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Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm

“Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.” ~Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm was a acclaimed German social psychologist, humanistic philosopher, democratic socialist, sociologist and psychoanalyst. Born on March 23rd 1900 in Germany, this accomplished psychologist was deeply associated with Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. He was the only child of orthodox Jewish parents who spent a rather unhappy childhood. He acquired his academic education from University of Frankfurt am Main for two semesters in the field of jurisprudence. Later, he went on to study at University of Heidelberg where he switched his field from jurisprudence to sociology under the guidance of Heinrich Rickert, Karl Jaspers and Alfred Weber. He obtained his PhD in sociology from university of Heidelberg in 1922 anf began practicing as a clinical psychologist. He also acquired his psychological training from Frankfurt Institute of Social Research.

His first work regarding psychological theory is presented in his paper entitled as Escape From Freedom which highlights his work in political psychology. His second most important paper Man for Himself: An inquiry into The Psychology of Ethics was an extension of his work on the first research paper. Erich Fromm’s theory on human character was based on the theories presented in these two papers. According to him freedom is the most central trait of human nature. Free will or freedom defines a human being but it is a difficult attribute to achieve and incorporate in one’s life because, surprisingly, many people in the society try to escape from freedom. Enrich Fromm categorized the three ways through which human beings try to escape from freedom; these categories are known as authoritarianism, destructiveness and automaton conformity. Authoritarianism signifies the escape from freedom by deliberately avoiding it through accepting an authoritarian system, by becoming a part of it and accepting the authority’s ways whether right or wrong. The other way is becoming the authoritarian power and exercising unjust power over others through imposing a structural system. Both of these ways of escaping from freedom represents authoritarianism. The second category is destructiveness which represents suicides, violence, humiliation, criminal activities, terrorism and other destructive and hateful activities to escape from freedom. The third and last category is automaton conformity which is defined as confirming and accepting of the culture, ways and behaviour to blend within the cultural surroundings.

The three stages of escape from freedom was presented by Erich Fromm in his book in which he suggested that man is born with the nature of freedom but he tries to escape from it mainly because freedom comes with responsibility and people in the society tend to be conformist rather than accepting the responsibility of being free. Erich Fromm was also an accomplished writer. His books include Escape From Freedom and Man For Himself which is a collection of his psychological works and researches. He breathed his last on March 18th, 1980.

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