Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom (Man as Commodity)

…Man does not only sell commodities, he sells himself and feels himself to be a commodity. The manual laborer sells his physical energy; the businessman, the physician, the clerical employee, sell their “personality.” They have to have a “personality” if they are to sell their products or services. This personality should be pleasing, but besides that its possessor should meet a number of other requirements: he should have energy, initiative, this, that, or the other, as his particular position may require. As with any other commodity it is the market which decides the value of these human qualities, yes, even their very existence. If there is no use for the qualities a person offers, he HAS none; just as an unsalable commodity is valueless though it might have its use value. Thus, the self-confidence, the “feeling of self,” is merely an indication of what others think of the person. It is not HE who is convinced of his value regardless of popularity and his success of the market. If he is sought after, he is somebody; if he is not, he is simply nobody. This dependence of self-esteem on the success of the “personality” is the reason why for modern man popularity has this tremendous importance. On it depends not only whether or not one goes ahead in practical matters, but also whether one can keep up one’s self-esteem or whether one falls into the abyss of inferiority feelings.

– Chapter IV: The Two Aspects of Freedom for Modern Man

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