The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love's Prophet [NOOK Book]


Erich Fromm was a political activist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, and one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century. Known for his theories of personality and political insight, Fromm dissected the sadomasochistic appeal of brutal dictators while also eloquently championing love—which, he insisted, was nothing if it did not involve joyful contact with others and humanity at large. Admired all over the world, Fromm continues to inspire with his message of universal brotherhood and ...
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The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love's Prophet

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Erich Fromm was a political activist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, and one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century. Known for his theories of personality and political insight, Fromm dissected the sadomasochistic appeal of brutal dictators while also eloquently championing love—which, he insisted, was nothing if it did not involve joyful contact with others and humanity at large. Admired all over the world, Fromm continues to inspire with his message of universal brotherhood and quest for lasting peace. The first systematic study of Fromm’s influences and achievements, this biography revisits the thinker’s most important works, especially Escape from Freedom and The Art of Loving, which conveyed important and complex ideas to millions of readers. The volume recounts Fromm’s political activism as a founder and major funder of Amnesty International, the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and other peace groups. Consulting rare archival materials across the globe, Lawrence J. Friedman reveals Fromm’s support for anti-Stalinist democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe and his efforts to revitalize American democracy. For the first time, readers learn about Fromm’s direct contact with high officials in the American government on matters of war and peace while accessing a deeper understanding of his conceptual differences with Freud, his rapport with Neo-Freudians like Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan, and his association with innovative artists, public intellectuals, and world leaders. Friedman elucidates Fromm’s key intellectual contributions, especially his innovative concept of “social character,” in which social institutions and practices shape the inner psyche, and he clarifies Fromm’s conception of love as an acquired skill. Taking full stock of the thinker’s historical and global accomplishments, Friedman portrays a man of immense authenticity and spirituality who made life in the twentieth century more humane than it might have been.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Friedman, a professor at Harvard University’s “Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative,” summarizes Erich Fromm’s notion of “the primary task for the modern self” thusly: “to use one’s freedom spontaneously, energetically, and uniquely... enhance his joy, his sense of viable selfhood, and his capacity to share with others.” Interestingly, this humanistic doctrine arose from a rather unhappy childhood—to escape a tense home environment, Fromm (1900–1980) dedicated himself to Talmudic study and a life of “ethics, scholarship, and a commitment to the community.” Reading Marx and Freud, he became an influential scholar of psychology, well-known for his “social character” theory and emphasis on the role of environment in shaping the individual. Friedman (Identity’s Architect) also demonstrates how Fromm’s philosophy arose from a personal social fabric: experiences in his childhood and with lovers and colleagues were frequently woven into his prodigious writings. The author occasionally derails the narrative in order to illuminate pivotal peripheral figures in Fromm’s life, and he duly describes his subject’s flaws, lapses in scholarly precision, and the contradictions between his public persona and private practices, but always in the spirit of honest understanding—an approach favored by Fromm. Through this thorough portrait, “Love’s Prophet” emerges as an exemplar of enjoying an examined life to its fullest potential. 16 photos. (Feb.)
Noam Chomsky

This is more than a highly enlightening study of the life and work of a remarkable 20th century figure.The penetrating review and analysis of the many facets of Fromm's writing and activities also illuminates the intellectual ferment and political history of the turbulent and often terrifying times during which Fromm played such a constructive and influential role, with lasting significance.

Gerald N. Grob

Although there are some books on Fromm, none approach the depth and comprehensiveness of Friedman's work. Love's Prophet is based on research on … sources that no other scholars have used. It details Fromm's… perhaps unconscious decision to eschew an academic career and become -- even if he would not use the term -- a public intellectual.

Dorothy Ross

Full of interesting material about Fromm's background, extensive intellectual contacts, political and psychoanalytic activities, and the range of his thinking that many readers will not know -- certainly I did not know.

Joshua Rubenstein

Thanks to Lawrence Friedman's comprehensive and subtle protrait of Erich Fromm, a new generation of readers will be inspired to explore Fromm's life and works. He was an idealist, but never naive or out of touch with what might be possible if only individual societies or government officials had the courage to face the dangerous possibilities that lay before them. As Friedman makes clear, when From helped to establish Amnesty International in the early 1960s, he demonstrated that the defense of human freedom begins--and must begin--with a commitment to judge any society by who is sitting in its jails.

Bertram Wyatt-Brown

The leading American expert on topics psychological, Lawrence Friedman has again published an outstanding biography of one of the nation's most significant figures in the realm of social philosophy and psychology, Erich Fromm. Millions read his Escape from Freedom (1941) and The Art of Loving (1956). Thoroughly researched in the U.S., Mexico, Germany, and Switzerland, Friedman brilliantly traces Fromm's prolific philosophical and psychological career. He also sensitively explores Fromm's complicated personal and sexual life and his valuable backstage advising to Presidents and liberal politicians. This highly accessible work will intrigue and enlighten thousands of readers.

Carol Gilligan

In this riveting biography of Erich Fromm, Lawrence Friedman reveals how Fromm's writings continue to speak to many of the most crucial issues of our time. His ideas about social character have been validated by recent discoveries in the human sciences and his insights about politics and political organizing anticipate the successful 2008 Obama campaign. Fromm's work can help us to recover the grand vision of the social sciences as a means to understanding and ameliorating the human condition, or, as From would put it, to choosing life over destructiveness.

