nonproductive orientations are differentiated from the productive orientation.30 It must be noted that these concepts are “ideal-types,” not descriptions of the character of a given individual. Furthermore, while, for didactic purposes, they are treated here separately, the character of any given person is usually a blend of all or some of these orientations in which one, however, is dominant. Finally, I want to state here that in the description of the nonproductive orientations only their negative aspects are presented, while their positive aspects are discussed briefly in a later part of this chapter.31

(2) Types of Character: The Nonproductive Orientations

(a) The Receptive Orientation

In the receptive orientation a person feels “the source of all good” to be outside, and he believes that the only way to get what he wants—be it something material, be it affection, love, knowledge, pleasure—is to receive it from that outside source. In this orientation the problem of love is almost exclusively that of “being loved” and not that of loving. Such people tend to be indiscriminate in the choice of their love objects, because being loved by anybody is such an overwhelming experience for them that they “fall for” anybody who gives them love or what looks like love. They are exceedingly sensitive to any withdrawal or rebuff they experience on the part of the loved person. Their orientation is the same in the sphere of thinking: if intelligent, they make the best listeners, since their orientation is one of receiving, not of producing, ideas; left to themselves, they feel paralyzed. It is characteristic of these people that their first thought is to find somebody else to give them needed information rather than to make even the smallest effort of their own. If religious, these persons have a concept of God in which they expect everything from God and nothing from their own activity. If not religious, their relationship to persons or institutions is very much the same; they are always in search of a “magic helper.” They show a particular kind of loyalty, at the bottom of which is the gratitude for the hand that feeds them and the fear of ever losing it. Since they need many hands to feel secure, they have to be loyal to numerous people. It is difficult for them to say “no,” and they are easily caught between conflicting loyalties and promises. Since they cannot say “no,” they love to say “yes” to everything and everybody, and the resulting paralysis of their critical abilities makes them increasingly dependent on others.

They are dependent not only on authorities for knowledge and help but on people in general for any kind of support. They feel lost when alone because they feel that they cannot do anything without help. This helplessness is especially important with regard to those acts which by their very nature can only be done alone—making decisions and taking responsibility. In personal relationships, for instance, they ask advice from the very person with regard to whom they have to make a decision.

This receptive type has great fondness for food and drink. These persons tend to overcome anxiety and depression by eating or drinking. The mouth is an especially prominent feature, often the most expressive one; the lips tend to be open, as if in a state of continuous expectation of being fed. In their dreams, being fed is a frequent symbol of being loved; being starved, an expression of frustration or disappointment.

By and large, the outlook of people of this receptive orientation is optimistic and friendly; they have a certain confidence in life and its gifts, but they become anxious and distraught when their “source of supply” is threatened. They often have a genuine warmth and a wish to help others, but doing things for others also assumes the function of securing their favor.

(b) The Exploitative Orientation

The exploitative orientation, like the receptive, has as its basic premise the feeling that the source of all good is outside, that whatever one wants to get must be sought there, and that one cannot produce anything oneself. The difference between the two, however, is that the exploitative type does not expect to receive things from others as gifts, but to take them away from others by force or cunning. This orientation extends to all spheres of activity.

In the realm of love and affection these people tend to grab and steal. They feel attracted only to people whom they can take away from somebody else. Attractiveness to them is conditioned by a person’s attachment to somebody else; they tend not to fall in love with an unattached person.

We find the same attitude with regard to thinking and intellectual pursuits. Such people will tend not to produce ideas but to steal them. This may be done directly in the form of plagiarism or more subtly by repeating in different phraseology the ideas voiced by others and insisting they are new and their own. It is a striking fact that frequently people with great intelligence proceed in this way, although if they relied on their own gifts they might well be able to have ideas of their own. The lack of original ideas or independent production in otherwise gifted people often has its explanation in this character orientation, rather than in any innate lack of originality. The same statement holds true with regard to their orientation to material things. Things which they can take away from others always seem better to them than anything they can produce themselves. They use and exploit anybody and anything from whom or from which they can squeeze something. Their motto is: “Stolen fruits are sweetest.” Because they want to use and exploit people, they “love” those who, explicitly or implicitly, are promising objects of exploitation, and get “fed up” with persons whom they have squeezed out. An extreme example is the kleptomaniac who enjoys things only if he can steal them, although he has the money to buy them.

This orientation seems to be symbolized by the biting mouth which is often a prominent feature in such people. It is not a play upon words to point out that they often make “biting” remarks about others. Their attitude is colored by a mixture of hostility and manipulation. Everyone is an object of exploitation and is judged according to his usefulness. Instead of the confidence and optimism which characterizes the receptive type, one finds here suspicion and cynicism, envy and jealousy. Since they are satisfied only with things they can take away from others, they tend to overrate what others have and underrate what is theirs.

(c) The Hoarding Orientation

While the receptive and exploitative types are similar inasmuch as both expect to get things from the outside world, the hoarding orientation is essentially different. This orientation makes people have little faith in anything new they might get from the outside world; their security is based upon hoarding and saving, while spending is felt to be a threat. They have surrounded themselves, as it were, by a protective wall, and their main aim is to bring as much as possible into this fortified position and to let as little as possible out of it. Their miserliness refers to money and material things as well as to feelings and thoughts. Love is essentially a possession; they do not give love but try to get it by possessing the “beloved.” The hoarding person often shows a particular kind of faithfulness toward people and even toward memories. Their sentimentality makes the past appear as golden; they hold on to it and indulge in the memories of bygone feelings and experiences. They know everything but are sterile and incapable of productive thinking.

One can recognize these people too by facial expressions and gestures. Theirs is the tight-lipped mouth; their gestures are characteristic of their withdrawn attitude. While those of the receptive type are inviting and round, as it were, and the gestures of the exploitative type are aggressive and pointed, those of the hoarding type are angular, as if they wanted to emphasize the frontiers between themselves and the outside world. Another characteristic element in this attitude is pedantic orderliness. The hoarder will be orderly with things, thoughts, or feelings, but again, as with memory, his orderliness is sterile and rigid. He cannot endure things out of place and will automatically rearrange them. To him the outside world threatens to break into his fortified position; orderliness signifies mastering the world outside by putting it, and keeping it, in its proper place in order to avoid the danger of intrusion. His compulsive cleanliness is another expression of his need to undo contact with the outside world. Things beyond his own frontiers are felt to be dangerous and “unclean”; he annuls the menacing contact by compulsive washing, similar to a religious washing ritual prescribed after contact with unclean things or people. Things have to be put not only in their proper place but also into their proper time; obsessive punctuality is characteristic of the hoarding type; it is another form of mastering the outside world. If the outside world is experienced as a threat to one’s fortified position, obstinacy is a logical reaction. A constant “no” is the almost automatic defense against intrusion; sitting tight, the answer to the danger of being pushed. These people tend to feel that they possess only a fixed quantity of strength, energy, or mental capacity, and that this stock is diminished or exhausted by use and can never be replenished. They cannot understand the self-replenishing function of all living substance and that activity and the use of one’s powers increase strength while stagnation paralyzes; to them, death and destruction have more reality than life and growth. The act of creation is a miracle of which they hear but in which they do not believe. Their highest values are order and security; their motto: “there is nothing new under the sun.” In their relationship to others intimacy is a threat; either remoteness or possession of a person means security. The hoarder tends to be suspicious and to have a particular sense of justice which in effect says: “Mine is mine and yours is yours.”

(d) The Marketing Orientation

The marketing orientation developed as a dominant one only in the modern era. In order to understand its nature one must consider the economic function of the market in modern society as being not only analogous to this character orientation but as the basis and the main condition for its development in modern man.

Barter is one of the oldest economic mechanisms. The traditional local market, however, is essentially different from the market as it has developed in modern capitalism. Bartering on a local market offered an opportunity to meet for the purpose of exchanging commodities. Producers and customers became acquainted; they were relatively small groups; the demand was more or less known, so that the producer could produce for this specific demand.

