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Introduction: The Quest

  • Lawrence Wilde

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Political Theorist Character Type Social Character Political Thought Frankfurt School 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    For example, Daniel Burston, The Legacy of Erich Fromm (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Mauricio Cortina and Michael Maccoby (eds.), A Prophetic Analyst: Erich Fromm’s Contribution to Psychoanalysis (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1996).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    See Pamela Pilbeam, Republicanism in Nineteenth Century France, 1814–1871 (London: Macmillan, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    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
  6. Fromm pays tribute to the influence of “that great opus” in You Shall Be As Gods (New York: Henry Holt, 1991), pp. 12–13; on Cohen’s neo-Kantian socialism see Harry van der Linden, Kantian Ethics and Socialism (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1988).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion (Yale: Harvard University Press, 1978), pp. 93–95.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), p. 60.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Terry Eagleton, After Theory (New York and London: Allen Lane Penguin, 2003), p. 121.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    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
  12. 15.
    Margaret Canovan, “Sleeping Dogs, Prowling Cats and Soaring Doves: Three Paradoxes in the Political Theory of Nationhood” in Political Studies 49 (2), 2001, p. 212.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    For an excellent collection on his work as a psychoanalyst see Mauricio Cortina and Michael Maccoby (eds.), A Prophetic Analyst: Erich Fromm’s Contribution to Psychoanalysis (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1996).Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be? (New York: Continuum, 2002), p. 174.Google Scholar
  15. 25.
    Charles Pasternak, Quest: The Essence of Humanity (Chichester and Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2003).Google Scholar
  16. 26.
    Erich Fromm, “Psychoanalysis and Sociology” in Stephen E. Bronner and Douglas M. Kellner (eds.), Critical Theory and Society: A Reader (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 37–39.Google Scholar
  17. 28.
    Erich Fromm, The Dogma of Christ (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), pp. 46–47.Google Scholar
  18. 30.
    Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion, pp. 48–49.Google Scholar
  19. 31.
    Fromm, The Working Class in Weimar (London: Berg, 1984), p. 228.Google Scholar
  20. 32.
    Max Horkheimer, Foreword to Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923–1950 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), p. xxvGoogle Scholar
  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
  22. 36.
    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
  23. 37.
    Erich Fromm, “The Method and Function of an Analytic Social Psychology: Observations on Psychoanalysis and Historical Materialism” in Fromm, The Crisis of Psychoanalysis (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970), pp. 110–134.Google Scholar
  24. This is also published in A. Arato and E. Gebhardt (eds.), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (New York: Urizen Books, 1978), pp. 477–496.Google Scholar
  25. 38.
    Erich Fromm, “Sozialpsychologischer Teil” in Erich Fromm Gesamtausagbe (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Antalt and München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), volume one, pp. 139–187—originally published in Studien über Autorität und Familie, Schriften des Institut für Sozialforschung 5 (Paris: Alcan, 1936).Google Scholar
  26. 39.
    Erich Fromm, The Revision of Psychoanalysis, Rainer Funk (ed.) (Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford: Westview Press, 1992), p. 33.Google Scholar
  27. 40.
    John Schaar, Escape From Authority: The Perspectives of Erich Fromm (Evanston, New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964), p. 8.Google Scholar
  28. 50.
    Erich Fromm, Man For Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), pp. 57–58.Google Scholar
  29. 51.
    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
  31. See also Daniel Burston, The Legacy of Erich Fromm (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), ch. 9, and Jay, The Dialectical Imagination, pp. 106–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 67.
    Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (London: Thorsons, 1995), pp. 65–83.Google Scholar
  33. 70.
    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.
    Stephen Eric Bronner, “Fromm in America” on the CD Rom issued by the Erich Fromm Archive 225 Articles About Erich Fromm, 2001, pp. 5–6; Fromm’s manifesto, “Let Man Prevail,” is published in Erich Fromm, On Disobedience and Other Essays (New York: Seabury Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  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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