Fromm, E. Escape from Freedom. Henry Holt and Company. New York, 1941.
(x) It is the thesis of this book that modern man, freed from the bonds of pre-individualistic 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 hum 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 his freedom into new dependencies and submission [ie religious, political, national, consumer brands, youth gangs], or to advance to the full realization of positive freedom which is based upon the uniqueness and individuality of man.
Forward II (1965)
(xiii) Escape From Freedom is an analysis of the phenomenon of man’s anxiety engendered by the breakdown of the Medieval World in which, in spite of many dangers, he felt himself secure and safe. After centuries of struggles, man succeeded in building an undreamed-of wealth of material goods; he built democratic societies in parts of the world, and recently was victorious in defending himself against new totalitarian schemes; yet, as the analysis in Escape From Freedom attempts to show, modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.
(xiv) We are entering the second industrial revolution in which not only human physical energy - man’s hands and arms as it were - but also his brain and his nervous reactions are being replaced by machines.
(xvi) The development of man’s intellectual capacities has far outstripped the development of his emotions. Man’s brain lives in the twentieth century; the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age. The majority of men have not yet acquired the maturity to be independent, to be rational, to be objective. They need myths and idols to endure the fact that man is all be himself, that there is no authority which gives him meaning to life except man himself. Man represses the irrational passions of destructiveness, hate, envy, revenge; he worships power, money, the sovereign state, the nation; while he pays lip service to the teachings of the great spiritual leaders of the human race, those of Buddha, the prophets, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed - he has just transformed these teachings into a jungle of superstition and idol-worship. How can mankind save itself from destroying itself by this discrepancy between intellectual-technical over-maturity and emotional backwardness.
- is ‘idol worship’ emotionally backward?
(xvii) Progress in social psychology is necessary to counteract the dangers which arise from the progress in physics and medicine.
Ch 1. Freedom: A Psychological Problem?
(4) Is freedom only the absence of external pressure or is it also the presence of something?
(5) Is there a hidden satisfaction in submitting, and what is its essence?
- for the sake of community/reducing isolation
(5) What is it that creates in men an insatiable lust for power? Is it the strength of their vital energy - or is it a fundamental weakness and inability to experience life spontaneously and lovingly?..
Analysis of the human aspect of freedom and of authoritarianism forces us to consider a general problem, namely, that of the role which psychological factors play as active forces in the social process; and this eventually leads to the problem of the interaction of psychological, economic, and ideological factors in the social process. Any attempt to understand the attraction which Fascism exercises upon great nations compels us to recognize the role of psychological factors. For we are dealing here with a political system which, essentially, does not appeal to rational forces of self-interest, but which arouses and mobilizes diabolical forces in man which we had believed to be nonexistent, or at least to have died out long ago. The familiar picture of man in the last centuries was one of a rational being whose actions were determined by his self-interest and the ability to act according to it. Even writers like Hobbes, who recognized lust for power and hostility as driving forces in man, explained the existence of these forces as a logical result of self-interest: since men are equal and thus have the same wish for happiness, and since there is not enough wealth to satisfy them all to the same extent, they necessarily fight against each other and want power to secure the future enjoyment of what they have at present. But Hobbes’ picture became outmoded. The more the middle class succeeded in breaking down the power of the former political or religious rulers, the more men succeeded in mastering nature, and the more millions of individuals became economically independent, the more did one come to believe in a rational world and in man as an essentially rational being. The dark and diabolical forces of man’s nature were relegated to the Middle ages and to still earlier periods of history, and there were explained by lack of knowledge or by the cunning schemes of deceitful kinds and priests.
(6) Nietzsche had disturbed the complacent optimism of the nineteenth century; so had Marx, in a different way. Another warning had come somewhat later from Freud. To be sure, he and most of his disciples had only a very naive notion of what goes on in society, and most of his applications of psychology to social problems were misleading constructions; yet, by devoting his interest to the phenomena of individual emotional and mental disturbances, he led us to the top of the volcano and made us look into the boiling crater.
(8) Freud accepted the traditional belief in a basic dichotomy between man and society, as well as the traditional doctrine of the evilness of human nature. Man, to him, is fundamentally antisocial. Society must domesticate him..
- I’d be surprised if this is what nature based cultures believe
(8) Freud chose the word sublimation for this strange transformation from suppression [of dangerous, primitive, selfish, id instincts] into civilized behavior.
- myth of the “primal horde”
(9) Freud always considers the individual in relation to others. These relations as Freud sees them, however, are similar to the economic relations to others which are characteristic of the individual in capitalistic society. Each person works for himself, individualistically, at his own risk, and not primarily in cooperation with others. But he is not Robinson Crusoe; he needs others, as customers, as employees, or as employers. He must buy and sell, give and take. The market, whether it is the commodity or the labor market, regulates these relations. Thus, the individual, primarily alone and self sufficient, enters into economic relations with others as means to one end: to sell and to buy. Freud’s concept of human relations is essentially the same: the individual appears fully equipped with biologically given drives, which need to be satisfied. In order to satisfy them, the individual enters into relations with other “objects.” Other individuals thus are always a means to one’s end, the satisfaction of strivings which in themselves originate in the individual before he enters into contact with others. The field of human relations in Freud’s sense is similar to the market - it is an exchange of satisfaction of biologically given needs, in which the relationship to the other individual is always a means to an end, but never an end in itself.
- how much did the development of capitalism then influence, or even determine Freud’s psychology?? i.e., if capitalism had not entered into history, would we still have Freudian ailments?? Further, are Freudian concepts relevant in pre-capitalist, i.e., nature based, primitive, communal societies??
(10) Contrary to Freud’s viewpoint, the analysis offered in this book is based on the assumption that the key problem of psychology is that of the specific kid of relatedness of the individual towards the world and not that of the satisfaction or frustration of this or that instinctual need per se; furthermore, on the assumption that the relationship between man and society is not a static one. It is not as if we had on the one hand an individual equipped by nature with certain drives and on the other, society as something apart from him, either satisfying or frustrating these innate propensities. Although there are certain needs, such as hunger, thirst, sex, which are common to man, those drives make for the differences in men’s characters, like love and hatred, the lust for power and the yearning for submission, the enjoyment of sensuous pleasure and the fear of it, are all products of the social process. The most beautiful as well as the most ugly inclinations of man are not part of a fixed and biologically given human nature, but result from the social process which creates man. In other words, society has not only a suppressing function - although it has that too - but it has also a creative function. Man’s nature, his passions, and anxieties are a cultural product; as a matter of fact, man himself is the most important creation and achievement of the continuous human effort, the record of which we call history.
(11) In the Northern European countries, form the sixteenth century on, man developed an obsessional craving to work which had been lacking in a free man before that period.
- Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
(12) …the viewpoint presented in this book differs from Freud’s inasmuch as it emphatically disagrees with this interpretation of history as the result of psychological forces that in themselves are not socially conditioned. It disagrees as emphatically with those theories which neglect the role of the human factor as one of the dynamic elements in the social process.
(13) Though there is no fixed human nature, we cannot regard human nature as being infinitely malleable and able to adapt itself to any kind of conditions without developing a psychological dynamism of its own. Human nature, though being the product of historical evolution, has certain mechanisms and laws, to discover which is the task of psychology.
(17) The physiologically conditioned needs are not the only imperative part of man’s nature. There is another part as compelling, one which is not rooted in bodily processes but in the very essence of the human mode and practice of life: the need to be related to the world outside oneself, the need to avoid aloneness. To feel completely alone and isolated leads to mental disintegration just as physical starvation leads to death. This relatedness to others is not identical with physical contact. An individual may be alone in a physical sense for many years and yet he may be related to ideas, values, or at least social patterns that give him a feeling of communion and ‘belonging.’ On the other hand, he may live among people and yet be overcome with an utter feeling of isolation, the outcome of which , if it transcends a certain limit, is the state of insanity which schizophrenic disturbances represent. This lack of relatedness to values, symbols, patterns, we may call moral aloneness and state that moral aloneness is as intolerable as the physical aloneness, or rather that physical aloneness becomes unbearable only if it implies also moral aloneness.
(18) Religion and nationalism, as well as any custom and any belief however absurd and degrading, if it only connects the individual with others, are refuges from what man most dreads: isolation.
(19) There is another element which makes the need to ‘belong’ so compelling: the fact of subjective self-consciousness, of the faculty of thinking by which man is aware of himself as an individual entity, different from nature and other people…by being aware of himself as distinct from nature and other people, by being aware - even very dimly - of death, sickness, aging, he necessarily feels his insignificance and smallness in comparison with the universe and all others who are not ‘he.’
(21) …the main theme of this book: that man, the more he gains freedom in the sense of emerging from the original oneness with man and nature and the more he becomes an ‘individual,’ has no choice but to unite himself with the world in the spontaneity of love and productive work or else to seek a kind of security by such ties with the world as destroy his freedom and the integrity of his individual self.
Ch 2. The Emergence of the Individual and the Ambiguity of Freedom
(32) Man is born without the equipment for appropriate action which the animal possesses; he is dependent on his parents for a longer time than any animal, and his reactions to his surroundings are less quick and less effective than the automatically regulated instinctive actions are. He goes through all the dangers and fears which this lack of instinctive equipment implies. yet this very helplessness of man is the basis from which human development springs; man’s biological weakness is the condition of human culture.
…He changes his role toward nature from that of purely passive adaptation to an active one: he produces. He invents tools and, while thus mastering nature, he separates himself from it more and more. He becomes dimly aware of himself - or rather of his group - as not being identical with nature. It dawns upon him that his is a tragic fate: to be part of nature, and yet to transcend it.
(33) …the fundamental relation between man and freedom is offered in the biblical myth of man’s expulsion from paradise.
…the act of disobedience [eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge] as an act of freedom is the beginning of reason…the original harmony between man and nature is broken…Man has become separate from nature, he has taken the first step toward becoming human by becoming an ‘individual’…He has committed the first act of freedom. The myth emphasizes the suffering resulting from this act. To transcend nature, to be alienated from nature and from another human being, finds man naked, ashamed. he alone and free, yet powerless and afraid. The newly won freedom appears as a curse; he is free from the sweet bondage of paradise, but he is not free to govern himself, to realize his individuality.
Ch 3. Freedom in the Age of the Reformation
1. Medieval Background and the Renaissance
(40) What characterizes medieval in contrast to modern society is its lack of individual freedom. Everybody in the earlier period was chained to his role in the social order. A man had little chance to move socially from one class to another, he was hardly able to move even geographically from one town or from one country to another.
(41) But although a person was not free in the modern sense, neither was he alone and isolated. In having a distinct, unchangeable, and unquestionable place in the social world from the moment of birth, man was rooted in a structuralized whole, and thus life had a meaning which left no place, and no need, for doubt. A person was identical with his role in society; he was a peasant, an artisan, a knight, and not an individual who happened to have this or that occupation. The social order was conceived as a natural order, and being a definite part of it gave a feeling of security and of belonging. There was comparatively little competition. One was born into a certain economic position which guaranteed a livelihood determined by tradition…Although there was no individualism in the modern sense of the unrestricted choice between many possible ways of life (a freedom of choice which is largely abstract), there was a great deal of concrete individualism in real life.
(42) Medieval society did not deprive the individual of his freedom, because the ‘individual’ did not yet exist…Awareness of one’s individual self, of others, and of the world as separate entities, had not yet fully developed…”Man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporation - only through some general category.” (J Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy.)
(45) Burckhardt’s description of the spirit of this new individualism illustrates what we have said in the previous chapter on the emergence of the individual from primary ties. Man discovers himself and others as individuals, as separate entities; he discovers nature as something apart form himself in two aspects: as an object of theoretical and practical mastery, and in its beauty, as an object of pleasure.
(46) The Renaissance was the culture of a wealthy and powerful upper class, on the crest of the wave which was whipped up by the storm of new economic forces. The masses who did not share in the wealth and power of the ruling group had lost the security of their former status and had become a shapeless mass, to be flattered or to be treated - but always to be manipulated and exploited by those in power. A new despotism arose side by side with the new individualism. Freedom and tyranny, individuality and disorder, were inextricable interwoven. The Renaissance was not a culture of small shop keepers and petty bourgeois but of wealthy nobles and burghers. Their economic activity and their wealth gave them a feeling of freedom and a sense of individuality. But at the same time, these same people had lost something: the security and feeling of belonging which the medieval structure had offered. They were more free, but they were also more alone. They used their power and wealth to squeeze the last ounce of pleasure out of life; but in doing so, they had to use ruthlessly every means, from physical torture to psychological manipulation, to rule over the masses and to check their competitors within their own class. All human relationships were poisoned by this fierce life and death struggle for the maintenance of power and wealth.
- Marcuse, Eros and Civilization
(49) …the essential roots of modern capitalism, it’s economic structure and its spirit, are not to be found in the Italian culture of the late Middle Ages, but in the economic and social situation of Central and Western Europe and in the doctrines of Luther and Calvin.
The main difference between the two cultures is this: the Renaissance period represented a comparatively high development of commercial and industrial capitalism; it was a society in which a small group of wealthy and powerful individuals ruled and formed the social basis fro the philosophers and artists who expressed the spirit of this culture. The Reformation, on the other hand, was essentially a religion of the urban middle and lower classes, and of the peasants. Germany too, had its wealthy businessmen, like the Fuggers, but they were not the ones to whom the new religious doctrines appealed, nor were they the main basis from which modern capitalism developed. As Max Weber has shown, it was the urban middle class which became the backbone of modern capitalistic development in the Western World. (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism).
(53) The basic assumption concerning economic life [of the Medieval world] were two: “That economic interests are subordinate to the real business of life, which is salvation, and that economic conduct is one aspect of personal conduct, upon which as on other parts of it, the rules of morality are binding.” (R Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism).
(58) Significant changes in the psychological atmosphere accompanied the economic development of capitalism. A spirit of restlessness began to pervade life toward the end of the Middle Ages. The concept of time in the modern sense began to develop. Minutes became valuable; a symptom of this new sense of time is the fact that in Nurnberg the clocks have been striking the quarter hours since the sixteenth century. Too many holidays began to appear as a misfortune. Time was so valuable that one felt one should never spend it for any purpose which was not useful. Work became increasingly a supreme value. A new attitude toward work developed and was so strong that the middle class grew indignant against the economic unproductivity of the institutions of the Church. Begging orders [mendicant ascetics] were resented as unproductive, and hence immoral.
The idea of efficiency assumed the role of one of the highest moral virtues.
- Hall, Beyond Culture, monochromic vs polychronic time
(59) …with the beginning of capitalism all classes of society started to move. There ceased to be a fixed place in the economic order which could be considered a natural, an unquestioned one. The individual was left alone; everything depended on his own effort, not on the security of his traditional status.
(61) Another important factor in this context was the growing role of competition. While competition was certainly not completely lacking in medieval society, the feudal economic system was based on the principle of cooperation and was regulated - or regimented - by rules which curbed competition. With the rise of capitalism these medieval principles gave way more and more to a principle of individualistic enterprise. Each individual must go ahead and try his luck. He had to swim or to sink. Others were not allied with him in a common enterprise, they became competitors, and often he was confronted with the choice of destroying them or being destroyed.
- M Mead, Cooperation and Competition among Primitive Peoples
(62) If we sum up our discussion of the impact of the social and economic changes on the individual in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries we arrive at the following picture:
We find the same ambiguity of freedom which we have discussed before. The individual is freed from the bondage of economic and political ties. He also gains in positive freedom by the active and independent role which he has to play in the new system. But simultaneously he is freed from those ties which used to give him security and a feeling of belonging. Life has ceased to be lived in a closed world the center of which was man; the world has become limitless and at the same time threatening. By losing his fixed place in a closed world man loses the answer to the meaning of his life; the result is that doubt has befallen him concerning himself and the aim of life. He is threatened by powerful suprapersonal forces, capital, and the market. His relationship to his fellow men, with everyone a potential competitor, has become hostile and estranged; he is free - that is, he is alone, isolated, threatened from all sides. Not having the wealth or power which the Renaissance capitalist had, and also having lost the sense of unity with men and the universe, he is overwhelmed with a sense of his individual nothingness and helplessness. Paradise is lost for good, the individual stands alone and faces the world - a stranger thrown into a limitless and threatening world. The new freedom is bound to create a deep feeling of insecurity, powerlessness, doubt, aloneness, and anxiety. These feelings must be alleviated if the individual is to function successfully.
2. The Period of the Reformation
(63) At this point of development, Lutheranism and Calvinism came into existence. The new religions were not the religions of a wealthy upper class but of the urban middle class, the poor in the cities, and the peasants. They carried an appeal to these groups because they gave expression to a new feeling of freedom and independence as well as to the feeling of powerlessness and anxiety by which their members were pervaded. But the new religious doctrine did more than give articulate expression to the feelings engendered by a changing economic order. By their teaching they increased them and at the same time offered solutions which enabled the individual to cope with an otherwise unbearable insecurity.
(75) Luther assumed the existence of an innate evilness in man’s nature, which directs his will for evil and makes it impossible for any man to perform any good deed on the basis of his nature. Man has an evil and vicious nature. The depravity of man’s nature and its complete lack of freedom to choose the right is one of the fundamental concepts of Luther’s whole thinking…
This conviction of man’s rottenness and powerlessness to do anything good on his own merits is one essential condition of God’s grace. Only if man humiliates himself and demolishes his individual will and pride will God’s grace descend upon him.
- where does this assumption come from?
- it’s no wonder that modern psychological insecurities arise from this foundation, resulting, for instance, in the rise of born again Christians
(76) In 1518 a sudden revelation came to [Luther]. Man cannot be saved on the basis of his virtues; he should not even mediate whether or not his works were well pleasing to God; but he can have certainty of his salvation is he has faith.
- giving up on reason because it is shrouded in uncertainty, whereas faith can always be internally ‘known.’ hmmm..
(77) We must remember what has been said about the nature of Luther’s doubt: it was not the rational doubt which is rooted in the freedom of thinking and which dares to question established views. It was the irrational doubt which springs from from the isolation and powerlessness of an individual whose attitude toward the world is one of anxiety and hatred. This irrational doubt can never be cured by rational answers; it can only disappear if the individual becomes an integral part of a meaningful world. If this does not happen, as it did not happen with Luther and the middle class which he represented, the doubt can only be silenced, driven underground, so to speak, and this can be done by some formula which promises absolute certainty. The compulsive quest for certainty, as we find with Luther, is not the expression of genuine faith but is rooted in the need to conquer the unbearable doubt. Luther’s solution is one which we find present in many individuals toady, who do not think in theological terms: namely to find certainty by elimination of the isolated individual self, by becoming an instrument in the hands of an overwhelmingly strong power outside of the individual.
(78) Psychologically, faith has two entirely different meanings. It can be the expression of an inner relatedness to mankind and affirmation of life; or it can be a reaction formation against a fundamental feeling of doubt, rooted in the isolation of the individual and his negative attitude toward life. Luther’s faith had that compensatory quality.
It is particularly important to understand the significance of doubt and the attempts to silence it, because this is not only a problem concerning Luther and Calvin’s theology, but it has remained one of the basic problems of modern man. Doubt is the starting point of modern philosophy, the need to silence it had a most powerful stimulus on the development of modern philosophy and science. But although many rational doubts have been solved by rational answers, the irrational doubt has not disappeared and cannot disappear as long as man has not progressed from negative freedom to positive freedom. The modern attempts to silence it, whether they consist in a compulsive striving for success, in the belief that unlimited knowledge of facts can answer the quest for certainty, or in the submission to a leader who assumes the responsibility for ‘certainty’ - all these solutions can only eliminate the awareness of doubt. The doubt itself will not disappear as long as man does not overcome his isolation and as long as his place in the world has not become a meaningful one in terms of his human needs.
- where does this impulse/obsession to ‘know everything’ come from? it doesn’t seem to exist in nature based societies, where mystery is accepted and celebrated
(79) The appeal of Lutheranism to the lower classes differed from its appeal to the middle class. The poor in the cities, and even more the peasants, are in a desperate situation. There were ruthlessly exploited and deprived of traditional rights and privileges. They were in a revolutionary mood which found expression in peasant uprisings and in revolutionary movements in the cities. The Gospel articulated their hopes and expectations as it had done for the slaves and laborers of early Christianity, and led the poor to seek for freedom and justice. In so far as Luther attacked authority and made the word of the Gospel the center of his teachings, he appealed to these restive masses as other religious movements of an evangelical character had done before him.
(80) As a whole, the middle class was more endangered by the collapse of the feudal order and by rising capitalism than it was helped.
(81) Luther’s relationship to God was one of complete submission. In psychological terms his concept of faith mean: if you completely submit, if you accept your individual insignificance, then the all powerful God may be willing to love you and save you. If you get rid of your individual self with all its shortcomings and doubts by utmost self-effacement, you free yourself from the feeling of your own nothingness and can participate in God’s glory. Thus, while Luther freed people from the authority of the Church, he made them submit to a much more tyrannical authority, that of a God who insisted on complete submission of man and annihilation of the individual self as the essential condition to his salvation. Luther’s ‘faith’ was the conviction of being loved upon the condition of surrender, a solution which has much in common with the principle of complete submission of the individual to the state and the ‘leader.’
(84) Calvin’s theology, which was to become as important for the Anglo-Saxon countries as Luther’s for Germany, exhibits essentially the same spirit as Luther’s, both theologically and psychologically. Although he too opposes the authority of the Church and the blind acceptance of its doctrines, religion for him is rooted int he powerlessness of man; self-humiliation and the destruction of human pride are the Leitmotiv of his whole thinking. Only he who despises this world can devote himself to the preparation for the future world.
(87) There are two differences between Calvin’s and Luther’s teachings that are important in the context of this book. One is Calvin’s doctrine of predestination. In contrast to the doctrine of predestination as we find it in Augustine, Aquinas and Luther, with Calvin it becomes one of the cornerstones, perhaps the central doctrine, of his whole system. He gives it a new version by assuming that God not only predestines some for grace, but decides that others are destined for eternal damnation.
Salvation or damnation are not results of anything good or bad a man does in his life, but are predetermined by God before man ever comes to life…Calvin’s God, in spite of all attempts to preserve the idea of God’s justice and love, has all the features of a tyrant without any quality of love or even justice.
(88) The psychological significance of the doctrine of predestination is a twofold one. It expresses and enhances the feeling if individual powerlessness and insignificance. No doctrine could express more strongly than this the worthlessness of human will and effort. The decision over man’s fate is taken completely our of his own hands and there is nothing man can do to change this decision.
(89) Calvin’s theory of predestination has one implication which should be explicitly mentioned here, since it has found its most vigorous revival in Nazi ideology: the principle of the basic inequality of men. For Calvin, there are two kinds of people - those who are saved and those who are destined to eternal damnation. Since this fate is determined before they are born and without their being able to change it by anything they do or do not do in their lives, the equality of mankind in denied in principle. Men are created unequal…It is obvious that this belief represented psychologically a deep contempt and hatred for other human beings - as a matter of fact, the same hatred with which they had endowed God.
(90) Another and very significant difference from Luther’s teachings is the greater emphasis on the importance of moral effort and a virtuous life. Not that the individual can change his fate by any of his works, but the very fact that he is able to make the effort is one sign of his belonging to the saved…In the further development of Calvinism, the emphasis on a virtuous life and on the significance of an unceasing effort gains in importance, particularly the idea that success in worldy life, as a result of such efforts, is a sign of salvation.
- hence, the frantic obsession to work and "get ahead" today - Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
(90) Calvinism emphasized the necessity of unceasing human effort. Man must constantly try to live according to God’s word and never lapse in his effort to do so. This doctrine appears to be a contradiction of the doctrine that human effort is of no avail with regard to man’s salvation. The fatalistic attitude of not making any effort might seem like a much more appropriate response. Some psychological considerations, however, show that this is not so. The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody. Almost no one stricken with this fear would be able to relax, enjoy life, and be indifferent as to what happened afterwords. One possible way to escape this unbearable state of uncertainty and the paralyzing feeling of one’s own insignificance is the very trait which became so prominent in Calvinism: the development of a frantic activity and a striving to do something. Activity in this sense assumes a compulsory quality: the individual has to be active in order to overcome his feeling of doubt and powerlessness. This kind of effort and activity is not the result of inner strength and self confidence; it is a desperate escape from anxiety.
(92) The irrationality of such compulsive effort is that the activity is not meant to create a desired end but serves to indicate whether or not something will occur which has been determined beforehand, independent of one’s own activity or control. This mechanism is a well known feature of compulsive neurotics…
In Calvinism this meaning of effort was part of the religious doctrine. Originally it referred essentially to moral effort, but later on the emphasis was more and more on effort in one’s occupation and on the results of this effort, that is, success or failure in business. Success became the sign of God’s grace, failure, the sign of damnation.
These considerations show that the compulsion to unceasing effort and work was far from being in contradiction to a basic conviction of man’s powerlessness; rather was it the psychological result. Effort and work in this sense assumed an entirely irrational character. They were not to change fate since this was predetermined by God, regardless of any effort on the part of the individual. They served only as a means of forecasting the predetermined fate; while at the same time the frantic effort was a reassurance against an otherwise unbearable feeling of powerlessness.
This new attitude towards effort and work as an aim in itself may be assumed to be the most important psychological change which has happened to man since the end of the Middle Ages…In Medieval society too, the burden of work was unequally distributed among the different classes in the social hierarchy, and there was a good deal of crude exploitation. But the attitude toward work was different from that which developed subsequently in the modern era. Work did not have the abstract character of producing some commodity which might be profitably sold on the market. One worked in response to a concrete demand and with concrete aim: to earn one’s livelihood. There was, as Max Weber particularly has shown, no urge to work more than was necessary to maintain the traditional standard of living. It seems that for some groups of medieval society work was enjoyed as a realization of productive ability; that many others worked because they had to and felt this necessity was conditioned by pressure from the outside. What was new in modern society was that men came to be driven to work not so much by external pressure but by an internal compulsion, which made them work as only a very strict master could have made people do in other societies.
(94) Undoubtedly capitalism could not have been developed had not the greatest part of man’s energy been channeled in the direction of work. There is no other period in history in which free men have given their energy so completely for the one purpose: work. The drive for relentless work was one of the fundamental productive forces, no less important for the development of our industrial system than steam and electricity.
(96) This picture [from Luther and Calvin] of a despotic God, who wants unrestricted power over men and their submission and humiliation, was the projection of the middle class’ own hostility and envy [of the rising class of capitalists].
(99) [summary] The breakdown of the medical system of feudal society had one main significance for all classes of society: the individual was left alone and isolated. He was free. This freedom had a twofold result. Man was deprived of the security he had enjoyed, of the unquestionable feeling of belonging, and he was torn loose from the world which had satisfied his quest for security both economically and spiritually. He felt alone and anxious. But he was also free to act and to think independently, to become his own master and do with his life as he could - not as he was told to do.
(100) [the middle class] was filled with burning resentment against the luxury and power of the wealthy classes, including the hierarchy of the Roman Church. Protestantism gave expression to the feelings of insignificance and resentment; it destroyed the confidence of man in God’s unconditional love; it taught man to despise and distrust himself and others; it made him a tool instead of an end; it capitulated before secular power and relinquished the principle that secular power is not justified because of its mere existence if it contradicts moral principles; and in doing all this it relinquished elements that had been the foundations of Judeo-Christian tradition.
