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!