Fear of Freedom

I recently finished reading Erich Fromm’s wonderful book Fear of Freedom. Written during the rise of Nazi Germany it explores the historical and cultural reasons why many found it easier to comply with authority or cultural norms than to think for themselves.

He writes of the confusion of the middle classes as the stability of the Middle Ages crumbles along with the dominance of the church. How many filled this vacuum with the austerity of Calvinism as they dealt with the challenge of being in a world of fallen individuals rather than part of a well ordered if rigid existence.

It struck me while reading it how fresh and relevant the ideas were. How applicable they are to the challenges facing many of my clients in the world of work. Our old worlds of corporate stability are crumbling – the job for life, status and authority from a fixed place in the hierarchy, individual certainty at the price of loss of soul. Many feel at sea and unsure of how to proceed. The old world is broken but we can’t see the shores of a new one yet.

These are scary times indeed and we are ill prepared for the individual challenges they represent. But exciting times too. The prospect of individual freedom is there if we grab it. In my book I write about the opportunity to grow up, to wake up, and to individually and collectively seize the opportunity to shape the world when it is in an unusually malleable state.

Who knows where we are headed but the journey can be fun!

3 thoughts on “Fear of Freedom

  1. Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. Neo: What truth? Morpheus:That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.


  2. The prospect of individual freedom is there if we grab it.Hmmm .. on the one hand I think "Yes !" since it seems clear to me that our reality happens in our own head, heart and body.On the other hand … how very very much unlearning there is for most of us (me, at least) to go through to get to the point where events, issues and our thoughts and behaviours about those events and issues can be examined in a critical fashion against a backdrop of all that surrounds us and involves us.Daunting journey .. in my mind it MUST be worth it, it seems to me the best 'goal' to hold in view whilst I go about the responsibility of living.


  3. I think most of Fromm's writings are pretty universal. It's interesting to see you describing the current systems in the very same way as we, kids in Eastern Europe have experienced the changes after '89, as opposed to our parents used to the old system, who were truly lost in those changes. I personally think that every human has a genuine need for guidance, but its source will depend on our character and education. Some of our find support in nature, some in deities, others in our corporate badges. Some of us spend our lives on embedding some of those systems in our own decision making process and feel more equipped for freedom. In any case we need to understand the context of our own freedoms and learn to take responsibility for those.


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