Erich Fromm was born in Frankfurt in 1900. At the beginning of his academic career, Fromm studied jurisprudence, but later he developed a close interest in sociology and psychology. Moreover, he gained expertise in psychoanalysis and even began clinical practice (Funk, 2013, p. 5).
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He was forced to leave Germany in 1934 because the Nazi Party seized control over the German government (Funk, 2013). Later, he worked at various American universities. For instance, one can mention Columbia University. Additionally, he participated in the foundation of some educational and research organizations. In particular, Fromm founded William Alanson White Institute. Furthermore, this scholar worked in other countries such as Switzerland where he died in 1980.
In turn, it is critical to discuss the theoretical contributions made by this thinker. In his works, he focuses on various issues, especially the way in which a human being perceives freedom. In Fromm’s view, this concept can be interpreted in several ways. In particular, this notion can be described as the ability to reject conventions or restrictions (Fromm, 1994). However, at the same time, it can be viewed as the opportunity to fulfill one’s creative talents.
The main problem is that people can voluntarily reject freedom. For instance, they can do it by submitting to the will of a totalitarian and violent regime (Fromm, 1994). Additionally, the desire to conform to existing standards can stifle a person’s freedom (Fromm, 1994, p. 183). In particular, individuals may be reluctant to question the assumptions or stereotypes that are often taken for granted. This behavior can be observed among employees who are often affected by groupthink. The author urges readers not to disregard these risks. In part, this warning is intended for the intellectuals living in advanced countries.
Moreover, this thinker introduces such a concept as the orientation of a character. For example, one can mention the so-called receptive orientation. It implies that a person tries to satisfy his/her need by relying on external factors. For instance, one can consider those people who continuously rely on the assistance offered by the state or charitable organizations. In turn, Fromm mentions that other individuals are dominated by the hoarding instincts. They are driven by the desire to possess material objects (Fromm, 2013). They often emphasize their prestigious status by showing that they have acquired valuable possessions (Fromm, 2013, p. 7).
This description can apply to people who lay stress on their wealth and ability to purchase expensive goods. Nevertheless, this author lays stress on the importance of productive orientation. In this case, one can refer to those people whose primary values are freedom, rationality, and creativity (Fromm, 2013). Thus, one should try to acquire or develop these qualities. In contrast, other forms of orientation can profoundly impair the cognitive and ethical development of a person.
Moreover, Erich Fromm wants to distinguish different needs that affect the behavior and choices of individuals. He notes that the need for security can make a person dismiss the value of freedom. As a rule, such people are unwilling to take initiatives, especially if these steps contradict the existing conventions. Moreover, they may not raise objections to long-established policies, even though they are no longer beneficial. Overall, Fromm raises important questions about the conflict between freedom and security. At a certain point, this dilemma can be of great concern to many people.
There are several significant contributions of Erich Fromm. In particular, he provides a new classification of personality types. He focuses on the way in which a person can perceive the external environment. Some people want to master and conquer this environment. In contrast, other individuals believe that their experiences are shaped by outside factors. This distinction is helpful for showing how people can explain their successes and failures.
Additionally, this thinker demonstrates that the rejection of freedom is not caused only by totalitarian regimes that impose their will on the community. In his opinion, more attention should be paid to the unquestioning compliance with social or cultural norms. For instance, one can consider the lifestyles that emphasize the importance of consumption. In fact, the identity and status of a person are often dependent on the goods or brands that he/she possesses.
These pitfalls should be avoided because they can make a person’s life very shallow. In addition to that, his studies enabled researchers to re-evaluate Freudian theory of psychoanalysis (Funk, 2013). Fromm managed to highlight internal contradictions of this model.
Overall, Erich Fromm’s work illustrates various questions that are essential for explaining the way in which the values and attitudes are formed. This thinker focuses on such a notion as freedom and its value for individuals. Apart from that, this philosopher explains the factors that can prompt a person to dismiss the importance of self-expression and self-sufficiency. Admittedly, many of his assumptions cannot be tested in an experimental way. It is one of the limitations that should be recognized. However, this author illustrates many existential dilemmas that a person can encounter.
Fromm, E. (1994). Escape from Freedom. New York, NY: Holt Paperbacks.
Fromm, E. (2013). To Have or To Be? New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.
Funk, R. (2013). Erich Fromm and the inter-subjective tradition. International Forum Of Psychoanalysis, 22(1), 5-9.