“On Disobedience and Other Essays” by Erich Fromm

On Disobedience and Other EssaysOn Disobedience and Other Essays by Erich Fromm

“Indeed, freedom and the capacity for disobedience are inseparable; hence any social, political, and religious system which proclaims freedom, yet stamps out disobedience, cannot speak the truth.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“Capitalism puts things (capital) higher than life (labor). Power follows from possession, not from activity.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“The supreme principle of socialism is that man takes precedence over things, life over property, and hence, work over capital; that power follows creation, and not possession; that man must not be governed by circumstances, but circumstances must be governed by man.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“For centuries kings, priests, feudal lords, industrial bosses and parents have insisted that obedience is a virtue and that disobedience is a vice.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“We are poor in spite of all our wealth because we have much, but we are little.’ As a result, the average man feels insecure, lonely, depressed, and suffers from a lack of joy in the midst of plenty. Life does not make sense to him; he is dimly aware that the meaning of life cannot lie in being nothing but a ‘consumer.’ He could not stand the joylessness and meaninglessness of life were it not for the fact that the system offers him innumerable avenues of escape, ranging from television to tranquilizers, which permit him to forget that he is losing more and more of all that is valuable in life.”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying No to Power

“If a man can only obey and not disobey, he is a slave; if he can only disobey and not obey, he is a rebel (not a revolutionary); he acts out of anger, disappointment, resentment, yet not in the name of a conviction or a principle.

Obedience to a person, institution or power (heteronomous obedience) is submission; it implies the abdication of my autonomy and the acceptance of a foreign will or judgment in place of my own. Obedience to my own reason or conviction (autonomous obedience) is not an act of submission but one of affirmation. My conviction and my judgment, if authentically mine, are part of me. If I follow them rather than the judgment of others, I am being myself;(p. 6)

In order to disobey, one must have the courage to be alone, to err and to sin.

…; hence any social, political, and religious system which proclaims freedom, yet stamps out disobedience, cannot speak the truth.(p. 8)

At this point in history the capacity to doubt, to criticize and to disobey may be all that stands between a future for mankind and the end of civilization. (p. 10)It is the function of the prophet to show reality, to show alternatives and to protest; it is his function to call loudly, to awake man from his customary half-slumber. It is the historical situation which makes prophets, not the wish of some men to be prophets. (p. 12)

Disobedience, then, in the sense in which we use it here, is an act of the affirmation of reason and will. It is not primarily an attitude directed against something, but for something: for man’s capacity to see, to say what he sees, and to refuse to say what he does not see (p. 17)

That which was the greatest criticism of socialism fifty years ago—that it would lead to uniformity, bureaucratization, centralization, and a soulless materialism—is a reality of today’s capitalism.
(p. 31)

Man, instead of being the master of the machines he has built, has become their servant. But man is not made to be a thing, and with all the satisfactions of consumption, the life forces in man cannot be held in abeyance continuously. We have only one choice, and that is mastering the machine again, making production into a means and not an end, using it for the unfolding of man—or else the suppressed life energies will manifest themselves in chaotic and destructive forms. Man will want to destroy life rather than die of boredom. (p. 32)

The supreme loyalty of man must be to the human race and to the moral principles of humanism.
(p. 38)

The individual must be protected from fear and the need to submit to anyone’s coercion. (p. 42)

Not only in the sphere of political decisions, but with regard to all decisions and arrangements, the grip of the bureaucracy must be broken in order to restore freedom. (p. 42)

According to its basic principles, the aim of socialism is the abolition of national sovereignty, the abolition of any kind of armed forces, and the establishment of a commonwealth of nations. (p. 43)

It is exactly the weakness of contemporary society that it offers no ideals, that it demands no faith, that it has no vision—except that of more of the same. (p. 49)

Socialism must be radical. To be radical is to go to the roots; and the root is Man. (p. 49)”
― Erich FrommOn Disobedience and Other Essays

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