Escape from Freedom
By Erich Fromm
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David Heinemeier Hansson (Co-Founder/Basecamp)
Escape from Freedom examines what happened to the human psyche when we went from a medieval caste system to the modern world. As we gained freedom from all sorts of oppressions, we also got detached from a predictable and safe role in society. That anxiety is often difficult to cope with, especially when things don’t turn out the way we aspired to. Fromm argues that we need to balance this freedom from with just as much freedom to. Positive freedom, not just negative freedom.
The book was written in 1941 and obviously colored by the rise of fascism and the world wars. But it’s message is as timely today, in an age of populism and unease. It draws a compelling connection between the loss of identity and belonging with the appeal of authoritarian figures. That it’s a human response to turn away from freedom when that freedom turns life into anxiety and disappointment. So from Trump to Erdogan, there’s strong public support.
Why do people choose authoritarianism over freedom? The classic study of the psychological appeal of fascism by a New York Times–bestselling author.
The pursuit of freedom has indelibly marked Western culture since Renaissance humanism and Protestantism began the fight for individualism and self-determination. This freedom, however, can make people feel unmoored, and is often accompanied by feelings of isolation, fear, and the loss of self, all leading to a desire for authoritarianism, conformity, or destructiveness.
It is not only the question of freedom that makes Fromm’s debut book a timeless classic. In this examination of the roots of Nazism and fascism in Europe, Fromm also explains how economic and social constraints can also lead to authoritarianism.
By the author of The Sane Society and The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, this is a fascinating examination of the anxiety that underlies our darkest impulses, an enlightening volume perfect for readers of Eric Hoffer or Hannah Arendt.
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