Tag: humanism



Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the central figure of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s in America. A Christian Humanist who believed in the power of non-violence and love, he was assassinated by a lone gunman on 4 April 1968 on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee as he prepared to attend a rally in support of striking sanitation workers.

April 4th is my birthday and so his assassination is always a date for me to remember.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

I find his compilation book A Testament of Hope remains  an inspirational book.

Transplants and the Total Life Experience: On the 10th Anniversary of ‘Becoming Ill’

          Today, March 9th, marks the 10th anniversary of my ‘illness’. It is this day in 2005 I was rushed to hospital in Santa Barbara, diagnosed with ‘alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver’, told to give up drink or die. It was also the day I first heard the word ‘transplant’ It…






I first encountered the work of Eric Fromm as a graduate student in the 1960’s through his influential and best selling work,  Escape from Freedom/ Fear of Freedom (1941). As he summarisese the book:

“There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual…. However, if the economic, social and political conditions… do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.” (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom [N.Y.: Rinehart, 1941], pp. 36–7

As I recently have been reading a magnificent biography on his life by Lawrence J. Friedman, I increasingly realise how he has been a persistent, quiet influence. Of course he fell out of favour with many ‘hip’ theorists because he is an outspoken humanist;  but his work does seem to have had  a world wide impact- even now. He introduced me to the important idea of bridging Freud with Marx. An early Freudian (and a life -long clinician) , Freud soon disowned Fromm’s  humanism ( Fromm turned to a theory of ‘characterology’- about how people’s personalities  are shaped by their society). He was also an early Marxist ( and life-long socialists activist), and a member of the Frankfurt School –  a key figure in assisting their move New York under the Nazi threat; but here again his humanism put him in disfavour too ( Marcuse wrote a scathing influential attack on him and his work). Some of his later work is seen as a little superficial – The Art of Love is perhaps his best seller. For me though he sets an agenda for a humanist psychology making a bond between the human being and society’s regulation – the damage that is usually done here and especially so under capitalism. Love is the answer.


Lawrence Friedman’s new book on Fromm – THE LIVES OF ERICH FROMM: LOVE”S PROPHET (2013) is a marvellous intellectual biography and well worth reading.

Lawrence Friedman's new book on Fromm - THE LIVES OF ERICH FROMM: LOVE"S PROPHET (2013) is a marvellous intellectual biography and well worth  reading.


This is the moment: Happy New Year!

    This is the moment. It only takes a moment. The fateful moment. The banal moment. The long moment. Dancing through life. Anything can happen. Seize the day. Take the moment. Make the moment last. Let the Moment Go. I wish. (with thanks to Jerry Herman, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Frank Wildhorn and all…


No Other Way

 There’s no other way

That’s what they say.

Economics must put money before people

And medicine must put profit before health.

Education must put management before wisdom

And religion must put war before love.

Technology must put machines before environments.

And politicians must put power before care.

We must follow the way things are done.

There’s no other way

That’s what they say.

But what if economics valued feelings

And medicine fostered dignity

Education aimed for all to flourish

And religion wanted better worlds for all

Technology looked out for justice

And politicians put people first.

If we would just be kind and care for each other.

Then we would have the road less travelled.

A much better way

Than the way they say.

There is never only one way.

This was my little contribution to Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet which has just been published.

Global Chorus is a groundbreaking collection of over 365 perspectives on our environmental future. As a global roundtable for our times, in the format of a daily reader, this book is a trove of insight, guidance, passion and wisdom that has poured in from all over the Earth. Its message is enormously inspiring, and ominous in its warnings. And yet, united in a thread of hope, its contents are capable of helping even the most faithless global citizen to believe that we have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our world. Places at this roundtable are occupied by writers, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, politicians, professors, doctors, athletes, businesspeople, farmers, chefs, yogis, painters, actors, architects, musicians, TV personalities, humanitarians, adventurers, concerned youth, concerned senior citizens, civil servants, carpenters, bus drivers, activists, CEO’s, scientists, and essentially those who have something thoughtful and visionary to say about humanity’s place upon Earth. Compiled for your reading as a set of 365 pieces, Global Chorus presents to you a different person’s point of view for each day of your year.

Contributors to Global Chorus have provided one-page responses to the following line of questioning:

“Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”

Imaginations: fifty years of Essex Sociology

Imaginations: fifty years of Essex Sociology edited by Ken Plummer   A book to celebrate fifty years of the  Essex Sociology Department. Through fifty contributions from past and present, the students and lecturers in the department tell the story of its history, its ideas and its community. It provides an unusual insight into the workings…


Edward Said (1935 – 2003) is best know for his 1978 book Orientalism,  a critical analysis of how the west’s cultural biases result in serious misrepresentations of Middle Eastern affairs.

In the preface to Orientalism he wrote:

“…humanism is the only – I would go so far as saying the final – resistance we have against the inhuman practices

and injustices that disfigure human history……”

He defined Humanism as, “be[ing] able to use one’s mind historically and rationally for the purposes of reflective understanding,” and went on to say, “Humanism is centred upon the agency of human individuality and subjective intuition, rather than on received ideas and approved authority.”

Said’s final book, written in 2004, is Humanism and Democratic Criticism, a collection of  five lectures on the place of  and need for humanism in today’s world

He was an advocate for the political and the human rights of the Palestinian people and a critic of Israel. Despite being a pro-Palestinian activist, He was critical of Islamic organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. As he explained inPower, Politics, and Culture (2002): “First, I am secular; second, I do not trust religious movements; and third, I disagree with these movements’ methods, means, analyses, values, and visions.”

 In 1992 he achieved the title of University Professor, Columbia’s highest-ranking professional status. Said also spent time as a visiting professor at Yale, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins Universities

Telling Sexual Stories Twenty Years On: Fragments Towards A Humanist Politics Of Storytelling

  I gave this lecture at the Huddersfield Conference TROUBLING NARRATIVES: IDENTITY MATTERS on June 20th 2014.   In this lecture I revisited my study Telling Sexual Stories, published nearly twenty years ago. I began by considering the background – how it came to be written. I then asked what its original contributions might have…

I recently presented this little ditty at the start of a presentation on Cosmopolitan Sexualities in Amsterdam  (for the full summary click here)

Today, being  a difficult day, I thought I would put it on the web site.

Is That All There Is?


(this can be cheerily sung along with Peggy Lee to the song by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and inspired by a short story by Thomas Mann: Disillusionment).


When I was fifteen, I discovered homosexuality.

They said it was a crime.

And a sickness, a sin, a shame and a sadness.

And I said to myself: is that all there is?

When I was twenty-five, I discovered liberation.

It was GLF; we were out and proud; we made demands.

We were modern homosexuals out to change the world.

And I said to myself: is that all there is?

When I was thirty, I discovered research.

Transvestites and paedophiles and sado-masochists and more:

The conflicting meanings of the whole damn thing!

And I said to myself: is that all there is?

When I was thirty-five, I discovered AIDS and feminism.

I knew the tragedy of AIDS: twenty five millions dead and still counting

And the tragedy of feminism: its interminable divides.

And I said to myself: is that all there is?

When I was forty-five, I went global and postmodern.

Queer had come around again;

And rights was on the world agenda.

And I said to myself: is that all there is?

When I was sixty, I nearly died: but I didn’t.

Starry starry nights and the incorrigible plurality of snow.

The multiplicities of life, of death, of suffering.

And I said to myself: is that all there is?

So life goes on as I look to seventy.

The inevitability of disappointment and the importance of hope.

And I say to myself: is that all there is? So let’s keep dancing.


Narrative Research on Sickness

Announcement: Narrative Research on Sickness and Illness SORRY: THIS COURSE HAS BEEN CANCELLED FOR THIS YEAR   Friday June 13th 10.00 -4.15 Note: plenty of places at present and it might be cancelled because of lack of interest Constable Building, Seminar Room 3 Ken Plummer Course Overview: Telling stories about our illnesses has become a…

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