The modern market32 is no longer a meeting place but a mechanism characterized by abstract and impersonal demand. One produces for this market, not for a known circle of customers; its verdict is based on laws of supply and demand; and it determines whether the commodity can be sold and at what price. No matter what the use value of a pair of shoes may be, for instance, if the supply is greater than the demand, some shoes will be sentenced to economic death; they might as well not have been produced at all. The market day is the “day of judgment” as far as the exchange value of commodities is concerned.

The reader may object that this description of the market is oversimplified. The producer does try to judge the demand in advance, and under monopoly conditions even obtains a certain degree of control over it. Nevertheless, the regulatory function of the market has been, and still is, predominant enough to have a profound influence on the character formation of the urban middle class and, through the latter’s social and cultural influence, on the whole population. The market concept of value, the emphasis on exchange value rather than on use value, has led to a similar concept of value with regard to people and particularly to oneself. The character orientation which is rooted in the experience of oneself as a commodity and of one’s value as exchange value I call the marketing orientation.

In our time the marketing orientation has been growing rapidly, together with the development of a new market that is a phenomenon of the last decades—the “personality market.” Clerks and salesmen business executives and doctors, lawyers and artists all appear on this market. It is true that their legal status and economic positions are different: some are independent, charging for their services; others are employed, receiving salaries. But all are dependent for their material success on a personal acceptance by those who need their services or who employ them.

The principle of evaluation is the same on both the personality and the commodity market: on the one, personalities are offered for sale; on the other, commodities. Value in both cases is their exchange value, for which use value is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. It is true, our economic system could not function if people were not skilled in the particular work they have to perform and were gifted only with a pleasant personality. Even the best bedside manner and the most beautifully equipped office on Park Avenue would not make a New York doctor successful if he did not have a minimum of medical knowledge and skill. Even the most winning personality would not prevent a secretary from losing her job unless she could type reasonably fast. However, if we ask what the respective weight of skill and personality as a condition for success is, we find that only in exceptional cases is success predominantly the result of skill and of certain other human qualities like honesty, decency, and integrity. Although the proportion between skill and human qualities on the one hand and “personality” on the other hand as prerequisites for success varies, the “personality factor” always plays a decisive role. Success depends largely on how well a person sells himself on the market, how well he gets his personality across, how nice a “package” he is; whether he is “cheerful,” “sound,” “aggressive,” “reliable,” “ambitious”; furthermore what his family background is, what clubs he belongs to, and whether he knows the right people. The type of personality required depends to some degree on the special field in which a person works. A stockbroker, a salesman, a secretary, a railroad executive, a college professor, or a hotel manager must each offer different kinds of personality that, regardless of their differences, must fulfill one condition: to be in demand.

The fact that in order to have success it is not sufficient to have the skill and equipment for performing a given task but that one must be able to “put across” one’s personality in competition with many others shapes the attitude toward oneself. If it were enough for the purpose of making a living to rely on what one knows and what one can do, one’s self-esteem would be in proportion to one’s capacities, that is, to one’s use value; but since success depends largely on how one sells one’s personality, one experiences oneself as a commodity or rather simultaneously as the seller and the commodity to be sold. A person is not concerned with his life and happiness, but with becoming salable. This feeling might be compared to that of a commodity, of handbags on a counter, for instance, could they feel and think. Each handbag would try to make itself as “attractive” as possible in order to attract customers and to look as expensive as possible in order to obtain a higher price than its rivals. The handbag sold for the highest price would feel elated, since that would mean it was the most “valuable” one; the one which was not sold would feel sad and convinced of its own worthlessness. This fate might befall a bag which, though excellent in appearance and usefulness, had the bad luck to be out of date because of a change in fashion.

Like the handbag, one has to be in fashion on the personality market, and in order to be in fashion one has to know what kind of personality is most in demand. This knowledge is transmitted in a general way throughout the whole process of education, from kindergarten to college, and implemented by the family. The knowledge acquired at this early stage is not sufficient, however; it emphasizes only certain general qualities like adaptability, ambition, and sensitivity to the changing expectations of other people. The more specific picture of the models for success one gets elsewhere. The pictorial magazines, newspapers, and newsreels show the pictures and life stories of the successful in many variations. Pictorial advertising has a similar function. The successful executive who is pictured in a tailor’s advertisement is the image of how one should look and be, if one is to draw down the “big money” on the contemporary personality market.

The most important means of transmitting the desired personality pattern to the average man is the motion picture. The young girl tries to emulate the facial expression, coiffure, gestures of a high-priced star as the most promising way to success. The young man tries to look and be like the model he sees on the screen. While the average citizen has little contact with the life of the most successful people, his relationship with the motion-picture stars is different. It is true that he has no real contact with them either, but he can see them on the screen again and again, can write them and receive their autographed pictures. In contrast to the time when the actor was socially despised but was nevertheless the transmitter of the works of great poets to his audience, our motion-picture stars have no great works or ideas to transmit, but their function is to serve as the link an average person has with the world of the “great.” Even if he cannot hope to become as successful as they are, he can try to emulate them; they are his saints and because of their success they embody the norms for living.

Since modern man experiences himself both as the seller and as the commodity to be sold on the market, his self-esteem depends on conditions beyond his control. If he is “successful,” he is valuable; if he is not, he is worthless. The degree of insecurity which results from this orientation can hardly be overestimated. If one feels that one’s own value is not constituted primarily by the human qualities one possesses, but by one’s success on a competitive market with ever-changing conditions, one’s self-esteem is bound to be shaky and in constant need of confirmation by others. Hence one is driven to strive relentlessly for success, and any setback is a severe threat to one’s self-esteem; helplessness, insecurity, and inferiority feelings are the result. If the vicissitudes of the market are the judges of one’s value, the sense of dignity and pride is destroyed.

But the problem is not only that of self-evaluation and self-esteem but of one’s experience of oneself as an independent entity, of one’s identity with oneself. As we shall see later, the mature and productive individual derives his feeling of identity from the experience of himself as the agent who is one with his powers; this feeling of self can be briefly expressed as meaning “I am what I do.” In the marketing orientation man encounters his own powers as commodities alienated from him. He is not one with them but they are masked from him because what matters is not his self-realization in the process of using them but his success in the process of selling them. Both his powers and what they create become estranged, something different from himself, something for others to judge and to use; thus his feeling of identity becomes as shaky as his self-esteem; it is constituted by the sum total of roles one can play: “I am as you desire me.”

Ibsen has expressed this state of selfhood in Peer Gynt: Peer Gynt tries to discover his self and he finds that he is like an onion—one layer after the other can be peeled off and there is no core to be found. Since man cannot live doubting his identity, he must, in the marketing orientation, find the conviction of identity not in reference to himself and his powers but in the opinion of others about him. His prestige, status, success, the fact that he is known to others as being a certain person are a substitute for the genuine feeling of identity. This situation makes him utterly dependent on the way others look at him and forces him to keep up the role in which he once had become successful. If I and my powers are separated from each other then, indeed, is my self constituted by the price I fetch.

The way one experiences others is not different from the way one experiences oneself.33 Others are experienced as commodities like oneself; they too do not present themselves but their salable part. The difference between people is reduced to a merely quantitative difference of being more or less successful, attractive, hence valuable. This process is not different from what happens to commodities on the market. A painting and a pair of shoes can both be expressed in, and reduced to, their exchange value, their price; so many pairs of shoes are “equal” to one painting. In the same way the difference between people is reduced to a common element, their price on the market. Their individuality, that which is peculiar and unique in them, is valueless and, in fact, a ballast. The meaning which the word peculiar has assumed is quite expressive of this attitude. Instead of denoting the greatest achievement of man—that of having developed his individuality—it has become almost synonymous with queer. The word equality has also changed its meaning. The idea that all men are created equal implied that all men have the same fundamental right to be considered as ends in themselves and not as means. Today, equality has become equivalent to interchangeability, and is the very negation of individuality. Equality, instead of being the condition for the development of each man’s peculiarity, means the extinction of individuality, the “selflessness” characteristic of the marketing orientation. Equality was conjunctive with difference, but it has become synonymous with “in-difference” and, indeed, indifference is what characterizes modern man’s relationship to himself and to others.

