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Erich Fromm's Social Development Theories & Influences

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  • 0:04 Cultural Context: Nazi Germany
  • 0:35 Influence of Sigmund Freud
  • 1:18 The Five Basic Needs
  • 2:11 Character Types
  • 2:59 Influence of Marxism
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will discuss the social development theories of Erich Fromm, as well as identify the influence that Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx had on Fromm's theories.

Cultural Context: Nazi Germany

Erich Fromm was a 20th century German psychoanalyst. Think for a moment about what was happening in Germany during his time. In 1921, Adolf Hitler became the head of the Nazi party. Throughout the 1920s Fromm attended college in Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Munich, and Berlin. By 1933, the Holocaust had begun. Let's find out how Fromm's Freudian roots were influenced by the political climate as he established his social development theories.

Influence of Sigmund Freud

Fromm's post-doctoral education was primarily in psychoanalysis at both the University of Munich and the Psychoanalytic Institute of Berlin. Psychoanalysis is a process of thoroughly examining how the events in a person's life have influenced that person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Psychoanalysis was first developed by Sigmund Freud.

At first, Fromm strongly adhered to Freud's theories, but over time he began to disagree with some tenets. For example, Fromm felt that personality was affected more by social and economic factors and less by unconscious desires. By the time Fromm relocated to America in 1934, his ideas were considered by Freudians to be controversial.

The Five Basic Needs

One of Fromm's theories, called the five basic needs, likely surfaced from the uniqueness of his environment at the time. The theory relates to the development of each person's responsibility to promote the common good rather than comply passively to societal expectations. Fromm identified the five basic needs of every individual as follows:

  1. People need to feel connected.
  2. People need to transcend their haphazard lives, either through love or hate.
  3. People need to feel as though they belong someplace in the world.
  4. People need to develop a sense of self.
  5. People need orientation, either through assimilation or socialization. Assimilation relates to things such as a career path or a religion, while socialization relates to personal relationships with others.

Character Types

Fromm also identified typical patterns of behavior that develop as people choose their direction in life. According to Fromm, people generally fall into one of the six character orientations:

  1. The receptive character lacks generosity. This kind of person is a taker.
  2. The hoarding character feels vulnerable to others, and therefore tries to keep things for himself.
  3. An exploitative character takes advantage of other people.
  4. A marketing character has little self-worth and views themselves as mere possessions.
  5. The productive character fully develops as a person who can love and give back to society.
  6. A necrophilous character is obsessed with death.
  7. A biophilous character is concerned with the growth and development of themselves and others.

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