Erich Fromm

Erich Seligmann Fromm (March 23rd, 1900 – March 18th, 1980) was a Jewish social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, and Marxist associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Fromm was born at Frankfurt am Main, the only child of Jewish parents. Fromm’s grandfather and two great grandfathers on his father’s side were rabbis, and a great uncle on his mother’s side was a noted Talmudic scholar. In 1930 he joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and completed his psychoanalytical training. In 1933 Fromm moved first to Geneva and a year later to Columbia University in New York. Belonging to a Neo-Freudian school of psychoanalysis and reportedly an atheist, central to Fromm’s world view was his interpretation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Rather than just condemn European values under the term ‘authoritarian’ as is want for Marxist critical theory Fromm used the story of Adam and Eve as an instrument for inverting European development and instilling fictional ‘existential angst’. He asserts that when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they became aware of themselves as being separate from nature while still being part of it. This false antithesis to nature is Fromm’s foundation for European guilt and shame, the only solution to which according to Fromm can be found in the development of ‘love and reason’. It is fascinating to note that it is “the authoritarian personality” the main component of which “is susceptibility “to anti-Semitic ideology and anti-democratic political beliefs” that is the main impediment to ‘love and reason’. (also see Chutzpah)

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