chapter
Editor’s introduction to Chapter Nine
ByLene Auestad
Pages 2

The chapter discusses Eric Fromm’s ideas on politics and the nation. His works relate to Freud and Marx as part of the European humanist tradition. Although he valued Freud’s appreciation of the unconscious, Fromm doubted that a destructive instinct is intrinsic to Man, and argued that Freudian analysis overemphasised the importance of the family while paying too little attention to the person’s wider social ties. He valued Marx’s thoughts on “positive freedom” and applauded Marx’s recognition that, in each historical period, people shaped themselves through the act of living, particularly through economic engagement. Fromm believed he could fill a gap in Marx by explaining how society’s economic “base” influenced its political and ideological “superstructure”. There were two keys: social character and social unconscious. Escape from Freedom provided a path-breaking examination of the socially widespread foundations of National Socialism, while Anatomy of Human Destructiveness applied clinical insights to the Third Reich’s leadership. In relation to nationalism, Fromm identified a complex of necrophilia, narcissism, and incestuous ties that formed a “syndrome of decay” related to poor mental health and national hatred. He believed modern society was institutionalising elements supportive of the 162“syndrome of decay”; an environment restricting individuality and spontaneity shapes a new kind of being: organisation man or homo mechanicus—a person who has been reduced to a mere item. Although there are some problems associated with Fromm’s analysis, the author argues, his body of work provides many sensitive insights into the human condition and society’s impact upon it.