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The Fear of Freedom (Routledge Classics) Paperback – 17 May 2001

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4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (17 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415253888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415253888
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

'Erich Fromm speaks with wisdom, compassion, learning and insight into the problems of individuals trapped in a social world that is needlessly cruel and hostile.' - Noam Chomsky

Erich Fromm sees right to the heart of our contradictory needs for community and for freedom like no other writer before or since. In 'Fear of Freedom', Fromm warns that the price of community is indeed high, and it is the individual who pays. Fascism and authoritarianism may seem like receding shadows for some, but are cruel realities for many. Erich Fromm leaves a valuable and original legacy to his readers - a vastly increased understanding of the human character in relation to society. At the beginning of the 21st century, it is more important than ever to be aware of his powerful message. Listen, and take heed.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980). Psychoanalyst and author, Fromm is arguably one of the most outstanding figures of 20th Century humanism.

About the Author

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) Psychoanalyst and author, Fromm is arguably one of the most outstanding figures of 20th Century humanism.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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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.
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Erich Fromm is certainly one of the great "unknowns", compared to the other giants of psychology and its related disciplines - Freud, Skinner, Chomsky. But Fromm develops an amazingly refreshing theory of the human psyche, and an extremely plausible one.
Fromm attempts to balance three aspects of the psyche: its biological, social and existential aspect. Many thinkers in psychology tend to concentrate on one area (mainly biological Darwinism in today's world), but Fromm faces all three issues head on, and in a clear and succinct fashion.
The book manages to include a thorough explanation of his theory, and its application in the problems of individuality, democracy, religion, authoritarianism, sadism, fascism, and the modern tendency of the "automaton". I read the book three times in a month - it is a work of brilliance.
His existence is an embarrassment to the sociological profession.
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Erich Fromm is an inspirational writer. What distinguishes him from some other inspirational writers is his insistence that society does not need to be transformed before you can achieve great things: you can achieve already and in so doing contribute towards bettering the world. This is an important difference, to my mind. For his is not an optimism which leads ultimately to an intractable pessimism as the realisation dawns on you that transforming society is too tall an order: the efficacy of his advice does not depend on such fundamental and sweeping global changes.

The Fear of Freedom for me combines what is useful in Hegelianism, Marxism and Freudianism while also doing away with the untenable theoretical systems that would otherwise undermine what is precious in them. Fromm declares that modern man is in the unprecedented historical situation of being conscious of his freedom, which however is a double-edged sword, for although it opens up a new horizon of potential self-determination, it also bears down upon the individual with an unprecedented weight of responsibility (and culpability, in the end).

Fromm provides an interesting, easy-to-read and unflattering critique of Luther and Calvin as well as a psychological explanation of the appeal of fascism. It is strange to read this work today, which talks of Hitler and Nazi Germany in the present tense. (It was written during the war).

The book is a clarion call for human beings to accept responsibility for their fates. I do not think that the Frommian man is an Übermensch, or a hero of the classical mould: he is too modest and aware of his limitations to aspire to such dangerous heights - he does not have the backing of an omnipotent god or age-old myth to prop him up.
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This is probably the best place to start if you want to read the writings of Eric Fromm. This is one of the rarest and best books about freedom and examines it's complexity. The central idea which is fascinating is that most people do not want to be free and are indeed afraid of it. With the advance in personal liberty that people achieved over the years came a deep sense of alienation that made people desire new forms of security and in a very superficial sense community.
The original title of this book properly translates as 'escape from freedom' and this is closer to the emphasis of what Fromm meant. Fromm believed that the freedoms that people had won over the centuries had resulted in a deep rooted fear that resulted in people turning to extreme authoritarian movements. Whether they were Fascist or Stalinist both came from people having a need to submit to other people.
What is unique about this book is how Fromm traces large political and historical movements back to psychology and the personal dynamics of the family; an authoritarian relationship between father and son is almost the token psychological symbol of Nazism and Fascism. This need for security and to throw off responsibilty is central to Fromm's analysis and can be seen in todays world as much as the nineteen thirties. The reemergence of religious fanaticism whether it is Islamic or Christian is almost timed with an increase in social liberties, the more free people have become for different reasons the more a faction of society have sought escape in paternalistic ideologies. This book should be read by anyone who is interested in the complexities of liberty and society.
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