Introduction: The Quest

  • Lawrence Wilde


The vision of the achievement of human solidarity is a recurring theme in the work of Erich Fromm, psychoanalyst and social theorist (1900–1980). His explicit commitment to a radical humanism that talks boldly about human essence and human potential runs counter to the skepticism and relativism currently prevailing in the academic social sciences. Despite the immense popular appeal of books like Escape From Freedom, The Sane Society, and The Art of Loving, his work now receives relatively little attention from academic writers. In his specialized field of social psychology and psychoanalytical theory there has been some attempt to draw attention to his significance,1 but in the wider field of social and political theory his name is rarely mentioned. As a political theorist I find this neglect unfortunate, for although Fromm could not be regarded as a political theorist in the narrow sense, his transdisciplinary approach has much to offer to students of politics and society today. His ethically driven communitarianism based on a strong, normative theory of human essence is a bold and refreshing antidote to postmodernist relativism. This book aims to retrieve Fromm’s valuable contribution to social and political thought and also to claim its continued relevance by relating his radical humanist approach to current thinking on feminism, work, consumerism, democracy, and globalization.


Political Theorist Character Type Social Character Political Thought Frankfurt School 
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  1. 1.
    For example, Daniel Burston, The Legacy of Erich Fromm (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  3. 2.
    See Pamela Pilbeam, Republicanism in Nineteenth Century France, 1814–1871 (London: Macmillan, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Erich Fromm, Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962), p. 5.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Hermann Cohen, Religion of Reason: Out of the Sources of Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995)Google Scholar
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    Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion (Yale: Harvard University Press, 1978), pp. 93–95.Google Scholar
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    Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), p. 60.Google Scholar
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    Terry Eagleton, After Theory (New York and London: Allen Lane Penguin, 2003), p. 121.Google Scholar
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    Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom (New York: Henry Holt, 1994), p. 263.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Erich Fromm, “Sex and Character” (1943) in Fromm, Love, Sexuality and Matriarchy: About Gender (New York: Fromm International, 1999), pp. 114–115.Google Scholar
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  17. 28.
    Erich Fromm, The Dogma of Christ (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), pp. 46–47.Google Scholar
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  19. 31.
    Fromm, The Working Class in Weimar (London: Berg, 1984), p. 228.Google Scholar
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  21. 35.
    T. W Adorno, E. Frenkel-Brunswick, D. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: W. W Norton, 1969)—most acknowledgements to Fromm’s path-breaking work are provided in Else Frenkel-Brunswick’s contribution.Google Scholar
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    This view is convincingly expressed by Jose Brunner in “Looking into the Hearts of the Workers, or: How Erich Fromm Turned Critical Theory into Empirical Research” in Political Psychology 15 (4), 1994.Google Scholar
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  26. 39.
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  27. 40.
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  28. 50.
    Erich Fromm, Man For Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), pp. 57–58.Google Scholar
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    Michael Maccoby, Introduction to Eric Fromm and Michael Maccoby, Social Character in a Mexican Village (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Books, 1996), p. xxii.Google Scholar
  30. 57.
    For an excellent discussion of the details of the Fromm-Marcuse dispute see John Rickert, “The Fromm-Marcuse Debate Revisited” in Theory and Society 15 (3), 1986, pp. 351–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (London: Thorsons, 1995), pp. 65–83.Google Scholar
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    Erich Fromm, “Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism” in Fromm, D. T. Suzuki, and R. De Martino, Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis (London: Souvenir Press, 1993) [originally I960].Google Scholar
  34. 89.
    Erich Fromm, May Man Prevail?: An Inquiry Into the Facts and Fictions of Foreign Policy (New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1964), pp. 190–200.Google Scholar
  35. 91.
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  36. 93.
    Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanised Technology (New York and London: Harper and Row, 1968).Google Scholar
  37. 94.
    Erich Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man (Continuum: New York, 1992).Google Scholar

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© Lawrence Wilde 2004

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  • Lawrence Wilde

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