Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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The fear of freedom

As an omnivorous reader, whose tastes have always been wider than they have been wise, I have read a large number of forgettable books.

The tally of unforgettable books is much smaller, and the third in this list of seven books in seven days is one of the most unforgettable.

Erich Fromm came into my life by chance, as a result of shelf surfing in a library while trying to write an essay. One of the gaping holes in my education is philosophy, and the overlapbetween philosophy and psychology.

Fear of Freedom is one of those books that rewards not just a cover to cover read, butalso dipping in – here an explanation of the psychological basis of Calvinism, there a refinement of the Oedipus complex that  turns Freud on his head. The book is rich with insights that enlighten and amaze.

So why do I wish I had written it? There’s an obvious explanation. I wish I were as wise as Erich Fromm.

That’s not the main reason though. Fear of Freedom is a book I think everyone should read, but it’s not a popular book.It’s a book written for an intellectual audience,even though it has meaning for all of us. Fromm makes no concessions to a wider audience than the intellectual circles that were his own natural millieu.

It’s also a cosmopolitan book, written by a European who lived in and enjoyed the USA. If I know anything about British political is course, it is that the belief in English exceptionalism is all consuming. A book that talks about Calvinism during the reformation will founder in the face of English theological illiteracy, and the historical fact of the English reformation that preceded an English revolution by a century.

An English version of Fromm’s book would take Fromm’s thoughts and set them in Orwell’s England. It would take Fromm’s ideas about loneliness and alienation  and use them to point up the contradiction inherent in an Englishman’s home being his castle, but at the price of being isolated behind a moat and drawbridge. It would look at Fromm’s ideas about superstition and advertising, and link them to the very English deification of Lady Luck who blinds the population to the mathematical realities of the National Lottery.

Fear of Freedom is hugely relevant now, because of the way it explores our willingness to surrender our freedoms in pursuit of an illusion of security, butit desperately needs an update . That’s why I wish it was a book I had written, a book that fills the space after Gramsci, and which would challenge the intellectual vacuum that is current day politics..




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This entry was posted on December 26, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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