The Lives of Erich Fromm by Lawrence J. Friedman

by stephenpalmersf

I discovered Erich Fromm in the ‘80s, and immediately fell for his no-nonsense brand of humanism and liberalism (disguised as Marxism, as he was a follower of Marx). His work has inspired me ever since, not least The Sane Society, with its ground-breaking and daring declaration of the human condition. A few months ago I discovered by accident that there was a biography of the great man; buying it was a no-brainer.

The book is quite academic in tone, but not so much that the general reader can’t enjoy it. A great amount of work went into the writing of it, as the author observes in his introduction, but that work pays off as the contradictions and brilliance of the man come to light.

Fromm, for all his vision and wisdom, was no angel; something of a surprise to me, who knew nothing of his personal life. Letters written by Fromm and by his friends illuminate this part of the biography. Fromm also ignored a lot of health issues during various intensive spells of work, and this biography conveys those periods of his life very well.

I suppose the readership of the book is essentially going to be followers of Fromm, and perhaps those in the psychoanalysis world for whom the shadow of Freud still looms large. The political aspects of his life are particularly interesting, and often surprising, especially during the Cold War period, but I suspect those will fade in times to come. His work on the fundamentals of the human condition however will never fall into obscurity. He really was way ahead of his time, and this superb biography illustrates that very nicely.