The Lives of Erich Fromm

Love's Prophet

Lawrence J. Friedman. Assisted by Anke M. Schreiber

Columbia University Press

The Lives of Erich Fromm

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Pub Date: February 2013

ISBN: 9780231162593

410 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $19.95£14.95

Pub Date: February 2013

ISBN: 9780231162586

410 Pages

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Pub Date: February 2013

ISBN: 9780231531061

410 Pages

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The Lives of Erich Fromm

Love's Prophet

Lawrence J. Friedman. Assisted by Anke M. Schreiber

Columbia University Press

Erich Fromm was a political activist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, and one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century. Known for his theories of personality and political insight, Fromm dissected the sadomasochistic appeal of brutal dictators while also eloquently championing love—which, he insisted, was nothing if it did not involve joyful contact with others and humanity at large. Admired all over the world, Fromm continues to inspire with his message of universal brotherhood and quest for lasting peace.

The first systematic study of Fromm's influences and achievements, this biography revisits the thinker's most important works, especially Escape from Freedom and The Art of Loving, which conveyed important and complex ideas to millions of readers. The volume recounts Fromm's political activism as a founder and major funder of Amnesty International, the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and other peace groups. Consulting rare archival materials across the globe, Lawrence J. Friedman reveals Fromm's support for anti-Stalinist democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe and his efforts to revitalize American democracy. For the first time, readers learn about Fromm's direct contact with high officials in the American government on matters of war and peace while accessing a deeper understanding of his conceptual differences with Freud, his rapport with Neo-Freudians like Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan, and his association with innovative artists, public intellectuals, and world leaders. Friedman elucidates Fromm's key intellectual contributions, especially his innovative concept of "social character," in which social institutions and practices shape the inner psyche, and he clarifies Fromm's conception of love as an acquired skill. Taking full stock of the thinker's historical and global accomplishments, Friedman portrays a man of immense authenticity and spirituality who made life in the twentieth century more humane than it might have been.

Although there are some books on Fromm, none approach the depth and comprehensiveness of Friedman's work. Love's Prophet is based on research on … sources that no other scholars have used. It details Fromm's… perhaps unconscious decision to eschew an academic career and become—even if he would not use the term—a public intellectual.

Gerald N. Grob, Henry E. Sigerist Professor of the History of Medicine (Emeritus), Rutgers University

Full of interesting material about Fromm's background, extensive intellectual contacts, political and psychoanalytic activities, and the range of his thinking that many readers will not know—certainly I did not know.

Dorothy Ross, Arthur O. Lovejoy Professor Emerita of History, Johns Hopkins University

Thanks to Lawrence Friedman's comprehensive and subtle protrait of Erich Fromm, a new generation of readers will be inspired to explore Fromm's life and works. He was an idealist, but never naive or out of touch with what might be possible if only individual societies or government officials had the courage to face the dangerous possibilities that lay before them. As Friedman makes clear, when From helped to establish Amnesty International in the early 1960s, he demonstrated that the defense of human freedom begins--and must begin--with a commitment to judge any society by who is sitting in its jails.

Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director, Amnesty International

This is more than a highly enlightening study of the life and work of a remarkable 20th century figure.The penetrating review and analysis of the many facets of Fromm's writing and activities also illuminates the intellectual ferment and political history of the turbulent and often terrifying times during which Fromm played such a constructive and influential role, with lasting significance.

Noam Chomsky, Department of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The leading American expert on topics psychological, Lawrence Friedman has again published an outstanding biography of one of the nation's most significant figures in the realm of social philosophy and psychology, Erich Fromm. Millions read his Escape from Freedom (1941) and The Art of Loving (1956). Thoroughly researched in the U.S., Mexico, Germany, and Switzerland, Friedman brilliantly traces Fromm's prolific philosophical and psychological career. He also sensitively explores Fromm's complicated personal and sexual life and his valuable backstage advising to Presidents and liberal politicians. This highly accessible work will intrigue and enlighten thousands of readers.

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, University of Florida

In this riveting biography of Erich Fromm, Lawrence Friedman reveals how Fromm's writings continue to speak to many of the most crucial issues of our time. His ideas about social character have been validated by recent discoveries in the human sciences and his insights about politics and political organizing anticipate the successful 2008 Obama campaign. Fromm's work can help us to recover the grand vision of the social sciences as a means to understanding and ameliorating the human condition, or, as From would put it, to choosing life over destructiveness.

Carol Gilligan, Professor New York University, Pioneer in Gender Studies, Author of "In a Different Voice" and "Joining the Resistance"

In mid-century America, a peak era for public intellectuals, Erich Fromm's psychological and sociological writings were required reading among the intelligentsia. What's more, his ideas were widely discussed by others, ranging from the millions who devoured The Art of Loving to U.S. Senators and even President John Kennedy. In this compelling biography, historian Lawrence Friedman, author of the definitive biography of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, details the cornucopia of ideas that issued from Fromm's fertile mind as well as the fascinating and little known details of his lengthy, controversial and exceedingly full life.

Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Through this thorough portrait, Love's Prophet emerges as an exemplar of enjoying an examined life to its fullest potential.

Publishers Weekly

The brilliantly comprehensive study of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm's (1900–1980) many 'lives' as a clinician, philosopher, social critic and political activist.... Academic biography at its best.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Accessible to general readers - a sympathetic, stimulating biography of one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century.

Library Journal (starred review)

A thoroughly absorbing history of the cultural and political context within which Fromm's life was lived.

Vivian Gornick, Boston Review

Friedman is a consummate intellectual biographer.

Michael M. Canaris, America

Meticulous, detailed.... A model of intellectual biography.

Alan Ryan, New York Review of Books

A valuable contribution to Fromm scholarship and to American political and social history.

Daniel Burston, PsycCritiques

A deep, insightful, and very human portrait of one of the great public intellectuals of the 20th century.


Friedman's biography tracks Fromm through the various phases of his life in detail, providing a thickness of description that hasn't been available before.

Paul Reitter, Times Literary Supplement

The most thoroughly, well-researched, and balanced biography so far of Erich Fromm... A clear and richly detailed overview of Fromm's life and work.

American Historical Review

An intellectual biography of the first order.

Journal of American History

An outstanding intellectual and biographical study... Lawrence Friedman effectively helps us understand the lives and transformations of Erich Fromm as analyzed in this lucid book.

Foreword, by Gerald N. Grob
Prologue: Writing Lives
Part 1: Germany
1. The Unsteady Apprentice
2. Frankfurt Scholar
Part 2: The Americas
3. The Americanization of a European Intellectual
4. Escape from Freedom
5. Clinician and Ethicist
6. To Love and to Mentor
7. Politics and Prose
Part 3: Global Citizenship
8. Prophecies for a Troubled World
9. A Third Way
10. "Life Is Extravagance": Almost
11. Hope and Stasis
12. Love and Death
A Bibliographical Note

Read an excerpt on Erich Fromm's The Art of Loving (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner)

Web Features:
Lawrence Friedman on The Leonard Lopate Show
Erich Fromm interviewed by Mike Wallace (1958)

About the Author

Lawrence J. Friedman is a professor in Harvard University's Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative and a professor emeritus at Indiana University. The author of eight scholarly books and more than fifty articles, he has lectured in eleven countries and was named International Writer of the Year for 2003 by the International Biographical Center. His works include Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik Erikson; Menninger: The Family and the Clinic; Gregarious Saints: Self and Community in American Abolitionism; and The White Savage: Racial Fantasies in the Postbellum South.