This is an important work, one of the greatest book I've read to date on social psychology and possibly psychology per se for both the insights it provides into people and the ease of reading to the general reader or psychologist alike.
In the main Fromm's wrote books for as wide a readership as possible aiming to avoid jargon or a convoluted or difficult style of writing, I believe will prove interesting, easy reading for the general reader as much as students of psychology or academics.
The book begins with consideration of freedom as a psychological problem, why has the concept lost its once popular appeal? Why has this once inspiring, hopeful and visionary concept fallen so far out of favour that people actively seek ways of surrendering their freedom?
Fromm continues with an investigation of how the concept of freedom has developed since medieval times and the reformation. There are chapters on the psychology of Nazism, freedom and democracy and facets of freedom for modern man. Most importantly there is investigation of how people seek to escape freedom through authoritarianism, destructiveness and conformity.
Fromm's considers not simply the political and public life, how authoritarian leaders and movements often win the support of the people who are least likely to benefit from their success or may even suffer by their success but also individual relationships, such as the perpetrators and those who submit to domestic violence.
The depiction of "caring" sadists, incapable of independence from the very "objects" of their persecution, torment and control freakery, or masochists who relish the dependency of others while appearing to be the greatest advocates for the powerless and unfortunate is intriguing.
As Fromm suggests not a few reformers and revolutionaries fit that profile, he elaborates on this in The Dogma of Christ: And Other Essays on Religion, Psychology and Culture (Routledge Classics)
when he considers the characters of rebels and revolutionaries.
In this book Fromm concentrates upon description rather than prescription, unlike To Have or to be?
or The Sane Society (Routledge Classics)
. There are no quick fixes or solutions proposed here, at least not in the sense of structural adjustments or social reform agendas, but it does suggest insights that make life less baffling.
A book that deserves to be read and reread, reaching as wide a possible readership as it can. One thing is for sure, you cant read this book and remain unchanged.