The Art of Loving is a 1956 book by psychoanalyst and social philosopher Erich Fromm, which was published as part of the World Perspectives Series edited by Ruth Nanda Anshen. In this work, Fromm develops his perspective on human nature, from his earlier work, Escape from Freedom and Man for Himself – principles which he revisits in many of his other major works.
Fromm presents love as a skill that can be taught and developed, rejecting the idea of loving as something magical and mysterious that cannot be analyzed and explained. He is therefore skeptical about popular ideas such as “falling in love” or being helpless in the face of love.
Because modern humans are alienated from each other and from nature, we seek refuge from our lonesomeness in romantic love and marriage (pp. 79–81). However, Fromm observes that real love “is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone.” It is only through developing one’s total personality to the capacity of loving one’s neighbor with “true humility, courage, faith and discipline” that one attains the capacity to experience real love. This should be considered a rare achievement (p. vii). Fromm defended these opinions also in interview with Mike Wallace when he states: “love today is a relatively rare phenomenon, that we have a great deal of sentimentality; we have a great deal of illusion about love, namely as a…as something one falls in. But the question is that one cannot fall in love, really; one has to be in love. And that means that loving becomes, and the ability to love, becomes one of the most important things in life.”
The Art of Loving argues that the active character of true love involves four basic elements: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge (p. 24). Each of these is difficult to define and can differ markedly depending on the people involved and their circumstances. Seen in these terms, love is hard work, but it is also the most rewarding kind of work.
The Art of Loving (by Erich Fromm, 1956) is rare in its ability to treat love as an active art, rather than a passive “falling into,” In the book Fromm writes,
“Love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine and engineering.”