These conditions necessarily color all human relationships. When the individual self is neglected, the relationships between people must of necessity become superficial, because not they themselves but interchangeable commodities are related. People are not able and cannot afford to be concerned with that which is unique and “peculiar” in each other. However, the market creates a kind of comradeship of its own. Everybody is involved in the same battle of competition, shares the same striving for success; all meet under the same conditions of the market (or at least believe they do). Everyone knows how the others feel because each is in the same boat: alone, afraid to fail, eager to please; no quarter is given or expected in this battle.

The superficial character of human relationships leads many to hope that they can find depth and intensity of feeling in individual love. But love for one person and love for one’s neighbor are indivisible; in any given culture, love relationships are only a more intense expression of the relatedness to man prevalent in that culture. Hence it is an illusion to expect that the loneliness of man rooted in the marketing orientation can be cured by individual love.

Thinking as well as feeling is determined by the marketing orientation. Thinking assumes the function of grasping things quickly so as to be able to manipulate them successfully. Furthered by widespread and efficient education, this leads to a high degree of intelligence, but not of reason.34 For manipulative purposes, all that is necessary to know is the surface features of things, the superficial. The truth, to be uncovered by penetrating to the essence of phenomena, becomes an obsolete concept—truth not only in the pre-scientific sense of “absolute” truth, dogmatically maintained without reference to empirical data, but also in the sense of truth attained by man’s reason applied to his observations and open to revisions. Most intelligence tests are attuned to this kind of thinking; they measure not so much the capacity for reason and understanding as the capacity for quick mental adaptation to a given situation; “mental adjustment tests” would be the adequate name for them.35

For this kind of thinking the application of the categories of comparison and of quantitative measurement—rather than a thorough analysis of a given phenomenon and its quality—is essential. All problems are equally “interesting” and there is little sense of the respective differences in their importance. Knowledge itself becomes a commodity. Here, too, man is alienated from his own power; thinking and knowing are experienced as a tool to produce results. Knowledge of man himself, psychology, which in the great tradition of Western thought was held to be the condition for virtue, for right living, for happiness, has degenerated into an instrument to be used for better manipulation of others and oneself, in market research, in political propaganda, in advertising, and so on.

Evidently this type of thinking has a profound effect on our educational system. From grade school to graduate school, the aim of learning is to gather as much information as possible that is mainly useful for the purposes of the market. Students are supposed to learn so many things that they have hardly time and energy left to think. Not the interest in the subjects taught or in knowledge and insight as such, but the enhanced exchange value knowledge gives is the main incentive for wanting more and better education. We find today a tremendous enthusiasm for knowledge and education, but at the same time a skeptical or contemptuous attitude toward the allegedly impractical and useless thinking which is concerned “only” with the truth and which has no exchange value on the market.

Although I have presented the marketing orientation as one of the nonproductive orientations, it is in many ways so different that it belongs in a category of its own. The receptive, exploitative, and hoarding orientations have one thing in common: each is one form of human relatedness which, if dominant in a person, is specific of him and characterizes him. (Later on it will be shown that these four orientations do not necessarily have the negative qualities which have been described so far.36) The marketing orientation, however, does not develop something which is potentially in the person (unless we make the absurd assertion that “nothing” is also part of the human equipment); its very nature is that no specific and permanent kind of relatedness is developed, but that the very changeability of attitudes is the only permanent quality of such orientation. In this orientation, those qualities are developed which can best be sold. Not one particular attitude is predominant, but the emptiness which can be filled most quickly with the desired quality. This quality, however, ceases to be one in the proper sense of the word; it is only a role, the pretense of a quality, to be readily exchanged if another one is more desirable. Thus, for instance, respectability is sometimes desirable. The salesmen in certain branches of business ought to impress the public with those qualities of reliability, soberness, and respectability which were genuine in many a businessman of the nineteenth century. Now one looks for a man who instills confidence because he looks as if he had these qualities; what this man sells on the personality market is his ability to look the part; what kind of person is behind that role does not matter and is nobody’s concern. He himself is not interested in his honesty, but in what it gets for him on the market. The premise of the marketing orientation is emptiness, the lack of any specific quality which could not be subject to change, since any persistent trait of character might conflict some day with the requirements of the market. Some roles would not fit in with the peculiarities of the person; therefore we must do away with them—not with the roles but with the peculiarities. The marketing personality must be free, free of all individuality.

The character orientations which have been described so far are by no means as separate from one another as it may appear from this sketch. The receptive orientation, for instance, may be dominant in a person but it is usually blended with any or all of the other orientations. While I shall discuss the various blendings later on in this chapter, I want to stress at this point that all orientations are part of the human equipment, and the dominance of any specific orientation depends to a large extent on the peculiarity of the culture in which the individual lives. Although a more detailed analysis of the relationship between the various orientations and social patterns must be reserved for a study which deals primarily with problems of social psychology, I should like to suggest here a tentative hypothesis as to the social conditions making for the dominance of any of the four nonproductive types. It should be noted that the significance of the study of the correlation between character orientation and social structure lies not only in the fact that it helps us understand some of the most significant causes for the formation of character, but also in the fact that specific orientations—inasmuch as they are common to most members of a culture or social class—represent powerful emotional forces the operation of which we must know in order to understand the functioning of society. In view of the current emphasis on the impact of culture on personality, I should like to state that the relationship between society and the individual is not to be understood simply in the sense that cultural patterns and social institutions “influence” the individual. The interaction goes much deeper; the whole personality of the average individual is molded by the way people relate to each other, and it is determined by the socioeconomic and political structure of society to such an extent that, in principle, one can infer from the analysis of one individual the totality of the social structure in which he lives.

The receptive orientation is often to be found in societies in which the right of one group to exploit another is firmly established. Since the exploited group has no power to change, or any idea of changing, its situation, it will tend to look up to its masters as to its providers, as to those from whom one receives everything life can give. No matter how little the slave receives, he feels that by his own effort he could have acquired even less, since the structure of his society impresses him with the fact that he is unable to organize it and to rely on his own activity and reason. As far as contemporary American culture is concerned, it seems at first glance that the receptive attitude is entirely absent. Our whole culture, its ideas, and its practice discourage the receptive orientation and emphasize that each one has to look out, and be responsible, for himself and that he has to use his own initiative if he wants to “get anywhere.” However, while the receptive orientation is discouraged, it is by no means absent. The need to conform and to please, which has been discussed in the foregoing pages, leads to the feeling of helplessness, which is the root of subtle receptiveness in modern man. It appears particularly in the attitude toward the “expert” and public opinion. People expect that in every field there is an expert who can tell them how things are and how they ought to be done, and that all they ought to do is listen to him and swallow his ideas. There are experts for science, experts for happiness, and writers become experts in the art of living by the very fact that they are authors of best sellers. This subtle but rather general receptiveness assumes somewhat grotesque forms in modern “folklore,” fostered particularly by advertising. While everyone knows that realistically the “get-rich-quick” schemes do not work, there is a widespread daydream of the effortless life. It is partly expressed in connection with the use of gadgets; the car which needs no shifting, the fountain pen which saves the trouble of removing the cap are only random examples of this phantasy. It is particularly prevalent in those schemes which deal with happiness. A very characteristic quotation is the following: “This book,” the author says, “tells you how to be twice the man or woman you ever were before—happy, well, brimming with energy, confident, capable and free of care. You are required to follow no laborious mental or physical program; it is much simpler than that. … As laid down here the route to that promised profit may appear strange, for few of us can imagine getting without striving. … Yet that is so, as you will see.”37

The exploitative character, with its motto “I take what I need,” goes back to piratical and feudal ancestors and goes forward from there to the robber barons of the nineteenth century who exploited the natural resources of the continent. The “pariah” and “adventure” capitalists, to use Max Weber’s terms, roaming the earth for profit, are men of this stamp, men whose aim was to buy cheap and sell dear and who ruthlessly pursued power and wealth. The free market as it operated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries under competitive conditions nurtured this type. Our own age has seen a revival of naked exploitativeness in the authoritarian systems which attempted to exploit the natural and human resources, not so much of their own country but of any other country they were powerful enough to invade. They proclaimed the right of might and rationalized it by pointing to the law of nature which makes the stronger survive; love and decency were signs of weakness; thinking was the occupation of cowards and degenerates.