(101) Protestantism was the answer to the human needs of the frightened, uprooted, and isolated individual who had to orient and to relate himself to a new world…Those very qualities which were rooted in this character structure - compulsion to work, passion for thrift, the readiness to make one’s life a tool for the purpose of an extra personal power, asceticism, and a compulsive sense of duty- were character traits which became productive forces in capitalistic society and without which modern economic and social development are unthinkable; they were the specific forms into which human energy was shaped and in which it became one of the productive forces within the social process.
Ch 4: The Two Aspects of Freedom for Modern Man
(108) One of the general characteristics of capitalistic economy is the principle of individualistic activity. In contrast to the feudal system of the Middle Ages under which everybody had a fixed place in an ordered and transparent social system, capitalistic economy put the individual entirely on his own feet. What he did, how he did it, whether he succeeded or whether he failed, was entirely his own affair. That this principle furthered the process of individualization is obvious and is always mentioned as an important item on the credit side of modern culture. But in furthering ‘freedom from,’ this principle helped to sever all ties between one individual and the other and thereby isolated and separated the individual from his fellow men. This development had been prepared by the teachings of the Reformation. In the Catholic Church the relationship of the individual to God had been based on membership in the Church. The Church was the link between him and God, thus on the one hand, restricting his individuality, but on the other hand letting him face God as an integral part of a group. Protestantism made the individual face God alone. Faith in Luther’s sense was was an entirely subjective experience and with Calvin the conviction of salvation also had this same subjective quality. The individual facing God’s might alone could not help feeling crushed and seeking salvation in complete submission. Psychologically this spiritual individualism is not too different from the economic individualism. In both instances the individual is completely alone and in his isolation faces the superior power, be it of God, of competitors, or of impersonal economic forces. The individualistic relationship to God was the psychological preparation for the individualistic character of man’s secular activities.
(109) Besides the affirmation of the individual which capitalism brought about, it also led to a self-negation and asceticism which is the direct continuation of the Protestant spirit.
(110) Economic activity and the wish for gain for its own sake appeared as irrational to the medieval thinker as their absence appears to modern thought.
(111) Luther and Calvin psychologically prepared man for the role which he had to assume in modern society: of feeling his own self to be insignificant and of being ready to subordinate his life exclusively for purposes which were not his own. Once man was ready to become nothing but the means for the glory of a God who represented neither justice nor love, he was sufficiently prepared to accept the role of a servant to the economic machine.
(111) This principle of accumulating capital instead of using it for consumption is the premise of the grandiose achievements of our modern industrial system. If man had not had the ascetic attitude to work and the desire to invest the fruits of his work for the purpose of developing the productive capacities of the economic system, our progress in mastering nature never could have been made; it is this growth of productive forces of society which for the first time in history permits us to visualize a future in which the continual struggle for the satisfaction of material needs will cease. Yet, while the principle of work for the sake of the accumulation of capital objectively is of enormous value for the progress of mankind, subjectively it has made man work for extrapersonal ends, made him a servant to the very machine he built, and thereby has given him a feeling a personal insignificance and powerlessness.
(133) The principle social avenues of escape [from ‘freedom from’] in our time are the submission to a leader, as has happened Fascist countries, and the compulsive conforming as is prevalent in our own democracy.
Ch 5. Mechanisms of Escape [which result from the insecurity of the isolated individual, i.e. ‘freedom from’ previous meaning-giving social structures.]
(136) Only a psychology which utilizes the concept of unconscious forces can penetrate the confusing rationalizations we are confronted with in analyzing either an individual or a culture. a great number of apparently insoluble problems disappear at once if we decide to give up the motion that the motives by which people believe themselves to be motivated are necessarily the ones which actually drive them to act, feel, and think as they do.
(145) [The sadistic domineering modern male] ‘loves’ [others] because he dominates them. He bribes them with material things, with praise, assurances of love, the display of wit and brilliance, or by showing concern. He may give them everything - everything except one thing: the right to be free and independent. This constellation is often to be found particularly in the relationship of parents and children. There, the attitude of domination - and ownership - is often covered by what seems to be the ‘natural’ concern of feeling of protectiveness for a child. The child is put into a golden cage, it can have everything provided it does not want to leave the cage. The result of this is often a profound fear of love on the part of the child when he grows up, as ‘love’ to him implies being caught and blocked in his own quest for freedom.
(150) Both masochistic and sadistic strivings tend to help the individual to escape his unbearable feeling of aloneness and powerlessness.
(151) The different forms which the masochistic strivings assume have one aim: to get rid of the individual self, to lose oneself; in other words, to get rid of the burden of freedom.
(152) Neurotic manifestations resemble the irrational behavior in a panic.
(153) In neurotic strivings one acts from a compulsion which has essentially a negative character: to escape an unbearable situation.
(154) By becoming part of a power which is felt as unshakably strong, eternal, and glamorous, one participates in its strength and glory. One surrenders one’s own self and renounces all strength and pride connected with it, one loses one’s integrity as an individual and surrenders freedom; but one gains a new security and a new pride in the participation in the power in which one submerges. One gains also security against the torture of doubt. The masochistic person, whether his master is an authority outside of himself or whether he has internalized the master as conscience to a psychic compulsion, is saved from making decisions, saved from the final responsibility for the fate of his self, and thereby saved from the doubt of what decision to make. He is also saved from the doubt of what the meaning of his life is or who ‘he’ is. These questions are answered by the relationship to the power to which he has attached himself. The meaning of his life and the identity of his self are determined by the greater whole into which the self has submerged.
(157) ..in sadism the hostility is usually more conscious and directly expressed in action, while in masochism the hostility is mostly unconscious and finds indirect expression.
(160) In a psychological sense, the lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness. It is the expression of the inability of the individual self to stand alone and live. It is the desperate attempt to gain secondary strength where genuine strength is lacking.
