Escape from Freedom- An Academic Review Over the course of history, man’s desire for complete freedom has been overcome by the responsibilities and dangers involved with liberty. Freedom can represent different things to people, this can entail civil, political and ethic liberty’s. The more freedom we poses, the bigger the burden and the more we are responsible for. This causes some of us to desire less freedom in favour of support for those who will decide for us, freedom then becomes a negative situation from which we try to escape. Erich Fromm’s book Escape from Freedom explains how freedom comes at a price. He believes “That modern man, freed from the bonds of pre-individualistic society, which simultaneously gave him security and limited him, has not gained freedom in the positive sense of the realization of his individual self, that is, the expression of his intellectual, emotional and sensuous potentialities.
Freedom, though it has brought him independence and rationality, has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless.” (forward x) Fromm believes we feel lonely and isolated due to our separation from nature and each other. We are the only species of animal to feel this isolation, he thereby refers to it as the human condition. Fromm takes a social-psychological approach by combining the theories of Freud and Marx. Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis focussed on the individual self, while Marx’s views pertained to society as a whole. Fromm breaks his structure of thinking into three groups His purpose in studying and writing about this subject is because he believes this to be the main crisis of our time. The initial version of this book was first written during the reign of the Nazi party over Germany.
“We still have a long, long way to go before we reach the promised land of freedom.” Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed in his book entitled Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community (1967). At the time Jim Crowe Laws had been dismantled, but people were still holding on to tradition and racist beliefs. In 1965 major civil rights legislation had passed, but that did not mean that people had made ...
Fromm’s goal was to develop a clear understanding of how such an evil organization could become so powerful. The fact that Nazi party gained control of a democratic nation shows that this could happen even in todays free world. Hitler’s rise to power was a combination of economic, political and psychological issues facing Germans at that time. The Nazi party appealed to the lack of patriotism facing the country, after the loss of the first world war.
Fromms most significant argument in this text are the three ways in which he believes we escape from freedom: Authoritarianism, Destructiveness and Automation Conformity. Authoritarianism, according to Fromm, can be approached in two ways. One is to submit to the power of others, and the second is to make others submit to your power. In both cases Fromm believes you escape your individual self, and thus have lost your freedom. Fromm refers to these extreme forms of Authoritarianism as Masochistic and Sadistic.
Masochism is when we avoid freedom and individuality by submitting to the powers of others to compensate for a lack of strength. The other extreme form being sadism, which Fromm believes can be broken into three different types intertwined together. The first is to create unrestricted power of dependency, the second is to not only rule over others but to cripple their liberties, and finally the third is a desire to make and see others suffer () Fromm uses the example of Authoritarianism to explain how Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party convinced so many to follow him on his mission to remove all liberties, including life, from their supposed enemies, the Jews. Both the masochistic and sadistic forms of authoritarianism solve the problem of anxiety associated with freedom, by destroying the individual self. Fromm refers to these traits as symbiosis. “Symbiosis, in the psychological sense, means the union of one individual self with another self (or any other power outside of the own self) in such a way as to make each lose the integrity of its own self and to make them completely dependent on each other.” (p.
Many of these characteristics can be observed within our own society. One important feature is hatred of the weak. Whether we like to admit it or not, ours is a society where it is acceptable to kick lame dogs, jeer at the crippled, and beat up poor pickpockets. As for rich thieves in the world of business, these command our utmost respect, and some are national heroes. The principle of scarcity ...
157) Destructiveness as a form of escape can easily be confused with sadism and masochism. Fromm argues the close relation between sadism and destructiveness by explaining their differences. “Sadism is not identical with destructiveness, although it is to a great extent blended with it. The destructive person wants to destroy the object, that is, to do away with it and to get rid of it. The sadist wants to dominate his object and therefore suffers a loss if his object disappears.” (p. 158) In this text Fromm also states that sado-masochistic behaviour is often hidden under the guise of love, yet the true meaning of the act is generally due to one’s enjoyment of dependence or domination.
The destructive person escapes isolation and weakness by destroying the world around them. These people feel the need to be destructive to the world in order to stop it from destroying them. This Destructiveness also refers to the desire to destroy those with power. This destruction can be channelled in several different ways, such as, hate groups, religion and patriotism. These actions can be rationalized by the mentally ill who turn to this form of “escaping freedom.” () This behaviour can lead to acts of vandalism, hatred, such as racism and crime in general. Destructiveness can also be focused inward resulting in a self-destructive mentality.
The most severe example being suicide. Hatred and Destructiveness stem out of frustration from attempts to live and act creatively. The positive energy is transformed into destructive energy. Automation Conformity is the most common way in which we “escape from freedom.” Fromm states that out of a fear of alone’s we conform to the mass of society.
By acting, doing, believing and looking the same as everyone else we gain a sense of power. Through the masses we gain the comfort of being a part of something and belonging, thus empowering ourselves. At the same time this denies us of our individuality and changes our natural selves. Thus in conforming to the model of society, there is no reason to acknowledge your freedom or responsibility.
Fromm believes people to be products of the society that they grew up in. The behaviours we have come to know as normal, are learned, therefore natural to us. Fromm traces idea of society back to the middle ages, he shows how the structure has changed. As a reaction to this our individual needs and place in this world have changed.
A Democratic Society Throughout time the debate upon which is the best system of government has been an ongoing debate. Somewhere between the realms of democracy, socialism, fascism, communism, and monarchism lies the answer to the perfect system. Traditionally speaking, North America has always tried to remain democratic in ruling. The democratic system, unlike it's alternatives, encourages ...
In the society of the middle ages people thought of themselves as having a pre-determined place in life, such as servants, royalty and tradesman. As we moved into modernity people began to realize and fight for the benefits of freedom. Fromms theories are also relevant in the world today. Not only do these ideas apply to the fascist dictators of the Middle east, they are also extremely relevant in our so called “free” western society.
“Escape from Freedom” introduces the reader to psychoanalytic theory and how it applies to thre understanding of society, giving reasons as to why we act the way we do. This text also delves into the psychology of fascism and authoritarianism, explaining how such systems are capable of gaining so much power. Fromm covers all areas of his argument in depth, he explains where we started from and where we need to be. While this text ‘Escape from Freedom, offers many insights into the history and psychology of society and the structure i volved. Erich Fromm wrote this text with the purpose of gaining some insight as to how the Nazi party gained so much power in previously democratic society. Fromms main problem seems to be his tendency to over generalize about the world.
He makes assumptions supported by nothing more than his own beliefs. Fromm attempts to draw parallels between human behaviour and society backed by nothing more than philosophy and his own assumptions. Ideas are taken as facts, assuming that psychology is the truth. The subject matter seems to personal for fromm to be fairly objective between his search for the truth and what he believes to be right. All in all, ‘Escape from Freedom’ is a very relevant worth while read. The subject matter brings up valuable theroies which might have gone unnoticed if not for the passion of Erich fromm.
This text provides important insights into the inner workings of society. Whether or not these ideas are entirely factual, they must not be ignored, Instead we must embrace them and attempt to explore them further.