The hoarding orientation existed side by side with the exploitative orientation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The hoarding type was conservative, less interested in ruthless acquisition than in methodical economic pursuits, based on sound principles and on the preservation of what had been acquired. To him property was a symbol of his self and its protection a supreme value. This orientation gave him a great deal of security; his possession of property and family, protected as they were by the relatively stable conditions of the nineteenth century, constituted a safe and manageable world. Puritan ethics, with the emphasis on work and success as evidence of goodness, supported the feeling of security and tended to give life meaning and a religious sense of fulfillment. This combination of a stable world, stable possessions, and a stable ethic gave the members of the middle class a feeling of belonging, self-confidence, and pride.

The marketing orientation does not come out of the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries; it is definitely a modern product. It is only recently that the package, the label, the brand name have become important, in people as well as in commodities. The gospel of working loses weight and the gospel of selling becomes paramount. In feudal times, social mobility was exceedingly limited and one could not use one’s personality to get ahead. In the days of the competitive market, social mobility was relatively great, especially in the United States; if one “delivered the goods” one could get ahead. Today, the opportunities for the lone individual who can make a fortune all by himself are, in comparison with the previous period, greatly diminished. He who wants to get ahead has to fit into large organizations, and his ability to play the expected role is one of his main assets.

The depersonalization, the emptiness, the meaninglessness of life, the automatization of the individual result in a growing dissatisfaction and in a need to search for a more adequate way of living and for norms which could guide man to this end. The productive orientation which I am going to discuss now points to the type of character in whom growth and the development of all his potentialities is the aim to which all other activities are subordinated.

(3) The Productive Orientation

(a) General Characteristics

From the time of classic and medieval literature up to the end of the nineteenth century a great deal of effort was expended in describing the vision of what the good man and the good society ought to be. Such ideas were expressed partly in the form of philosophical or theological treatises, partly in the form of utopias. The twentieth century is conspicuous for the absence of such visions. The emphasis is on critical analysis of man and society, in which positive visions of what man ought to be are only implied. While there is no doubt that this criticism is of utmost significance and a condition for any improvement of society, the absence of visions projecting a “better” man and a “better” society has had the effect of paralyzing man’s faith in himself and his future (and is at the same time the result of such a paralysis).

Contemporary psychology and particularly psychoanalysis are no exception in this respect. Freud and his followers have given a splendid analysis of the neurotic character. Their clinical description of the nonproductive character (in Freud’s terms, the pregenital character) is exhaustive and accurate—quite regardless of the fact that the theoretical concepts they used are in need of revision. But the character of the normal, mature, healthy personality has found scarcely any consideration. This character, called the genital character by Freud, has remained a rather vague and abstract concept. It is defined by him as the character structure of a person in whom the oral and anal libido has lost its dominant position and functions under the supremacy of genital sexuality, the aim of which is sexual union with a member of the opposite sex. The description of the genital character does not go far beyond the statement that it is the character structure of an individual who is capable of functioning well sexually and socially.

In discussing the productive character I venture beyond critical analysis and inquire into the nature of the fully developed character that is the aim of human development and simultaneously the ideal of humanistic ethics. It may serve as a preliminary approach to the concept of productive orientation to state its connection with Freud’s genital character. Indeed, if we do not use Freud’s term literally in the context of his libido theory but symbolically, it denotes quite accurately the meaning of productiveness. For the stage of sexual maturity is that in which man has the capacity of natural production; by the union of the sperm and the egg new life is produced. While this type of production is common to man and to animals, the capacity for material production is specific for man. Man is not only a rational and social animal. He can also be defined as a producing animal, capable of transforming the materials which he finds at hand, using his reason and imagination. Not only can he produce, he must produce in order to live. Material production, however, is but the most frequent symbol for productiveness as an aspect of character. The “productive orientation”38 of personality refers to a fundamental attitude, a mode of relatedness in all realms of human experience. It covers mental, emotional, and sensory responses to others, to oneself, and to things. Productiveness is man’s ability to use his powers and to realize the potentialities inherent in him. If we say he must use his powers we imply that he must be free and not dependent on someone who controls his powers. We imply, furthermore, that he is guided by reason, since he can make use of his powers only if he knows what they are, how to use them, and what to use them for. Productiveness means that he experiences himself as the embodiment of his powers and as the “actor”; that he feels himself one with his powers and at the same time that they are not masked and alienated from him.

In order to avoid the misunderstandings to which the term “productiveness” lends itself, it seems appropriate to discuss briefly what is not meant by productiveness.

Generally the word “productiveness” is associated with creativeness, particularly artistic creativeness. The real artist, indeed, is the most convincing representative of productiveness. But not all artists are productive; a conventional tainting, e.g., may exhibit nothing more than the technical skill to reproduce the likeness of a person in photographic fashion on a canvas. But a person can experience, see, feel, and think productively without having the gift to create something visible or communicable. Productiveness is an attitude which every human being is capable of, unless he is mentally and emotionally crippled.

The term “productive” is also apt to be confused with “active,” and “productiveness” with “activity.” While the two terms can be synonymous (for instance, in Aristotle’s concept of activity), activity in modern usage frequently indicates the very opposite of productiveness. Activity is usually defined as behavior which brings about a change in an existing situation by an expenditure of energy. In contrast, a person is described as passive if he is unable to change or overtly influence an existing situation and is influenced or moved by forces outside himself. This current concept of activity takes into account only the actual expenditure of energy and the change brought about by it. It does not distinguish between the underlying psychic conditions governing the activities.

An example, though an extreme one, of nonproductive activity is the activity of a person under hypnosis. The person in a deep hypnotic trance may have his eyes open, may walk, talk, and do things; he “acts.” The general definition of activity would apply to him, since energy is spent and some change brought about. But if we consider the particular character and quality of this activity, we find that it is not really the hypnotized person who is the actor, but the hypnotist who, by means of his suggestions, acts through him. While the hypnotic trance is an artificial state, it is an extreme but characteristic example of a situation in which a person can be active and yet not be the true actor, his activity resulting from compelling forces over which he has no control.

A common type of nonproductive activity is the reaction to anxiety, whether acute or chronic, conscious or unconscious, which is frequently at the root of the frantic preoccupations of men today. Different from anxiety motivated activity, though often blended with it, is the type of activity based on submission to or dependence on an authority. The authority may be feared, admired, or “loved”—usually all three are mixed—but the cause of the activity is the command of the authority, both in a formal way and with regard to its contents. The person is active because the authority wants him to be, and he does what the authority wants him to do. This kind of activity is found in the authoritarian character. To him activity means to act in the name of something higher than his own self. He can act in the name of God, the past, or duty, but not in the name of himself. The authoritarian character receives the impulse to act from a superior power which is neither assailable nor changeable, and is consequently unable to heed spontaneous impulses from within himself.39

Resembling submissive activity is automaton activity. Here we do not find dependence on overt authority, but rather on anonymous authority as it is represented by public opinion, culture patterns, common sense, or “science.” The person feels or does what he is supposed to feel or do; his activity lacks spontaneity in the sense that it does not originate from his own mental or emotional experience but from an outside source.

Among the most powerful sources of activity are irrational passions. The person who is driven by stinginess, masochism, envy, jealousy, and all other forms of greed is compelled to act; yet his actions are neither free nor rational but in opposition to reason and to his interests as a human being. A person so obsessed repeats himself, becoming more and more inflexible, more and more stereotyped. He is active, but he is not productive.