(165) The development of modern thinking from Protestantism to Kant’s philosophy, can be characterized as the substitution of internalized authority for an external one.
(177) Sadism aims at incorporation of the object; destructiveness at its removal.
3. Automaton Conformity
(190) Ask an average newspaper reader what he thinks about a certain political question. He will give you as ‘his’ opinion a more or less exact account of what he has read, and yet - and this is the essential point - he believes that what he is saying is the result of his own thinking.
(203) The automatization of the individual in modern society has increased the helplessness and insecurity of the average individual. Thus, he is ready to submit to new authorities which offer him security and relief from doubt.
Ch 6. The Psychology of Nazism
(206) As expounded by L Mumford (Faith for Living), the true sources of Fascism are to be found “in the human soul, not in economics.” He goes on: “In overwhelming pride, delight in cruelty, neurotic disintegration - in this and not in the Treaty of Versailles or in the incompetence of the German Republic lies the explanation of Fascism.”
(208) It seems that nothing is more difficult for the average man to bear than the feeling of not being identified with a larger group.
(220) The essence of the authoritarian character has been described as the simultaneous presence of sadistic and masochistic drives. Sadism was understood as aiming at unrestricted power over another person more or less mixed with destructiveness; masochism as aiming at dissolving oneself in an overwhelmingly strong power and participating in its strength and glory. Both the sadistic and the masochistic trends are caused by the inability of the isolated individual to stand alone and his need for a symbiotic relationship that overcomes this aloneness.
The sadistic craving for power finds manifold expressions in Mein Kampf…He speaks of the satisfaction the masses have in domination. “What they want is the victory of the stronger and the annihilation or the unconditional surrender of the weaker…The masses love the ruler rather than the suppliant, and inwardly they are far more satisfied by a doctrine which tolerates no rival than by the grant of liberal freedom; they often feel at a loss what to do with it, and even easily feel themselves deserted. They neither realize the impudence with which they are spiritually terrorized, not the outrageous curtailment of their human liberties for in no way does the delusion of this doctrine down on them.” (Mein Kampf).
He describes the breaking of the will of the audience by the superior strength of the speaker as the essential factor in propaganda.
(226) Nature is “the cruel queen of all wisdom.” (Mein Kampf).
(230) Hitler hated the Weimar Republic because it was weak and he admired the industrial and military leaders because they had power. He never fought against established strong power but always against groups which he thought to be essentially powerless. Hitler’s - and for that matter, Mussolini’s - ‘revolution’ happened under protection of existing power and their favorite objects were those who could not defend themselves.
(235) [Goebbels] says that man “does not dominate Nature, but that, based on the knowledge of a few laws and secrets of nature, he has risen to the position of master of those other living beings lacking this knowledge.”…Nature is the great power we have to submit to, but living beings are the ones we should dominate. (Goebbels, Michael: A German Destiny in Diary Form, 1929).
(236) The process of the destruction of the medieval world has taken four hundred years and is being completed in our era.
(236) We have seen that man cannot endure this negative freedom [‘freedom from’], that he tries to escape into new bondage which is to be a substitute for the primary bonds which he has given up. But these new bonds do not constitute real union with the world. He pays for the new security by giving up the integrity of his self. the factual dichotomy between him and these authorities does not disappear.
Ch 7. Freedom and Democracy
1. The Illusion of Individuality
(240) Although foreign and internal threats of Fascism must be taken seriously, there is no greater mistake and no graver danger than not to see that in our own society we are faced with the same phenomenon that is fertile soil for the rise of Fascism anywhere: the insignificance and powerlessness of the individual.
This statement challenges the conventional belief that by freeing the individual from all external restraints modern democracy has achieved true individualism. We are proud that we are not subject to any external authority , that we are free to express our thoughts and feelings, and we take it for granted that this freedom almost automatically guarantees our individuality. The right to express our thoughts, however, means something only if we are able to have thoughts of our own; freedom from external authority is a lasting gain only if the inner psychological conditions are such that we are able to establish our own individuality.
(245) Many psychiatrists, including psychoanalysts, have painted the picture of a ‘normal’ personality which is never too sad, too angry, or too excited. They use words like ‘infantile’ or ’neurotic’ to denounce traits or types of personalities that do not conform with the conventional pattern of a ‘normal’ individual. This kind of influence is in a way more dangerous than the older and franker forms of name-calling. Then the individual knew at least that there was some person or some doctrine which criticized him and he could fight back. But who can fight back at ‘science.’
(247) I want to mention briefly some of the educational methods used today which in effect further discourage original thinking. One is the emphasis on knowledge of facts, or I should rather say on information. The pathetic superstition prevails that by knowing more and more facts one arrives at knowledge of reality. Hundreds of scattered and unrelated facts are dumped into the heads of students; their time and energy are taken up by learning more and more facts so that there is little left for thinking. To be sure, thinking without a knowledge of facts remains empty and fictitious; but ‘information’ alone can be just as much of an obstacle to thinking as the lack of it.
(252) The particular difficulty in recognizing to what extant our wishes - and our thoughts and feelings as well - are not really our own but put into us from the outside, is closely linked up with the problem of authority and freedom. In the course of modern history the authority of the Church has been replaced by that of the State, that of the State by that of conscience, and our era, the latter has been replaced by the anonymous authority of common sense and public opinion as instruments of conformity. Because we have freed ourselves of the older overt forms of authority, we do not see that we have become the prey of a new kind of authority. We have become automatons who live under the illusion of being self-willing individuals. This illusion helps the individual to remain unaware of his insecurity…he lives in a world to which he has lost genuine relatedness and in which everybody and everything has become instrumentalized, where he has become a part of the machine that his hands have built. He thinks, feels, and wills what he believes he is supposed to think, feel, and will; intros very process he loses his self upon which all genuine security of a free individual must be built.
