No. 546, May 29, 2006
read by Jonas Himmelstrand
What can a 65 year old book have to say in today’s world? The Fear of Freedom from 1941 is one of the best known works of the legendary psychoanalyst Erich Fromm (1900-1980). It is of equal importance today. The concept of freedom in this context means self-actualisation, or the full expression of our intellectual, emotional and sensuous potential.
The 20th century has opened new possibilities for people to learn and grow, says Fromm. This is of course even more true today than it was 65 years ago. Why does not everyone take on these new opportunities to grow and become more of themselves? Fromm says that this new freedom has also created anxiety, insecurity and isolation which means that many choose to escape freedom by diminishing themselves, controlling others or by being destructive.
The implications are that it is important for leaders in business and society to encourage people to grow to their full potential. Otherwise there are risks for setbacks and demands for a more authoritarian leadership. Fromm explains why totalitarian movements, charismatic leaders and various sects can get such a grip on even "free" people in democratic countries. This was of course an urgent message when Fromm, living in America in 1941, wrote this book.
Fromm helps us understand the psychological mechanisms by which people sometimes oppose change to greater freedom and instead ask for strong leaders, authority and control.
Anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the change process and of personnel development will find many useful insights in The Fear of Freedom.
The Fear of Freedom, by Erich Fromm.
Routledge 2001. ISBN 0415253888. 272 pages.
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