Democracy, for Fromm, is the framework within which social freedom could develop, or, rather, it ought to be. Democracy, in his view, is a system that creates “the economic, political, and cultural conditions for the full development of the individual.”1 However, as a democratic socialist he wants to see the deepening of democracy in the political sphere and the extension of the democratic principle to the economic sphere, thereby ensuring that the “secret rule” of those who exert economic power is replaced by a more transparent and responsive form of self-government. Although political democracy is a tremendous step forward in human freedom from authoritarian forms of rule, he is convinced that it needs to be enriched and extended by greater participation. His central criticism of the nature of existing democracy is that it does not live up to its promise of giving real power to people. It is dominated by elites competing for endorsement by a largely uninformed and passive electorate. He wants to recover the potential inherent in the democratic ideal by exploring ways in which democracy can be extended and revivified, making bureaucracy serve people rather than control them. The first section of this chapter concentrates on his criticisms of political democracy, while the second focuses on his suggestions for institutional reform. The third will examines analysis of “old” political movements, which have tried and failed to carry forward the goal of human solidarity, as well as the implications for present-day political practice. The fourth section compares Fromm’s approach to that of Roberto Unger in Democracy Realized (1998), whose ideas for “democratic experimentalism” roll out a radical humanist agenda in a highly sophisticated and imaginative way.


Deliberative Democracy Social Democracy Human Freedom Political Sphere Political Democracy 
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  1. 1.
    Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom (New York: Henry Holt, 1994), p. 272.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), pp. 186–191.Google Scholar
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© Lawrence Wilde 2004

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