Productive Activity

What is Being Mode?

In nonalienated activity, I experience myself as the subject of my activity. Nonalienated activity is a process of giving birth to something, of producing something and remaining related to what I produce. This also implies that my activity is a manifestation of my powers, that I and my activity and the result of my activity are one. I call this nonalienated activity productive activity.*

“Productive” as used here does not refer to the capacity to create something new or original, as an artist or scientist may be creative. Neither does it refer to the product of my activity, but to its quality. A painting or a scientific treatise may be quite unproductive, i.e., sterile; on the other hand, the process going on in persons who are aware of themselves in depth, or who truly “see” a tree rather than just look at it, or who read a poem and experience in themselves the movement of feelings the poet has expressed in words—that process may be very productive, although nothing is “produced.” Productive activity denotes the state of inner activity; it does not necessarily have a connection with the creation of a work of art, of science, or of something “useful.” Productiveness is a character orientation all human beings are capable of, to the extent that they are not emotionally crippled. Productive persons animate whatever they touch. They give birth to their own faculties and bring life to other persons and to things.



— Erich Fromm

‘To Have or To Be’ (1975) p. 74

* I used the terms “spontaneous activity” in Escape from Freedom and “productive activity” in my later writings.