Although the source of these activities is irrational and the acting persons are neither free nor rational, there can be important practical results, often leading to material success. In the concept of productiveness we are not concerned with activity necessarily leading to practical results but with an attitude, with a mode of reaction and orientation toward the world and oneself in the process of living. We are concerned with man’s character, not with his success.40

Productiveness is man’s realization of the potentialities characteristic of him, the use of his powers. But what is “power”? It is rather ironical that this word denotes two contradictory concepts: power of = capacity and power over = domination. This contradiction, however, is of a particular kind. Power = domination results from the paralysis of power = capacity. “Power over” is the perversion of “power to.” The ability of man to make productive use of his powers is his potency; the inability is his impotence. With his power of reason he can penetrate the surface of phenomena and understand their essence. With his power of love he can break through the wall which separates one person from another. With his power of imagination he can visualize things not yet existing; he can plan and thus begin to create. Where potency is lacking, man’s relatedness to the world is perverted into a desire to dominate, to exert power over others as though they were things. Domination is coupled with death, potency with life. Domination springs from impotence and in turn reinforces it, for if an individual can force somebody else to serve him, his own need to be productive is increasingly paralyzed.

How is man related to the world when he uses his powers productively?

The world outside oneself can be experienced in two ways: reproductively by perceiving actuality in the same fashion as a film makes a literal record of things photographed (although even mere reproductive perception requires the active participation of the mind); and generatively by conceiving it, by enlivening and re-creating this new material through the spontaneous activity of one’s own mental and emotional powers. While to a certain extent everyone does react in both ways, the respective weight of each kind of experience differs widely. Sometimes either one of the two is atrophied, and the study of these extreme cases in which the reproductive or the generative mode is almost absent offers the best approach to the understanding of each of these phenomena.

The relative atrophy of the generative capacity is very frequent in our culture. A person may be able to recognize things as they are (or as his culture maintains them to be), but he is unable to enliven his perception from within. Such a person is the perfect “realist,” who sees all there is to be seen of the surface features of phenomena but who is quite incapable of penetrating below the surface to the essential, and of visualizing what is not yet apparent. He sees the details but not the whole, the trees but not the forest. Reality to him is only the sum total of what has already materialized. This person is not lacking in imagination, but his is a calculating imagination, combining factors all of which are known and in existence, and inferring their future operation.

On the other hand, the person who has lost the capacity to perceive actuality is insane. The psychotic person builds up an inner world of reality in which he seems to have full confidence; he lives in his own world, and the common factors of reality as perceived by all men are unreal to him. When a person sees objects which do not exist in reality but are entirely the product of his imagination, he has hallucinations; he interprets events in terms of his own feelings, without reference to, or at least without proper acknowledgment of, what goes on in reality. A paranoid person may believe that he is being persecuted, and a chance remark may indicate a plan to humiliate and ruin him. He is convinced that the lack of any more obvious and explicit manifestation of such intention does not prove anything; that, although the remark may appear harmless on the surface, its real meaning becomes clear if one looks “deeper.” For the psychotic person actual reality is wiped out and an inner reality has taken its place.

The “realist” sees only the surface features of things; he sees the manifest world, he can reproduce it photographically in his mind, and he can act by manipulating things and people as they appear in this picture. The insane person is incapable of seeing reality as it is; he perceives reality only as a symbol and a reflection of his inner world. Both are sick. The sickness of the psychotic who has lost contact with reality is such that he cannot function socially. The sickness of the “realist” impoverishes him as a human being. While he is not incapacitated in his social functioning, his view of reality is so distorted because of its lack of depth and perspective that he is apt to err when more than manipulation of immediately given data and short-range aims are involved. “Realism” seems to be the very opposite of insanity and yet it is only its complement.

The true opposite of both “realism” and insanity is productiveness. The normal human being is capable of relating himself to the world simultaneously by perceiving it as it is and by conceiving it enlivened and enriched by his own powers. If one of the two capacities is atrophied, man is sick; but the normal person has both capacities even though their respective weights differ. The presence of both reproductive and generative capacities is a precondition for productiveness; they are opposite poles whose interaction is the dynamic source of productiveness. With the last statement I want to emphasize that productiveness is not the sum or combination of both capacities but that it is some thing new which springs from this interaction.

We have described productiveness as a particular mode of relatedness to the world. The question arises whether there is anything which the productive person produces and if so, what? While it is true that man’s productiveness can create material things, works of art, and systems of thought, by far the most important object of productiveness is man himself.

Birth is only one particular step in a continuum which begins with conception and ends with death. All that is between these two poles is a process of giving birth to one’s potentialities, of bringing to life all that is potentially given in the two cells. But while physical growth proceeds by itself, if only the proper conditions are given, the process of birth on the mental plane, in contrast, does not occur automatically. It requires productive activity to give life to the emotional and intellectual potentialities of man, to give birth to his self. It is part of the tragedy of the human situation that the development of the self is never completed; even under the best conditions only part of man’s potentialities is realized. Man always dies before he is fully born.

Although I do not intend to present a history of the concept of productiveness, I want to give some outstanding illustrations which may help to clarify the concept further. Productiveness is one of the key concepts in Aristotle’s system of ethics. One can determine virtue, he says, by ascertaining the function of man. Just as in the case of a flute player, a sculptor, or any artist, the good is thought to reside in the specific function which distinguishes these men from others and makes them what they are, the good of man also resides in the specific function which distinguishes him from other species and makes him what he is. Such a function is an “activity of the soul which follows or implies a rational principle.”41 “But it makes perhaps no small difference,” he says, “whether we place the chief good in possession or in use, in state of mind or activity. For the state of mind may exist without producing any good result, as in a man who is asleep or in some other way quite inactive, but the activity can not; for one who has the activity will of necessity be acting, and acting well.”42 The good man for Aristotle is the man who by his activity, under the guidance of his reason, brings to life the potentialities specific of man.

“By virtue and power,” Spinoza says, “I understand the same thing.”43 Freedom and blessedness consist in man’s understanding of himself and in his effort to become that which he potentially is, to approach “nearer and nearer to the model of human nature.”44 Virtue to Spinoza is identical with the use of man’s powers and vice is his failure to use his power; the essence of evil for Spinoza is impotence.45

In a poetic form the concept of productive activity has been expressed beautifully by Goethe and by Ibsen. Faust is a symbol of man’s eternal search for the meaning of life. Neither science, pleasure, nor might, not even beauty, answer Faust’s question. Goethe proposes that the only answer to man’s quest is productive activity, which is identical with the good.

In the “Prologue in Heaven” the Lord says it is not error which thwarts man but non-activity:

“Man’s active nature, flagging, seeks too soon to level;

Unqualified repose he learns to crave;

Whence, willingly, the comrade him I gave,

Who works, excites, and must create, as Devil.

But ye, God’s sons in love and duty,

Enjoy the rich, the ever-living Beauty!

Creative Power, that works eternal schemes,

Clasp you in bonds of love, relaxing never,

And what in wavering apparition gleams

Fix in its place with thoughts that stand forever!”46

At the end of the second part, Faust has won his bet with Mephistopheles. He has erred and sinned, but he has not committed the crucial sin—that of unproductiveness. The last words of Faust express this idea very clearly, symbolized by the act of claiming tillable land from the sea:

“To many millions let me furnish soil,

Though not secure, yet free to active toil;

Green, fertile fields, where men and herds go forth,

At once, with comfort, on the newest Earth,

And swiftly settled on the hill’s firm base,

Created by the bold, industrious race.

A land like Paradise here, round about:

Up to the brink the tide may roar without,

And though it gnaw, to burst with force the limit,

By common impulse all unite to hem it.

Yes! To this thought I hold with firm persistence,

The last result of wisdom stamps it true:

He only earns his freedom and existence,

Who daily conquers them anew.

Thus here, by dangers girt, shall glide away

Of childhood, manhood, age, the vigorous day:

And such a throng I fain would see,—

Stand on free soil among a people free!

Then dared I hail the Moment fleeing:

’Ah, still delay—thou art so fair!’

The traces cannot, of mine earthly being,

In aeons perish,—they are there!

In proud fore‑feeling of such lofty bliss,

I now enjoy the highest Moment,—this!”47

While Goethe’s Faust expresses the faith in man which was characteristic of the progressive thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Ibsen’s Peer Gynt—written in the second half of the nineteenth century—is a critical analysis of modern man and his unproductiveness. The subtitle of the play might very well be “Modern Man in Search of His Self.” Peer Gynt believes he is acting in behalf of his self when he uses all his energy to make money and to become successful. He lives according to the principle: “Be enough to thyself,” represented by the Trolls, and not according to the human principle: “Be true to thyself.” He discovers at the end of his life that his exploitativeness and egotism have prevented him from becoming himself, that the realization of the self is only possible if one is productive, if one can give birth to one’s own potentialities. Peer Gynt’s unrealized potentialities come to accuse him of his “sin” and point to the real cause of his human failure—his lack of productiveness.

