The Fear of Freedom

Present political developments and the dangers which they imply for the greatest achievements of modern culture — individuality and uniqueness of personality — made me decide to … concentrate on one aspect of it which is crucial for the cultural and social crisis of our day: the meaning of freedom for modern man… man’s dilemma of being alone – his fear of isolation – and the consequent appeal of authoritarian regimes … the lack of individuation in our society, the ‘false sense of freedom’ that pervades consumerism. Pointing out the significance of psychological considerations in relation to the present scene does not imply, in my opinion, an overestimation of psychology. The basic entity of the social process is the individual, his desires, and fears, his passions and reason, his propensities for good and for evil. To understand the dynamics of the social process we must understand the dynamics of the psychological processes operating within the individual, just as to understand the individual we must see him in the context of the culture which molds him. It is the thesis of this book that modern man, freed from the bonds of preindividualistic society, which simultaneously gave him security and limited him, has not gained freedom in the positive sense of the realization of his individual self; that is, the expression of his intellectual, emotional and sensuous potentialities. Freedom, though it has brought him independence and rationality, has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless. This isolation is unbearable and the alternatives he is confronted with are either to escape from the burden of this freedom into new dependencies and submission or to advance to the full realization of positive freedom which is based on the uniqueness and individuality of man. For, the understanding of the reasons for the totalitarian flight from freedom is a premise for any action which aims at the victory over the totalitarian forces. Erich Fromm


About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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