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Escape from Freedom (1941)

by Erich Fromm

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2,378246,483 (3.98)16
Erich Fromm's bestselling 1941 debut, about freedom and authoritarianism, is as relevant today as when it was first published The pursuit of freedom has indelibly marked Western culture since Renaissance humanism and Protestantism began the fight for individualism and self-determination. This freedom, however, can make people feel unmoored, and is often accompanied by feelings of isolation, fear, and the loss of self, all leading to a desire for authoritarianism, conformity, or destructiveness. It is not only the question of freedom that makes Fromm's debut book a timeless classic. In this examination of the roots of Nazism and fascism in Europe, Fromm also explains how economic and social constraints can also lead to authoritarianism. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Erich Fromm including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author's estate.… (more)

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English (17)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Zhvillimet aktuale politike dhe rreziqet që ato përmbajnë për fitoret e shumta të qytetërimit modern, lipset të na përqëndrojnë mbi një aspekt që është thelbësor për krizën kulturore dhe sociale të kohës sonë: kuptimi i lirisë për njeriun modern.
1 vote BibliotekaFeniks | Jan 25, 2024 |
This book is full of insights from expanding and redefining the definition of freedom to laying out all the social conditions that portended Hitler's rise to power. If you have an interest in the "why" behind history, you should give this a shot. ( )
  thenthomwaslike | Jul 24, 2023 |
I have always found the way men think to be (over)bootstrapped by how other people think; and it plays in their extravagant displays of "thoughts"... perhaps, in honest desperation to seek independent thinking without being left behind. It's not always boastful.
Meanwhile, women - under freedom, mostly - get ridiculed for their desire to transcend the world by creating and caring for their own creations.
It takes an honest, intelligent man like Erich Fromm to be so confident in speaking about the way he perceives the world to think and feel. Without much interpretation, I can now easily spot internalized misogyny in all men when I look at my previous interactions: they always have a take on the transcendence of those around them; and it's never supportive in the direction of celebrating creations. It's either gloomy, opportunistic, or insecure.

I wish I picked up this book instead of learning about "types of men" through other books that study their attachment to the world, and emotional honesty.
It's inevitable that they are attached, and emotionally honest.
It's inevitable that they are also extremely unaware of their own subjectivity, and think it's unrelated to everything in their lives.

"Automatons. NPCs. Robots." are terms to de-humanize, created by those who view themselves as that: men and the people they managed to bend to their will. ( )
  womanwoanswers | Dec 23, 2022 |
  laplantelibrary | Sep 6, 2022 |
Escape From Freedom by Erich Fromm
This book, seems to address freedom and belongingness. It does a good job exploring deeply humanity's shifting relationship with freedom, freedom from, and freedom to & its absence. This book does a good job addressing the psychosocial and developmental progression, a good religious view with focus on Calvin and Luther using view of God and humans free will/determinism and Arminian perspectives and economic aspects like capitalism in ways I have never considered how it relates to God so that was fun to consider and Nazism and Hitler’s National socialism.

He also talks about both sadistic/sarism (which I have never really understood how that is pleasurable which I still don't and masochistic aspects
Conformity: This process is seen when people unconsciously incorporate the normative usual beliefsI society vs our own beliefs. ( )
  DrT | Feb 5, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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Erich Frommprimary authorall editionscalculated
Germani, GinoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Redeker, H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am for myself only, what am I?
If not now -- when?
--Talmudic Saying, Mishnah, Abot
Neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal have we created thee, so that thou mightest be free according to thy own will and honor, to be they own creator and builder.  To these alone we gave growth and development depending on they own free will.  Thou bearest in thee the germs of a universal life.
--Pico della Mirandola
Oratio de Hominus Dignitate
Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and inalienable rights of man.
--Thomas Jefferson
First words
Foreword: This book is part of a broad study concerning the character structure of modern man and the problems of the interaction between psychological and sociological factors which I have been working on for several years and completion of which would have taken considerably longer.
Modern European and American history is centered around the effort to gain freedom from political, economic, and spiritual shackles that have bound men.
Before we proceed, it may be helpful to sum up what has been pointed out with regard to our general approach to the problems of social psychology. 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.
“Freedom from” is not identical with positive freedom, with “freedom to.” The emergence of man from nature is a long-drawn-out process; to a large extent he remains tied to the world from which he emerged; he remains part of nature—the soil he lives on, the sun and moon and stars, the trees and flowers, the animals, and the group of people with whom he is connected by the ties of blood. Primitive religions bear testimony to man’s feeling of oneness with nature. Animate and inanimate nature are part of his human world or, as one may also put it, he is still part of the natural world.

The primary ties block his full human development; they stand in the way of the development of his reason and his critical capacities; they let him recognize himself and others only through the medium of his, or their, participation in a clan, a social or religious community, and not as human beings; in other words, they block his development as a free, self-determining, productive individual. But although this is one aspect, there is another one. This identity with nature, clan, religion, gives the individual security. He belongs to, he is rooted in, a structuralized whole in which he has an unquestionable place. He may suffer from hunger or suppression, but he does not suffer from the worst of all pains—complete aloneness and doubt.

We see that the process of growing human freedom has the same dialectic character that we have noticed in the process of individual growth. On the one hand it is a process of growing strength and integration, mastery of nature, growing power of human reason, and growing solidarity with other human beings. But on the other hand this growing individuation means growing isolation, insecurity, and thereby growing doubt concerning one’s own role in the universe, the meaning of one’s life, and with all that a growing feeling of one’s own powerlessness and insignificance as an individual.

If the process of the development of mankind had been harmonious, if it had followed a certain plan, then both sides of the development—the growing strength and the growing individuation—would have been exactly balanced. As it is, the history of mankind is one of conflict and strife. Each step in the direction of growing individuation threatened people with new insecurities. Primary bonds once severed cannot be mended; once paradise is lost, man cannot return to it. There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual.

However, if the economic, social and political conditions on which the whole process of human individuation depends, do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from, this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.
What characterizes medieval in contrast to modern society is its lack of individual freedom. Everybody in the earlier period was chained to his role in the social order. A man had little chance to move socially from one class to another, he was hardly able to move even geographically from one town or from one country to another. With few exceptions he had to stay where he was born. He was often not even free to dress as he pleased or to eat what he liked. The artisan had to sell at a certain price and the peasant at a certain place, the market of the town. A guild member was forbidden to divulge any technical secrets of production to anybody who was not a member of his guild and was compelled to let his fellow guild members share in any advantageous buying of raw material. Personal, economic, and social life was dominated by rules and obligations from which practically no sphere of activity was exempted.

But although a person was not free in the modern sense, neither was he alone and isolated. In having a distinct, unchangeable, and unquestionable place in the social world from the moment of birth, man was rooted in a structuralized whole, and thus life had a meaning which left no place, and no need, for doubt. A person was identical with his role in society; he was a peasant, an artisan, a knight, and not an individual who happened to have this or that occupation. The social order was conceived as a natural order, and being a definite part of it gave a feeling of security and of belonging. There was comparatively little competition. One was born into a certain economic position which guaranteed a livelihood determined by tradition, just as it carried economic obligations to those higher in the social hierarchy. But within the limits of his social sphere the individual actually had much freedom to express his self in his work and in his emotional life. Although there was no individualism in the modern sense of the unrestricted choice between many possible ways of life (a freedom of choice which is largely abstract), there was a great deal of concrete individualism in real life.

There was much suffering and pain, but there was also the Church which made this suffering more tolerable by explaining it as a result of the sin of Adam and the individual sins of each person. While the Church fostered a sense of guilt, it also assured the individual of her unconditional love to all her children and offered a way to acquire the conviction of being forgiven and loved by God. The relationship to God was more one of confidence and love than of doubt and fear. Just as a peasant and a town dweller rarely went beyond the limits of the small geographical area which was theirs, so the universe was limited and simple to understand. The earth and man were its center, heaven or hell was the future place of life, and all actions from birth to death were transparent in their causal interrelation.

Although society was thus structuralized and gave man security, yet it kept him in bondage. It was a different kind of bondage from that which authoritarianism and oppression in later centuries constituted. Medieval society did not deprive the individual of his freedom, because the “individual” did not yet exist; man was still related to the world by primary ties. He did not yet conceive of himself as an individual except through the medium of his social (which then was also his natural) role. He did not conceive of any other persons as “individuals” either. The peasant who came into town was a stranger, and even within the town members of different social groups regarded each other as strangers. Awareness of one’s individual self, of others, and of the world as separate entities, had not yet fully developed.
One outstanding consequence of the economic changes we have been describing affected everyone. The medieval social system was destroyed and with it the stability and relative security it had offered the individual. Now with the beginning of capitalism all classes of society started to move. There ceased to be a fixed place in the economic order which could be considered a natural, an unquestionable one. The individual was left alone; everything depended on his own effort, not on the security of his traditional status.

Each class, however, was affected in a different way by this development. For the poor of the cities, the workers and apprentices, it meant growing exploitation and impoverishment; for the peasants also it meant increased economic and personal pressure; the lower nobility faced ruin, although in a different way. While for these classes the new development was essentially a change for the worse, the situation was much more complicated for the urban middle class. We have spoken of the growing differentiation which took place within its ranks. Large sections of it were put into an increasingly bad position. Many artisans and small traders had to face the superior power of monopolists and other competitors with more capital, and they had greater and greater difficulties in remaining independent. They were often fighting against overwhelmingly strong forces and for many it was a desperate and hopeless fight. Other parts of the middle class were more prosperous and participated in the general upward trend of rising capitalism. But even for these more fortunate ones the increasing role of capital, of the market, and of competition, changed their personal situation into one of insecurity, isolation, and anxiety.

The fact that capital assumed decisive importance meant that a suprapersonal force was determining their economic and thereby their personal fate. Capital “had ceased to be a servant and had become a master. Assuming a separate and independent vitality it claimed the right of a predominant partner to dictate economic organization in accordance with its own exacting requirements.”

The new function of the market had a similar effect. The medieval market had been a relatively small one, the functioning of which was readily understood. It brought demand and supply into direct and concrete relation. A producer knew approximately hew much to produce and could be relatively sure of selling his products for a proper price. Now it was necessary to produce for an increasingly large market, and one could not determine the possibilities of sale in advance. It was therefore not enough to produce useful goods. Although this was one condition for selling them, the unpredictable laws of the market decided whether the products could be sold at all and at what profit. The mechanism of the new market seemed to resemble the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, which taught that the individual must make every effort to be good, but that even before his birth it had been decided whether or not he is to be saved. The market day became the day of judgment for the products of human effort.
We find the same ambiguity of freedom which we have discussed before. The individual is freed from the bondage of economic and political ties. He also gains in positive freedom by the active and independent role which he has to play in the new system. But simultaneously he is freed from those ties which used to give him security and a feeling of belonging. Life has ceased to be lived in a closed world the center of which was man; the world has become limitless and at the same time threatening. By losing his fixed place in a closed world man loses the answer to the meaning of his life; the result is that doubt has befallen him concerning himself and the aim of life. He is threatened by powerful suprapersonal forces, capital and the market. His relationship to his fellow men, with everyone a potential competitor, has become hostile and estranged; he is free—that is, he is alone, isolated, threatened from all sides. Not having the wealth or the power which the Renaissance capitalist had, and also having lost the sense of unity with men and the universe, he is overwhelmed with a sense of his individual nothingness and helplessness. Paradise is lost for good, the individual stands alone and faces the world—a stranger thrown into a limitless and threatening world. The new freedom is bound to create a deep feeling of insecurity, powerlessness, doubt, aloneness, and anxiety. These feelings must be alleviated if the individual is to function successfully.
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1. suomenkielinen painos julkaistu nimellä Vaarallinen vapaus
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Erich Fromm's bestselling 1941 debut, about freedom and authoritarianism, is as relevant today as when it was first published The pursuit of freedom has indelibly marked Western culture since Renaissance humanism and Protestantism began the fight for individualism and self-determination. This freedom, however, can make people feel unmoored, and is often accompanied by feelings of isolation, fear, and the loss of self, all leading to a desire for authoritarianism, conformity, or destructiveness. It is not only the question of freedom that makes Fromm's debut book a timeless classic. In this examination of the roots of Nazism and fascism in Europe, Fromm also explains how economic and social constraints can also lead to authoritarianism. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Erich Fromm including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author's estate.

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