The Threadballs (on the ground)

We are thoughts;

You should have thought us;

Little feet, to life

You should have brought us!

We should have risen

With glorious sound;

But here like threadballs

We are earth‑bound.

Withered Leaves

We are a watchword;

You should have used us!

Life, by your sloth,

Has been refused us.

By worms we’re eaten

All up and down;

No fruit will have us

For spreading crown.

A Sighing in the Air

We are songs;

You should have sung us!

In the depths of your heart

Despair has wrung us!

We lay and waited;

You called us not.

May your throat and voice

With poison rot!


We are tears

Which were never shed.

The cutting ice

Which all hearts dread

We could have melted;

But now its dart

Is frozen into

A stubborn heart.

The wound is closed;

Our power is lost.

Broken Straws

We are deeds

You have left undone;

Strangled by doubt,

Spoiled ere begun.

At the judgment Day

We shall be there

To tell our tale;

How will you fare?48

Thus far we have devoted ourselves to an inquiry into the general characteristics of the productive orientation. We must attempt now to examine productiveness as it appears in specific activities, since only by studying the concrete and specific can one fully understand the general.

(b) Productive Love and Thinking

Human existence is characterized by the fact that man is alone and separated from the world; not being able to stand the separation, he is impelled to seek for relatedness and oneness. There are many ways in which he can realize this need, but only one in which he, as a unique entity, remains intact; only one in which his own powers unfold in the very process of being related. It is the paradox of human existence that man must simultaneously seek for closeness and for independence; for oneness with others and at the same time for the preservation of his uniqueness and particularity.49 As we have shown, the answer to this paradox—and to the moral problem of man—is productiveness.

One can be productively related to the world by acting and by comprehending. Man produces things, and in the process of creation he exercises his powers over matter. Man comprehends the world, mentally and emotionally, through love and through reason. His power of reason enables him to penetrate through the surface and to grasp the essence of his object by getting into active relation with it. His power of love enables him to break through the wall which separates him from another person and to comprehend him. Although love and reason are only two different forms of comprehending the world and although neither is possible without the other, they are expressions of different powers, that of emotion and that of thinking, and hence must be discussed separately.

The concept of productive love is very different indeed from what is frequently called love. There is hardly any word which is more ambiguous and confusing than the word “love.” It is used to denote almost every feeling short of hate and disgust. It comprises everything from the love for ice cream to the love for a symphony, from mild sympathy to the most intense feeling of closeness. People feel they love if they have “fallen for” somebody. They call their dependence love, and their possessiveness too. They believe, in fact, that nothing is easier than to love, that the difficulty lies only in finding the right object, and that their failure to find happiness in love is due to their bad luck in not finding the right partner. But contrary to all this confused and wishful thinking, love is a very specific feeling; and while every human being has a capacity for love, its realization is one of the most difficult achievements. Genuine love is rooted in productiveness and may properly be called, therefore, “productive love.” Its essence is the same whether it is the mother’s love for the child, our love for man, or the erotic love between two individuals. (That it is also the same with regard to love for others and love for ourselves we shall discuss later.)50 Although the objects of love differ and consequently the intensity and quality of love itself differ, certain basic elements may be said to be characteristic of all forms of productive love. These are care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge.

Care and responsibility denote that love is an activity and not a passion by which one is overcome, nor an affect which one is “affected by.” The element of care and responsibility in productive love has been admirably described in the book of Jonah. God has told Jonah to go to Nineveh, to warn its inhabitants that they will be punished unless they mend their evil ways. Jonah runs away from his mission because he is afraid that the people in Nineveh will repent and that God will forgive them. He is a man with a strong sense of order and law, but without love. However, in his attempt to escape he finds himself in the belly of a whale, symbolizing the state of isolation and imprisonment which his lack of love and solidarity has brought upon him. God saves him, and Jonah goes to Nineveh. He preaches to the inhabitants as God had told him, and the very thing he was afraid of happens. The men of Nineveh repent their sins, mend their ways, and God forgives them and decides not to destroy the city. Jonah is intensely angry and disappointed; he wanted “justice” to be done, not mercy. At last he finds some comfort by the shade of a tree which God had made to grow for him to protect him from the sun. But when God makes the tree wilt Jonah is depressed and angrily complains to God. God answers: “Thou hast had pity on the gourd for the which thou has not labored neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night. And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand people that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” God’s answer to Jonah is to be understood symbolically. God explains to Jonah that the essence of love is to “labor” for something and “to make something grow,” that love and labor are inseparable. One loves that for which one labors, and one labors for that which one loves.

The story of Jonah implies that love cannot be divorced from responsibility. Jonah does not feel responsible for the life of his brothers. He, like Cain, could ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Responsibility is not a duty imposed upon one from the outside, but is my response to a request which I feel to be my concern. Responsibility and response have the same root, respondere = “to answer”; to be responsible means to be ready to respond.

Motherly love is the most frequent and most readily understood instance of productive love; its very essence is care and responsibility. During the birth of the child the mother’s body “labors” for the child and after birth her love consists in her effort to make the child grow. Motherly love does not depend on conditions which the child has to fulfill in order to be loved; it is unconditional, based only upon the child’s request and the mother’s response.51 No wonder that motherly love has been a symbol of the highest form of love in art and religion. The Hebrew term indicating God’s love for man and man’s love for his neighbor is rachamim, the root of which is rechem = womb.

But not so evident is the connection of care and responsibility with individual love; it is believed that to fall in love is already the culmination of love, while actually it is the beginning and only an opportunity for the achievement of love. It is believed that love is the result of a mysterious quality by which two people are attracted to each other, an event which occurs without effort. Indeed, man’s loneliness and his sexual desires make it easy to fall in love and there is nothing mysterious about it, but it is a gain which is as quickly lost as it has been achieved. One is not loved accidentally; one’s own power to love produces love—just as being interested makes one interesting. People are concerned with the question of whether they are attractive while they forget that the essence of attractiveness is their own capacity to love. To love a person productively implies to care and to feel responsible for his life, not only for his physical existence but for the growth and development of all his human powers. To love productively is incompatible with being passive, with being an onlooker at the loved person’s life; it implies labor and care and the responsibility for his growth.

In spite of the universalistic spirit of the monotheistic Western religions and of the progressive political concepts that are expressed in the idea “that all men are created equal,” love for mankind has not become a common experience. Love for mankind is looked upon as an achievement which, at best, follows love for an individual or as an abstract concept to be realized only in the future. But love for man cannot be separated from the love for one individual. To love one person productively means to be related to his human core, to him as representing mankind. Love for one individual, in so far as it is divorced from love for man, can refer only to the superficial and to the accidental; of necessity it remains shallow. While it may be said that love for man differs from motherly love inasmuch as the child is helpless and our fellow men are not, it may also be said that even this difference exists only in relative terms. All men are in need of help and depend on one another. Human solidarity is the necessary condition for the unfolding of any one individual.

Care and responsibility are constituent elements of love, but without respect for and knowledge of the beloved person, love deteriorates into domination and possessiveness. Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accordance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at), the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his individuality and uniqueness. To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by the knowledge of the person’s individuality.

A preliminary approach to the understanding of productive thinking may be made by examining the difference between reason and intelligence.

Intelligence is man’s tool for attaining practical goals with the aim of discovering those aspects of things the knowledge of which is necessary for manipulating them. The goal itself or, what is the same, the premises on which “intelligent” thinking rests are not questioned, but are taken for granted and may or may not be rational in themselves. This particular quality of intelligence can be seen clearly in an extreme case, in that of the paranoid person. His premise, for instance, that all people are in conspiracy against him, is irrational and false, but his thought processes built upon this premise can in themselves show a remarkable amount of intelligence. In his attempt to prove his paranoid thesis he connects observations and makes logical constructions which are often so cogent that it is difficult to prove the irrationality of his premise. The application of mere intelligence to problems is, of course, not restricted to such pathological phenomena. Most of our thinking is necessarily concerned with the achievement of practical results, with the quantitative and “superficial” aspects of phenomena without inquiring into the validity of implied ends and premises and without attempting to understand the nature and quality of phenomena.

