March 23, 2010
ERICH FROMM (1900-80) might have ended up a rabbi. But the muddy, bloody horrors of World War I shocked him into studying the mass irrationality that compels man to engage in such horrors. In his groundbreaking book, The Fear of Freedom, published during World War II after he had fled to America to escape persecution in his Nazi-run homeland, Fromm postulated that obedience to authority and respect for so-called common sense would be the undoing of humankind. To prevent this undoing, he argued, it was incumbent upon us to live spontaneously, think independently, and find the courage to disobey. If Fromm had done nothing more in his career than produce influential works of political psychology — Man for Himself (1947) and The Sane Society (1955) are two more essential Fromm volumes in this area — he would deserve high praise. But as Frankfurt School theorist, clinical psychoanalyst, and political activist, he spent a lifetime advocating for reason, that “human faculty which must embrace the whole of the world with which man is confronted”.
READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled generation (1894-1903).