Humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm was born on this date in 1900 in Frankfurt, Germany. He was a student of the Talmud and used Jewish texts and imagery as touchstones for his political and psychological insights long after he had left the world of Orthodoxy at age 26. Fromm’s attachment to Judaism as a source of humanistic insight (his name means “pious” in German and Yiddish) anticipated the Jewish interpretive creativity that emerged in the decades after his death in 1980. In 1920, the young Fromm helped Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig create the Free Jewish House of Learning in Frankfurt; in 1927, he helped to found the Frankfurt Psychoanalytic Institute, where he became director of social psychology and worked on synthesizing Marxism and psychoanalysis. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Fromm fled Germany and made his way to the U.S. As a critic of Freudian theory, he alienated many of his psychoanalytic colleagues; as a thinker who prized religious metaphor, he alienated many Marxists. During the 1950s and ‘60s, while serving as director of the Mexican Institute of Psychoanalysis, Fromm became the most widely read psychologist in the world. His many books, including Escape from Freedom (1941), The Sane Society (1955), The Art of Loving (1956), and The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), reveal a deeply caring and wise soul who believed in human transformation. Fromm joined the Socialist Party of America during the McCarthy period and was a co-founder of the anti-nuclear war organization, SANE. To watch a 1958 interview with Fromm on Mike Wallace’s show, scroll down.
“The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.” —Erich Fromm