Reason involves a third dimension, that of depth, which reaches to the essence of things and processes. While reason is not divorced from the practical aims of life (and I shall show presently in what sense this is true), it is not a mere tool for immediate action. Its function is to know, to understand, to grasp, to relate oneself to things by comprehending them. It penetrates through the surface of things in order to discover their essence, their hidden relationships and deeper meanings, their “reason.” It is, as it were, not two-dimensional but “perspectivistic,” to use Nietzsche’s term; i.e., it grasps all conceivable perspectives and dimensions, not only the practically relevant ones. Being concerned with the essence of things does not mean being concerned with something “behind” things, but with the essential, with the generic and the universal, with the most general and pervasive traits of phenomena, freed from their superficial and accidental (logically irrelevant) aspects.

We can now proceed to examine some more specific characteristics of productive thinking. In productive thinking the subject is not indifferent to his object but is affected by and concerned with it. The object is not experienced as something dead and divorced from oneself and one’s life, as something about which one thinks only in a self-isolated fashion; on the contrary, the subject is intensely interested in his object, and the more intimate this relation is, the more fruitful is his thinking. It is this very relationship between him and his object which stimulates his thinking in the first place. To him a person or any phenomenon becomes an object of thought because it is an object of interest, relevant from the standpoint of his individual life or that of human existence. A beautiful illustration of this point is the story of Buddha’s discovery of the “fourfold truth.” Buddha saw a dead man, a sick man, and an old man. He, a young man, was deeply affected by the inescapable fate of man, and his reaction to his observation was the stimulus for thinking which resulted in his theory of the nature of life and the ways of man’s salvation. His reaction was certainly not the only possible one. A modern physician in the same situation might react by starting to think of how to combat death, sickness, and age, but his thinking would also be determined by his total reaction to his object.

In the process of productive thinking the thinker is motivated by his interest for the object; he is affected by it and reacts to it; he cares and responds. But productive thinking is also characterized by objectivity, by the respect the thinker has for his object, by his ability to see the object as it is and not as he wishes it to be. This polarity between objectivity and subjectivity is characteristic of productive thinking as it is of productiveness in general.

To be objective is possible only if we respect the things we observe; that is, if we are capable of seeing them in their uniqueness and their interconnectedness. This respect is not essentially different from the respect we discussed in connection with love; inasmuch as I want to understand something I must be able to see it as it exists according to its own nature; while this is true with regard to all objects of thought, it constitutes a special problem for the study of human nature.

Another aspect of objectivity must be present in productive thinking about living and nonliving objects: that of seeing the totality of a phenomenon. If the observer isolates one aspect of the object without seeing the whole, he will not properly understand even the one aspect he is studying. This point has been emphasized as the most important element in productive thinking by Wertheimer. “Productive processes,” he writes, “are often of this nature: in the desire to get a real understanding, requestioning and investigation start. A certain region in the field becomes crucial, is focused; but it does not become isolated. A new, deeper structural view of the situation develops, involving changes in the functional meaning, the grouping, etc., of the items. Directed by what is required by the structure of a situation for a crucial region, one is led to a reasonable prediction, which—like the other parts of the structure—calls for verification, direct, or indirect. Two directions are involved: getting a whole consistent picture, and seeing what the structure of the whole requires for the parts.”52

Objectivity requires not only seeing the object as it is but also seeing oneself as one is, i.e., being aware of the particular constellation in which one finds oneself as an observer related to the object of observation. Productive thinking, then, is determined by the nature of the object and the nature of the subject who relates himself to his object in the process of thinking. This twofold determination constitutes objectivity, in contrast to false subjectivity in which the thinking is not controlled by the object and thus degenerates into prejudice, wishful thinking, and phantasy. But objectivity is not, as it is often implied in a false idea of “scientific” objectivity, synonymous with detachment, with absence of interest and care. How can one penetrate the veiling surface of things to their causes and relationships if one does not have an interest that is vital and sufficiently impelling for so laborious a task? How could the aims of inquiry be formulated except by reference to the interests of man? Objectivity does not mean detachment, it means respect; that is, the ability not to distort and to falsify things, persons, and oneself. But does not the subjective factor in the observer, his interests, tend to distort his thinking for the sake of arriving at desired results? Is not the lack of personal interest the condition of scientific inquiry? The idea that lack of interest is a condition for recognizing the truth is fallacious.53 There hardly has been any significant discovery or insight which has not been prompted by an interest of the thinker. In fact, without interests, thinking becomes sterile and pointless. What matters is not whether or not there is an interest, but what kind of interest there is and what its relation to the truth will be. All productive thinking is stimulated by the interest of the observer. It is never an interest per se which distorts ideas, but only those interests which are incompatible with the truth, with the discovery of the nature of the object under observation.

The statement that productiveness is an intrinsic human faculty contradicts the idea that man is lazy by nature and that he has to be forced to be active. This assumption is an old one. When Moses asked Pharaoh to let the Jewish people go so that they might “serve God in the desert,” his answer was: “You are lazy, nothing but lazy.” To Pharaoh, slave labor meant doing things; worshiping God was laziness. The same idea was adopted by all those who wanted to profit from the activity of others and had no use for productiveness, which they could not exploit.

Our own culture seems to offer evidence for the very opposite. For the last few centuries Western man has been obsessed by the idea of work, by the need for constant activity. He is almost incapable of being lazy for any length of time. This contrast, however, is only apparent. Laziness and compulsive activity are not opposites but are two symptoms of the disturbance of man’s proper functioning. In the neurotic individual we often find the inability to work as his main symptom; in the so-called adjusted person, the inability to enjoy ease and repose. Compulsive activity is not the opposite of laziness but its complement; the opposite of both is productiveness.

The crippling of productive activity results in either inactivity or overactivity. Hunger and force can never be conditions of productive activity. On the contrary, freedom, economic security, and an organization of society in which work can be the meaningful expression of man’s faculties are the factors conducive to the expression of man’s natural tendency to make productive use of his powers. Productive activity is characterized by the rhythmic change of activity and repose. Productive work, love, and thought are possible only if a person can be, when necessary, quiet and alone with himself. To be able to listen to oneself is a prerequisite for the ability to listen to others; to be at home with oneself is the necessary condition for relating oneself to others.

(4) Orientations in the Process of Socialization

As pointed out in the beginning of this chapter, the process of living implies two kinds of relatedness to the outside world, that of assimilation and that of socialization. While the former has been discussed in detail in this chapter,54 the latter has been dealt with at length in Escape from Freedom and therefore I will give here only a brief summary. We can differentiate between the following kinds of interpersonal relatedness: symbiotic relatedness, withdrawal-destructiveness, love.

In the symbiotic relatedness the person is related to others but loses or never attains his independence; he avoids the danger of aloneness by becoming part of another person, either by being “swallowed” by that person or by “swallowing” him. The former is the root of what is clinically described as masochism. Masochism is the attempt to get rid of one’s individual self, to escape from freedom, and to look for security by attaching oneself to another person. The forms which such dependency assume are manifold. It can be rationalized as sacrifice, duty, or love, especially when cultural patterns legitimatize this kind of rationalization. Sometimes masochistic strivings are blended with sexual impulses and pleasureful (the masochistic perversion); often the masochistic strivings are so much in conflict with the parts of the personality striving for independence and freedom that they are experienced as painful and tormenting.

The impulse to swallow others, the sadistic, active form of symbiotic relatedness, appears in all kinds of rationalizations, as love, overprotectiveness, “justified” domination, “justified” vengeance, etc.; it also appears blended with sexual impulses as sexual sadism. All forms of the sadistic drive go back to the impulse to have complete mastery over another person, to “swallow” him, and to make him a helpless object of our will. Complete domination over a powerless person is the essence of active symbiotic relatedness. The dominated person is perceived and treated as a thing to be used and exploited, not as a human being who is an end in himself. The more this craving is blended with destructiveness, the more cruel it is; but the benevolent domination which often masquerades as “love” is an expression of sadism too. While the benevolent sadist wants his object to be rich, powerful, successful, there is one thing he tries to prevent with all his power: that his object become free and independent and thus cease to be his.

