The drive for freedom is inherent in human nature, and although it can be corrupted and suppressed, it tends to reassert itself again and again; this is the message conveyed by Fromm in the foreword to Escape From Freedom written in 1965.1 A few years later, in a television interview, he pronounced himself “terribly hopeful about the future of mankind,” provided that we could avoid nuclear destruction.2 In that particular formulation, the extremes of Fromm’s position are displayed, and the tension is palpable between the somber conclusions of his social analysis and the upbeat nature of his normative theory. Is this symptomatic of a fallible utopianism? Utopians have often been criticized for providing fantastic visions of a better world precisely because they see no way forward from a social reality which appalls them, and Fromm urged his readers to be wary of those “dreaming” Utopians who put on the mask of optimism in order to hide their unconscious despair.3 He considered it imperative that we should be able to identify the ideas and social forces that hold out the real possibility for radical change, even in an inauspicious social context. What we have in Fromm is a genuine dialectic of human freedom in modernity in which he sees the individual becoming more independent, self-reliant, and critical, but at the same time more isolated, alone, and afraid. Individual liberation, for Fromm, was inextricably linked with social liberation, and the history of modernity was a prolonged dialectic of advances in social, political, and economic freedom dragged back by the reactive development of authoritarian or conformist values and behavior.


Economic Freedom Social Character Malignant Aggression Lower Middle Class Urban Middle Class 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom (New York: Henry Holt, 1994), p. xv.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be? (New York: Continuum, 2002), p. 173.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom (New York: Henry Holt, 1994), pp. 275–276.Google Scholar
  4. 19.
    Erich Fromm and Michael Maccoby, Social Character in a Mexican Village (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 1996), p. 235.Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    Erich Fromm, The Dogma of Christ (New York: Henry Holt, 1992), p. 10.Google Scholar
  6. 35.
    See Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 158–162.Google Scholar
  7. 36.
    Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil (New York, Evanston and London: Harper and Row, 1964), p. 81.Google Scholar
  8. 37.
    Thomas More, The Sadness of Christ and Final Prayers and Instructions (Princeton, NJ: Scepter, 2000), p. 153 and 149.Google Scholar
  9. 38.
    On the social implications of the various theological positions see Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, volume one (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), chapter 2, part 9.Google Scholar
  10. 39.
    J. Stanley Glen, Erich Fromm: A Protestant Critique (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), p. 54.Google Scholar
  11. 41.
    See, for example, Robert Young, “Luther and the Temporal Kingdom” in David Muschamp (ed.), Political Thinkers (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 71–75.Google Scholar
  12. 47.
    See Richard Gruenberger, A Social History of the Third Reich (New York: Penguin Books, 1974), chapter 13.Google Scholar
  13. 60.
    Erich Fromm, Man For Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), p. 151.Google Scholar
  14. Fromm refers to Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals (New York: Doubleday, 1956) II, 16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lawrence Wilde 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Wilde

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations