Escape from Freedom Kindle Edition
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"An analysis par excellence of our cultural neurosis." --The Nation
"An important and challenging work." --The New York Herald Tribune
"Fromm's thought merits the critical attention of all concerned with the human condition and its future." --The Washington Post--This text refers to the paperback edition.
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- File size : 3055 KB
- Print length : 309 pages
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Publisher : Open Road Media; Owl Book ed edition (26 March 2013)
- ASIN : B00BPJOC7W
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 98,934 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top review from Australia
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A hostile, rival cult centering in America but overflowing into Australia was the Church of Scientology. As with the Family, the Scientologists had leaders whose mental health was in doubt but who drew the unquestioning loyalty of rich people, the most famous of whom is Tom Cruise who has paid for his membership by losing two wives. Journalist Steve Cannane’s book ‘Fair Game’ provides the astonishing story of this cult.
It was Jesus who said that the path to perdition is easily found and these prominent people have found their way to personal tragedy all too readily. It seems that there is something so very unsatisfying about the lives of some of the very rich that they are easy pickings for gurus even when they lack all credibility.
My own theory is that we humans have a tendency to follow leaders who are slightly mentally ill. In earlier times in history, this may have had some value for our survival. A reckless, egotistical leader may have been more inclined to rush into battle. Perhaps their foolishness looked like great courage and inspired others enough to win battles, thus creating a situation where those who followed mentally ill leaders had a survival advantage.
We can certainly think of political leaders past and present whose behavior suggests mental illness and who were/are followed with the kind of adoration that people felt towards Anne Hamilton-Byrne and feel towards the leaders of the Scientologists. Such adoration would increase the confidence of those leaders, thus increasing the aura of attraction for their followers.
Erich Fromm wrote a book called ‘Escape from Freedom.’ In it he suggests that, though we say we love freedom, many people can find burdensome the choices and responsibilities that freedom opens up and they long to hand over the management of their lives to others. In fact the more dictatorial those others are, the more attractive they seem to those who feel overwhelmed by life. This could be why people are drawn into the elaborate, overly structured world of Scientology, where people struggle through unnecessary artificial tests which give a false sense of meaning and challenge, and a sense of reward to those who survive the bullying that is integral to the experience.
Steven Hassan has written a book, ‘Combatting Cult Mind Control.’ I wonder if that can provide some answers.
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Unfortunately, whilst the thesis is fantastically insightful psychologically, Fromm oversimplifies history and even his own psychological analysis to fit his sociological analysis. Fromm is too keen to implement a Marxist view of the social classes where it is quite simply inapplicable (or at least far less relevant), in order to conduct his analysis. For example, there was no middle class identity (and practically no middle class, certainly in the modern sense) in 16th century Europe. As for later discussions of the (particularly lower) middle class, Fromm appears to completely forget his prior emphasis on the individual, using the phrase “petty bourgeois” to describe what is likely to be several million people, giving them a character structure of rage and uncertainty that appears to have been placed upon them to make his theory to work. Indeed, the strong terminology used is based off assumptions used as psychodynamic explanations for historical events that would have been far more complex for each and every individual involved. Clearly Marxist class paradigms and assumptions take priority over a genuine discussion of the individual in a historical context, although the appendix goes some way to redeeming this oversimplification. Similarly, his analysis of Nazism ignores clear historical facts as Fromm attempts to impose his psychoanalytic philosophy onto historical events. Quotes such as “Nazism never had any genuine political or economic principles” showcase historical ignorance that damages the quality of his work.
As for the economic discussion, there are some bizarre assertions and linguistic games going on. Fromm is certain that a corporatist economy equates to capitalism (in its monopolistic phase). This is a question that will likely never cease to generate debate, the question being whether or not this is capitalism (as the markets are not free). Fromm, however, is clearly in error when he states that the Nazi regime “did not really interrupt the development of German monopolistic capitalism but furthered it with the means at her disposal.” A centralised economy and capitalism are clearly two different economic structures. Fromm is even more confused when he later states that many of these economic problems faced by free peoples “must be replaced by a planned economy that represents the planned and concerted effort of society as such.” So was the Nazi system the correct system? Was the Soviet system correct? Well, according to Fromm, neither is genuine socialism (no true Scotsman?), and the Soviet system is in actual fact “a powerful bureaucracy that manipulates the vast mass of the nation.” Surely Fromm should recognise that centralising the economy may end up conflicting against the desires and wishes of an individual seeking “freedom to?” The answer is sort of. He admits that creating a benevolent centralised economy would be very difficult, but still maintains his utopian vision, as if, despite all that has been said before, only he knows and can guide others to true liberation of the self.
Overall, the main aim of this work, from what I can tell, was to provide a psychological analysis into the effect of freedom on individuals. From this perspective the book is a resounding and fantastic success, but Fromm’s attempts to apply his theory into the real world see him use glaring methodological flaws and contradictions which unfortunately limit the insight of his thesis. Nevertheless, it is a fine work from a fine mind, and I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject.
It is relevant still today with the further alienation from our true nature. I would recommend it as a book we should all read.