A review by ameliaholcomb
Escape from Freedom, by Erich Fromm

5.0

Focusing on human psychology, Erich Fromm discusses the nature of freedom and how individual freedom has come about. He then chronicles the evolution of human psychology from the medieval period, through the protestant reformation and European renaissance, into the modern day (which was the 1930s for him). First of all this thesis that human psychology is influenced socially rather than biologically is on point and totally what needed to be said in 1941. He deconstructs freedom and human social psychology in a very palatable way.

Then he moves on to "Mechanisms of Escape," focusing on authoritarianism, destructiveness, and automaton conformity. He deftly picks apart so many psychological aspects of the individual while keeping his focus on the social influences thereof. Of course, he then applied this to Nazism.

Finally, he returns to philosophies on freedom and the individual. He highlights the "illusion of individuality," pointing out again that we are social creatures and our psychology is developed mostly socially, rather than biologically just being our nature. He then focuses on spontaneity and it being a primary component of feeling free. He ends the book with an awesome call for democracy and cooperation.

Closing paragraph: "Only if man masters society and subordinates the economic machine to the purposes of human happiness and only if he actively participates in the social process, can he overcome what now drives him into despair--his aloneness and his feeling of powerlessness. Man does not suffer so much from poverty today as he suffers from the fact that he has become a cog in a large machine, an automaton, that his life has become completely empty and lost its meaning. The victory over all kinds of authoritarian systems will be possible only if democracy does not retreat but takes the offensive and proceeds to realize what has been its aim the minds of those who fought for freedom throughout the last centuries. It will triumph over the forces of nihilism only if it can imbue people with a faith that is the strongest the human mind is capable of, the faith in life and in truth, and in freedom as the active and spontaneous realization of the individual self."