Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm
Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm pdf
Modern European and American history is centered around the effort to gain freedom from the political, economic, and spiritual shackles that have bound men. The battles for freedom were fought by the oppressed, those who wanted new liberties, against those who had privileges to defend. While a class was fighting for its liberation from domination, it believed itself to be fighting for human freedom as such and thus was able to appeal to an ideal, to the longing for freedom rooted in all who are oppressed. In the long and virtually continuous battle for freedom, however, classes that were fighting against oppression at one stage sided with the enemies of freedom when victory was won and new privileges were to be defended.
Despite many reverses, freedom has won battles. Many died in those battles in the conviction that to die in the struggle against oppression was better than to live without freedom. Such a death was the utmost assertion of their individuality. History seemed to be proving that it was possible for man to govern himself, to make decisions for himself, and to think and feel as he saw fit. The full expression of man’s potentialities seemed to be the goal toward which social development was rapid у approaching.
The principles of economic liberalism, political democracy, religious autonomy, and individualism in personal life, gave expression to the longing for reedom, and at the same time seemed to bring mankind nearer to its realization. One tie after another was severed. Man had overthrown the domination of nature and made himself her master; he had overthrown the domination of the Church and the domination of the absolutist state. The abolition of external domination seemed to be not only a necessary but also a sufficient condition to attain the cherished goal: freedom of the individual.
The First World War was regarded byr many as the final struggle and its conclusion the ultimate victory for freedom. Existing democracies appeared strength ened, and new ones replaced old monarchies. But only a few years elapsed before new systems emerged which denied everything that men believed they had won ir centuries of struggle. For the essence of these new systems, which effectively took command of man’s entire social and personal life, was the submission of all but a handful of men to an authority over which they had no control.
Human nature is neither a biologically fixed and innate sum total of drives nor is it a lifeless shadow of cultural patterns to which it adapts itself smoothly; it is the product of human evolution, but it also has certain inherent mechanisms and laws. There are certain factors in man’s nature which are fixed and unchangeable: the necessity to satisfy the physiologically conditioned drives and the necessity to avoid isolation and moral aloneness. We have seen that the individual has to accept the mode of life rooted in the system of production and distribution peculiar for any given society. In the process of dynamic adaptation to culture, a number of powerful drives develop which motivate the actions and feelings of the individual.
The individual may or may not be conscious of these drives, but in any case they are forceful and demand satisfaction once they have developed. They become powerful forces which in their turn become effective in molding the social process. How economic, psychological, and ideological factors interact and what further general conclusion concerning this interaction one can make will be discussed later in the course of our analysis of the Reformation and of Fascism. This discussion will always be centered around the main theme of this book: that man, the more he gains freedom in the sense of emerging from the original oneness with man and nature and the more he becomes an “individual,” has no choice but to unite himself with the world in the spontaneity of love and productive work or else to seek a kind of security by such ties with the world as destroy his freedom and the integrity of his individual self.
I Freedom—A Psychological Problem?
II The Emergence of the Individual and the Ambiguity of Freedom
III Freedom in the Age of the Reformation
1. Medieval Background and the Renaissance
2. The Period of the Reformation
IV The Two Aspects of Freedom for Modern Man
V Mechanisms of Escape
3. Automaton Conformity
VI Psychology of Nazism
VII Freedom and Democracy
1. The Illusion of Individuality
2. Freedom and Spontaneity
Appendix: Character and the Social Process
A Biography of Erich Fromm
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