The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love's Prophet
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Erich Fromm was a political activist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, and one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century. Known for his theories of personality and political insight, Fromm dissected the sadomasochistic appeal of brutal dictators while also eloquently championing love―which, he insisted, was nothing if it did not involve joyful contact with others and humanity at large. Admired all over the world, Fromm continues to inspire with his message of universal brotherhood and quest for lasting peace.
The first systematic study of Fromm's influences and achievements, this biography revisits the thinker's most important works, especially Escape from Freedom and The Art of Loving, which conveyed important and complex ideas to millions of readers. The volume recounts Fromm's political activism as a founder and major funder of Amnesty International, the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and other peace groups. Consulting rare archival materials across the globe, Lawrence J. Friedman reveals Fromm's support for anti-Stalinist democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe and his efforts to revitalize American democracy. For the first time, readers learn about Fromm's direct contact with high officials in the American government on matters of war and peace while accessing a deeper understanding of his conceptual differences with Freud, his rapport with Neo-Freudians like Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan, and his association with innovative artists, public intellectuals, and world leaders. Friedman elucidates Fromm's key intellectual contributions, especially his innovative concept of "social character," in which social institutions and practices shape the inner psyche, and he clarifies Fromm's conception of love as an acquired skill. Taking full stock of the thinker's historical and global accomplishments, Friedman portrays a man of immense authenticity and spirituality who made life in the twentieth century more humane than it might have been.
Coser were suspicious of abstract “programs” for remaking the world but, unlike Cold War liberals, they hoped to maintain a reflective commitment to democratic socialism. They included Fromm on their editorial board owing to his prominence, his critique of mass culture, and the widely acknowledged importance of Escape from Freedom in the scholarly community. But Howe and Coser soon regretted their selection, finding Fromm arrogant and difficult to work with, often uncompromising, sometimes naïve
communist system” of the Soviets and their allies; both deprived man of his spiritual essence as they drove the world toward nuclear extinction. Insisting that both Western market capitalism and Soviet state-managed capitalism negated man’s creativity and happiness and bypassed “the spiritual tradition of humanism,” Fromm considered the “free enterprise system” of the West as the less degrading of the two because it allowed more civil liberties and greater political rights.24 For Fromm, the
context of U.S. developments in 1968, see Jules Witcover, The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 (New York: Warner Brothers, 1977). There is also value in consulting Eugene McCarthy and Christopher Hitchens, 1968: War and Democracy (Red Wing, Minn.: Lone Oak Press, 2000). See Riesman to Stewart Meacham, Mar. 21, 1968, Riesman Papers, Harvard Archive, on Fromm’s early interest in McCarthy. 3. Ibid., plus Fromm to Eugene McCarthy, April 13,15, 1968, Fromm Archive. 4. Sandbrook, Eugene McCarthy,
93, 146–49, 167, 182, 205, 224, 255, 286; receptive orientation, 124, 147, 150; revolutionary character, 51, 53. See also social character Fromm, Erich, clinical thought and technique, xi, xxvi, xxx, 26–27, 31, 56–57, 62, 88, 120, 122–33, 139, 217, 275, 282, 323, 333, 362; analytic couch, 125, 131, 363; “authenticity,” 123–24; central relatedness, xxxiii, 124–29, 134; clinical supervision, 120–22, 127, 136, 156, 160, 162, 294, 316, 362; confidentiality, 285, 298; “dancing,” xii, xix, xx, xxxiii,
that there was nothing to achieve, nowhere to go, nothing to be. There was an imageless, still, and quiet core present in the midst of his busy life. Paradoxically, abundant energy for life’s tasks emanated from this essential stillness of “oneness.”17 Fromm became familiar with Suzuki’s work on Zen in the 1940s and felt that it seemed to approximate his own humanistic revisions of psychoanalysis. After reading Escape from Freedom and Man for Himself, Suzuki agreed that he and Fromm were