Balzac in his Lost Illusions gives a striking example of benevolent sadism. He describes the relationship between young Lucien and the Bagno prisoner who poses as an abbé. Shortly after he makes the acquaintance of the young man who has just tried to commit suicide, the abbé says: “I have picked you up, I have given life to you, and you belong to me as the creature belongs to the creator, as—in the Orient’s fairy tales—the Ifrit belongs to the spirit, as the body belongs to the soul. With powerful hands I will keep you straight on the road to power; I promise you, nevertheless, a life of pleasure, of honors, of everlasting feasts. You will never lack money, you will sparkle, you will be brilliant; whereas I, stooped down in the filth of promoting, shall secure the brilliant edifice of your success. I love power for the sake of power! I shall always enjoy your pleasures although I shall have to renounce them. Shortly: I shall be one and the same person with you. … I will love my creature, I will mold him, will shape him to my services, in order to love him as a father loves his child. I shall drive at your side in your Tilbury, my dear boy, I shall delight in your successes with women. I shall say: I am this handsome young man.”

While the symbiotic relationship is one of closeness to and intimacy with the object, although at the expense of freedom and integrity, a second kind of relatedness is one of distance, of withdrawal and destructiveness. The feeling of individual powerlessness can be overcome by withdrawal from others who are experienced as threats. To a certain extent withdrawal is part of the normal rhythm in any person’s relatedness to the world, a necessity for contemplation, for study, for the reworking of materials, thoughts, attitudes. In the phenomenon here described, withdrawal becomes the main form of relatedness to others, a negative relatedness, as it were. Its emotional equivalent is the feeling of indifference toward others, often accompanied by a compensatory feeling of self-inflation. Withdrawal and indifference can, but need not, be conscious; as a matter of fact, in our culture they are mostly covered up by a superficial kind of interest and sociability.

Destructiveness is the active form of withdrawal; the impulse to destroy others follows from the fear of being destroyed by them. Since withdrawal and destructiveness are the passive and active forms of the same kind of relatedness, they are often blended, in varying proportions. Their difference, however, is greater than that between the active and the passive form of the symbiotic relatedness. Destructiveness results from a more intense and more complete blocking of productiveness than withdrawal. It is the perversion of the drive to live; it is the energy of unlived life transformed into energy for the destruction of life. Love is the productive form of relatedness to others and to oneself. It implies responsibility, care, respect and knowledge, and the wish for the other person to grow and develop. It is the expression of intimacy between two human beings under the condition of the preservation of each other’s integrity.

It follows from what has been set forth that there must be certain affinities between the various forms of orientations in the process of assimilation and socialization, respectively. The following chart gives a picture of the orientations which have been discussed and the affinities between them.55



I. Nonproductive orientation

a) Receiving





b) Exploiting




c) Hoarding




d) Marketing





II. Productive orientation


Loving, Reasoning

Only a few words of comment seem to be needed. The receptive and exploitative attitude implies a different kind of interpersonal relationship from the hoarding one. Both the receptive and the exploitative attitudes result in a kind of intimacy and closeness to people from whom one expects to get the things needed either peacefully or aggressively. In the receptive attitude, the dominant relationship is a submissive, masochistic one: If I submit to the stronger person, he will give me all I need. The other person becomes the source of all good, and in the symbiotic relationship one receives all one needs from him. The exploitative attitude, on the other hand, implies usually a sadistic kind of relationship: If I take by force all I need from the other person, I must rule over him and make him the powerless object of my own domination.

In contrast to both these attitudes the hoarding kind of relatedness implies remoteness from other persons. It is based not on the expectation of getting things from an outside source of all good but on the expectation of having things by not consuming and by hoarding. Any intimacy with the outside world is a threat to this kind of autarchic security system. The hoarding character will tend to solve the problem of his relationship to others by attempting to withdraw or—if the outside world is felt to be too great a menace—to destroy.

The marketing orientation is also based on detachment from others, but in contrast to the hoarding orientation, the detachment has a friendly rather than a destructive connotation. The whole principle of the marketing orientation implies easy contact, superficial attachment, and detachment from others only in a deeper emotional sense.

(5) Blends of Various Orientations

In describing the different kinds of nonproductive orientations and the productive orientation, I have dealt with these orientations as if they were separate entities, clearly differentiated from each other. For didactic purposes this kind of treatment seemed to be necessary because we have to understand the nature of each orientation before we can proceed to the understanding of their blending. Yet, in reality, we always deal with blends, for a character never represents one of the nonproductive orientations or the productive orientation exclusively.

Among the combinations of the various orientations we must differentiate between the blend of the nonproductive orientations among themselves, and that of the nonproductive with the productive orientation. Some of the former have certain affinities toward each other; for instance, the receptive blends more frequently with the exploitative than with the hoarding orientation. The receptive and exploitative orientations have in common the closeness toward the object, in contrast to the remoteness of the person from the object, in the hoarding orientation. However, even the orientations with lesser affinity are frequently blended. If one wants to characterize a person, one will usually have to do so in terms of his dominant orientation.

The blending between the nonproductive and productive orientation needs a more thorough discussion. There is no person whose orientation is entirely productive, and no one who is completely lacking in productiveness. But the respective weight of the productive and the nonproductive orientation in each person’s character structure varies and determines the quality of the nonproductive orientations. In the foregoing description of the nonproductive orientations it was assumed that they were dominant in a character structure. We must now supplement the earlier description by considering the qualities of the nonproductive orientations in a character structure in which the productive orientation is dominant. Here the nonproductive orientations do not have the negative meaning they have when they are dominant but have a different and constructive quality. In fact, the nonproductive orientations as they have been described may be considered as distortions of orientations which in themselves are a normal and necessary part of living. Every human being, in order to survive, must be able to accept things from others, to take things, to save, and to exchange. He must also be able to follow authority, to guide others, to be alone, and to assert himself. Only if his way of acquiring things and relating himself to others is essentially nonproductive does the ability to accept, to take, to save, or to exchange turn into the craving to receive, to exploit, to hoard, or to market as the dominant ways of acquisition. The nonproductive norms of social relatedness in a predominantly productive person—loyalty, authority, fairness, assertiveness—turn into submission, domination, withdrawal, destructiveness in a predominantly nonproductive person. Any of the nonproductive orientations has; therefore, a positive and a negative aspect, according to the degree of productiveness in the total character structure. The following list of the positive and negative aspects of various orientations may serve as an illustration for this principle.

Receptive Orientation (Accepting)

Positive Aspect







socially adjusted







Negative Aspect

passive, without initiative

opinionless, characterless


without pride



servile, without self-confidence




wishful thinking



Exploitative Orientation (Taking)

Positive Aspect


able to take initiative

able to make claims





Negative Aspect








Hoarding Orientation (Preserving)

Positive Aspect







steadfast, tenacious


composed under stress




Negative Aspect













Marketing Orientation (Exchanging)

Positive Aspect


able to change














Negative Aspect




without a future or a past

without principle and values

unable to be alone










The positive and negative aspects are not two separate classes of syndromes. Each of these traits can be described as a point in a continuum which is determined by the degree of the productive orientation which prevails; rational systematic orderliness, for instance, may be found when productiveness is high, while, with decreasing productiveness, it degenerates more and more into irrational, pedantic compulsive “orderliness” which actually defeats its own purpose. The same holds true of the change from youthfulness to childishness, or of the change from being proud to being conceited. In considering only the basic orientations we see the staggering amount of variability in each person brought about by the fact that

1. the nonproductive orientations are blended in different ways with regard to the respective weight of each of them;

2. each changes in quality according to the amount of productiveness present;

3. the different orientations may operate in different strength in the material, emotional, or intellectual spheres of activity, respectively.

If we add to the picture of personality the different temperaments and gifts, we can easily recognize that the configuration of these basic elements makes for an endless number of variations in personality.