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 phenomenon 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….
The crippling of productive activity results in either inactivity or over-activity….
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.
excerpt from Erich Fromm (1947) Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics