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Enhancing Habermas with Erich Fromm and Kurt Wolff

  • Jack Fong
Chapter

Abstract

I employ the arguments of Erich Fromm and Kurt Wolff to enhance Habermas’s ideas. Erich Fromm’s ideas assert that certain modes of human conduct, such as freedom to be materialistic, distances people from the profundities of being, creating a shallow humanity that becomes fixated with commodities and goods. The chapter highlights an ironic consequence of democratic systems made visible by Fromm: that when there is a surfeit of freedom, people retreat from it because such a freedom also offers an overload of decision-making dynamics. By doing so, they blindly defer to an authoritarian personality or institutions that provide dramatic answers and reassurances that make decisions for them. In this chapter, the trinity of the media, market, and medicine is rendered into such an authority. Yet transcendence from this epiphany, can be found in the ideas of Kurt Wolff, harnessed in the chapter to enhance Habermas’s and Fromm’s ideas. Wolff asserts that the experience of life epiphanies is catalytic in providing a high degree of personal truth for those that experience them. Through his surrender and catch thesis, Wolff argues that exceptionally profound moments in the human condition inspire protagonists to confront the meaning of existence in ways that allow them to self-actualize. The significance and utility of Wolff’s surrender and catch thesis cannot be overemphasized: many Café attendees only found their mettle to live well after exceptionally close encounters with dying, encounters that declutter life so as to unearth the lucidity and courage needed to continue living.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Fong
    • 1
  1. 1.Associate Professor of SociologyDepartment of Psychology & Sociology California State Polytechnic UniversityPomona CAUSA

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