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Witenberg, E.G. (1997). Erich Fromm, As Seen By Analysts Of The 1990s: A Review of A Prophetic Analyst: Erich Fromm’s Contributions to Psychoanalysis, edited by Mauricio Cortina, M.D., and Michael Maccoby, Ph.D. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1996. 461 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 33:334-339.

(1997). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 33:334-339

Erich Fromm, As Seen By Analysts Of The 1990s: A Review of A Prophetic Analyst: Erich Fromm’s Contributions to Psychoanalysis, edited by Mauricio Cortina, M.D., and Michael Maccoby, Ph.D. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1996. 461 pp.

Review by:
Earl G. Witenberg, M.D.

ERICH FROMM WAS A “RESPECTED WRITER” whose ideas influenced intellectual debate in the 1940s and 1950s. He was in those decades the most popular author to bring sociological analysis into integration with depth psychology. He lost some influence by crossing academic disciplines; he was no respecter of the rigidity of departmental boundaries. Herbert Marcuse also hurt Fromm’s reputation among the political left. He characterized Fromm as a neo-Freudian with a superficial culturalist outlook who distorted Freud by describing him as a radical philosopher.

For people at the White Institute, which Fromm cofounded, it is interesting to note that Fromm emigrated to Mexico in 1950 because of his wife’s illness; while there he began the Mexican Psychoanalytic Institute. He had been chairman of the faculty and of the Training Committee at White from 1946 to 1950. After his move, he visited New York for three months each year, at which time he was available for consultation by Institute members. He also continued to give seminars annually.

During those years he would expound on how he viewed Freud’s instinctual approach to be metaphoric rather than literal. He noted his close affinity with Freud’s intellectual legacy. However, he reformulated Freud’s belief that the infant’s primary drive was to minimize tension and seek pleasure, insisting instead that the infant’s (and the adult’s) primary need is to establish affectional ties that provide a sense of security and belonging.

Early on, Fromm discovered he could bypass the mainstream psychoanalytic community and did not need its approval. His free-ranging contributions intersperse a radical critique of society with a commitment to and analysis of humanistic values and ideals.

His contributions remain relevant, as evidenced by the papers gathered together in A Prophetic Analyst. Almost all of the papers were presented at the Erich Fromm International Symposium, May 1994.

Fromm never wrote a clinical psychoanalytic study.

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