Howard Gardner

In mid-century America, a peak era for public intellectuals, Erich Fromm's psychological and sociological writings were required reading among the intelligentsia. What's more, his ideas were widely discussed by others, ranging from the millions who devoured The Art of Loving to U.S. Senators and even President John Kennedy. In this compelling biography, historian Lawrence Friedman, author of the definitive biography of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, details the cornucopia of ideas that issued from Fromm's fertile mind as well as the fascinating and little known details of his lengthy, controversial and exceedingly full life.

President Barack Obama

This thoughtful and thorough biography of Erich Fromm helped me understand a man deeply immersed in the challenges of his time.

Boston Review - Vivian Gornick

A thoroughly absorbing history of the cultural and political context within which Fromm's life was lived.

America - Michael M. Canaris

Friedman is a consummate intellectual biographer.

New York Review of Books - Alan Ryan

Meticulous, detailed.... A model of intellectual biography.

PsycCritiques - Daniel Burston

a valuable contribution to Fromm scholarship and to American political and social history.


A deep, insightful, and very human portrait of one of the great public intellectuals of the 20th century.

Times Literary Supplement - Paul Reitter

Friedman's biography tracks Fromm through the various phases of his life in detail, providing a thickness of description that hasn't been available before.


A deep, insightful, and very human portrait of one of the great public intellectuals of the 20th century.

American Historical Review

... The most thoroughly, well-researched, and balanced biography so far of Erich Fromm... A clear and richly detailed overview of Fromm's life and work.

Journal of American History

An intellectual biography of the first order.

Library Journal
Friedman (history & philanthropic studies, emeritus, Indiana Univ.; Erik Erikson; The Menninngers) writes a clear, deftly summarized text integrating the life and writings of psychologist Erich Fromm. The title reflects Fromm's countries of residence, languages (German, Hebrew, English, Spanish), love affairs, marriages, and talents: therapist, teacher, author, scholar of Judaism and Zen Buddhism, socialist, peace activist. A critic of nationalism and Zionism, he advised Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy; among his friends were Margaret Mead and David Riesman. His books include Escape from Freedom, Man for Himself and Art of Loving—his best of best sellers with 25 million copies in 32 languages. Fromm trained with psychoanalysts in Berlin, but had a strong interest in Marx and diverged from Freud, emphasizing the pre-Oedipal phase, bonding with the mother; and social character. Friedman objectively critiques Fromm's decisions in personal and professional relationships, but omits Fromm's assertion that Otto Rank was a Nazi sympathizer. VERDICT Accessible to general readers—a sympathetic, stimulating biography of one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century.—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
The brilliantly comprehensive study of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm's (1900–1980) many "lives" as a clinician, philosopher, social critic and political activist. In this highly readable biography, Friedman (Harvard University's Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative) argues that Fromm's early life shaped his thinking on his signature concept of social character. The future psychoanalyst grew up in a dysfunctional household in Frankfurt, Germany, but he was also surrounded by Jewish religious and ethical traditions that helped him break free of his "stifling family" and see that "there was a world out there with pressing contemporary issues that required bold solutions." As Fromm developed intellectually, he became committed to the idea of using Freudian psychoanalysis to help individuals find their way toward happier, more productive lives. In so doing, he could fulfill the vision of social justice he had glimpsed in his studies of the Talmud. But he differed from orthodox Freudians in that he believed that human behavior was not only shaped by libidinal drives, but also "social structure and culture." For most of his life, he would attempt to integrate Marxist thought into his own psychoanalytic theories, which came under intense fire. Other Frankfurt School luminaries, such as Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, questioned Fromm's critique of Freud's libidinal theory, and Fromm broke away from the psychoanalytic establishment and went to Mexico, where he presided over the Mexican Institute of Psychoanalysis. During this time, he became a highly influential peace/anti-nuclear activist. He maintained contact with key policymakers in the Kennedy administration and argued for a "Third Way" movement that would negotiate a sane and healthy humanist path between the sick, bipolar alternatives of "Soviet military hegemony" and "American corporate capitalism." Academic biography at its best.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231531061
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 2/19/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 456
  • Sales rank: 1,177,164
  • File size: 21 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Lawrence J. Friedman is a professor in Harvard University's Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative and a professor emeritus at Indiana University. The author of eight scholarly books and more than fifty articles, he has lectured in eleven countries and was named International Writer of the Year for 2003 by the International Biographical Center. His works include Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik Erikson; Menninger: The Family and the Clinic; Gregarious Saints: Self and Community in American Abolitionism; and The White Savage: Racial Fantasies in the Postbellum South.

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Table of Contents

Foreword, by Gerald N. GrobAcknowledgmentsPrologue: Writing LivesPart 1: Germany1. The Unsteady Apprentice2. Frankfurt ScholarPart 2: The Americas3. The Americanization of a European Intellectual4. Escape from Freedom5. Clinician and Ethicist6. To Love and to Mentor7. Politics and ProsePart 3: Global Citizenship8. Prophecies for a Troubled World9. A Third Way10. "Life Is Extravagance": Almost11. Hope and Stasis12. Love and DeathA Bibliographical NoteNotesIndex

Columbia University Press

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