Erich Fromm's basic thesis is that modern-day people have been torn away from then prehistoric union with nature and also with one another, yet they have the power of reasoning, foresight, and imagination. This combination of lack of animal instincts and presence of rational thought makes humans the freaks of the universe. Self-awareness contributes to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and homelessness. To escape from these feelings, people strive to become reunited with nature and with then fellow human behigs.
Trahied in Freudian psychoanalysis and influenced by Karl Marx, Karen Hor-ney, and other socially oriented theorists, Fromm developed a theory of personality that emphasizes the influence of sociobiological factors, history, economics, and class structure. His humanistic psychoanalysis assumes that humanity's separation from the natural world has produced feelings of loneliness and isolation, a condition called basic anxiety.
Fromm was more than a personality theorist. He was a social critic, psychotherapist, philosopher, biblical scholar, cultural anthropologist, and psychobiog-rapher. His humanistic psychoanalysis looks at people from a historical and cultural perspective rather than a strictly psychological one. It is less concerned with the individual and more concerned with those characteristics common to a culture.
Fromm takes an evolutionary view of humanity. When humans emerged as a separate species in animal evolution, they lost most of their animal instincts but gained "an increase in brain development that permitted self-awareness, imagination, planning, and doubt" (Fromm, 1992, p. 5). This combination of weak instincts and a highly developed brain makes humans distinct from all other animals.
A more recent event in human history has been the rise of capitalism, which on one hand has contributed to the growth of leisure time and personal freedom, but on the other hand it lias resulted hi feelings of anxiety, isolation, and powerlessness. The cost of freedom, Fromm maintained, has exceeded its benefits. The isolation wrought by capitalism has been unbearable, leaving people with two alternatives: (1) to escape from freedom into interpersonal dependencies, or (2) to move to self-realization through productive love and work.
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