(254) Modern man is starved for life. But since, being an automaton, he cannot experience life in the sense of spontaneous activity he takes as surrogate any kind of excitement and thrill; the thrill of drinking, of sports, of vicariously living the excitements of fictitious persons on the screen.
2. Freedom and Spontaneity
(257) Spontaneous activity is free activity of the self and implies, psychologically, what the Latin root of the word, sponte, means literally: of one’s free will. By activity we so mean ‘doing something,’ but the quality of creative activity that can operate in one’s emotional, intellectual, and sensuous experiences and in one’s will as well. Our premise for this spontaneity is the acceptance of the total personality and the elimination of the split between ‘reason’ and ‘nature,’ for only if man does not repress essential parts of his self, only if he has become transparent to himself, and only if the different spheres of life have reached a fundamental integration, is spontaneous activity possible.
(259) Why is spontaneous activity the answer to the problem of freedom? We have said that negative freedom by itself makes the individual an isolated being, whose relationship to the world is distant and distrustful and whose self is weak and constantly threatened. Spontaneous activity is the one way in which man can overcome the terror of aloneness without sacrificing the integrity of his self; for in the spontaneous realization of the self man unites himself anew with the world - with man, nature, and himself. Love is the foremost component of such spontaneity; not love as the dissolution of the self in another person, not love as the possession of another person, but love as spontaneous affirmation of others, as the union of the individual with others on the basis of the preservation of the individual self. The dynamic quality of love lies in this very polarity: that it springs from the need of overcoming separateness , that it leads oneness - and yet that individuality is not eliminated. Work is the other component; not work as a compulsive activity in order to escape aloneness, not work as a relationship to nature which is partly one of dominating her, partly one of worship of and enslavement by the very products of man’s hands, but work as creation in which man becomes one with nature in the act of creation. What holds true of love and work holds true of all spontaneous action, whether it be the realization of sensuous pleasure or participation in the political life of the community. It affirms the individuality of the self and at the same time it unites the self with man and nature. The basic dichotomy that is inherent in freedom - the birth of individuality and the pain of aloneness - is dissolved on a higher plane by man’s spontaneous action.
(260) The inability to act spontaneously, to express what one genuinely feels and thinks, and the resulting necessity to present a pseudo self to others and oneself, are the root of the feeling of inferiority and weakness.
(261) This implies that what matters is the activity as such, the process and not the result. In our culture the emphasis is just the reverse. We produce not for a concrete satisfaction but for the abstract purpose of selling our commodity; we feel that we can acquire everything material or immaterial by buying it, and thus things become ours independently of any creative effort of our own in relation to them. In the same way we regard our personal qualities and the result of our efforts as commodities that can be sold for money, prestige, and power. The emphasis thus shifts from the present satisfaction of creative activity to the value of the finished product. Thereby man misses the only satisfaction that can give him real happiness - the experience of the activity of the present moment - and chases after a phantom that leaves him disappointed as soon as he believes he has caught it - the illusory happiness called success.
If the individual realizes his self by spontaneous activity and thus relates himself to the world, he ceases to be an isolated atom; he and the world become part of one structuralized whole; he has his rightful place, and thereby his doubt concerning himself and the meaning of life disappears.
(269) The future of democracy depends on the realization of the individualism that has been the ideological aim of modern thought since the Renaissance. The cultural and political crisis of our day is not due to the fact that there is too much individualism but that what we believe to be individualism has become an empty shell. The victory of freedom is possible only if democracy develops into a society in which the individual, his growth and happiness, is the aim and purpose of culture, in which life does not need any justification in success or in anything else, and in which the individual is not subordinated to or manipulated by any power outside of himself, be it the State or the economic machine; finally, a society in which his conscience and ideals are not the internalization of external demands, but are really his and express the aims that result from the peculiarity of his self.
Appendix: Character and the Social Process
(277) ..for the sado-masochistic character, love means symbiotic dependence, not mutual affirmation and union of the basis of equality.
(280) In our discussion of the meaning of work for modern man we have dealt with an illustration…that the intense desire for unceasing activity was rooted in aloneness and anxiety.
(287) At this point we can restate the most important differences between the psychological approach pursued in this book and that of Freud. The first point of difference [is that] we look upon human nature as essentially historically conditioned, although we do not minimize the significance of biological factors and do not believe that the question can be put correctly in terms of cultural versus biological factors. In the second place, Freud’s essential principle is to look upon man as an entity, a closed system, endowed by nature with certain physiologically conditioned drives, and to interpret the development of his character as a reaction to satisfactions and frustrations of these drives; whereas, in our opinion, the fundamental approach to human personality is the understanding of man’s relation to the world, to others, to nature, and to himself. We believe that man is primarily a social being, and not, as Freud assumes, primarily self-sufficient and only secondarily in need of others in order to satisfy his instinctual needs. In this sense, we believe that individual psychology is fundamentally social psychology or, in Sullivan’s terms, the psychology of interpersonal relationships; the key problem of psychology is that of the particular kind of relatedness of the individual toward the world, not that of satisfaction or frustration of single instinctual desires. The problem of what happens to man’s instinctual desires has to be understood as one part of the total problem of his relationship toward the world and not as the problem of human personality. Therefore, in our approach, the needs and desires that center about the individual’s relations to others, such as love, hatred, tenderness, symbiosis, are the fundamental psychological phenomena, while with Freud they are only secondary results from frustrations or satisfactions of instinctive needs.