Edge of Catastrophe: Erich Fromm’s Fight Against Fascism and Racism - Roger Frie, PhD, PsyD, RPsych (Live)

January 24, 2025

2024-25 Friday Night Guest Lecture Series

What does it mean to be both a social critic and a practicing psychotherapist? In view of the social and political crises we face, this is surely one of our profession’s most pressing challenges. This talk will draw on the early work of Erich Fromm, one of the twentieth century’s best known public intellectuals and least understood psychoanalysts. Fromm escaped Nazi Germany and was one of very few psychoanalysts to speak publicly about the dangers of fascism. As Director of Social Psychology and Psychoanalysis at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, he developed a view of the human psyche as fundamentally social and political in nature. Shortly before the United States declared war on Nazi Germany, Fromm published Escape From Freedom, which sought to explain why so many Germans enthusiastically supported Hitler. What has remained virtually unknown is that when Fromm’s was openly arguing against fascism, he was simultaneously engaged in a campaign to save family members and colleagues who remained behind in Nazi Germany. Drawing on unpublished Holocaust correspondence, this talk will show how the traumas and tragedies in Fromm’s family shaped his public stance against racism and destructiveness. For Fromm, the personal was always political, and time was short. In an era when psychoanalysts sought to keep the individual psyche strictly separate from social and political concerns, Fromm was ostracized for his progressive stance. Given the growth of fascism today, what can we learn from Fromm’s sense of urgency? How might Fromm’s ethical stance apply to our current situation and to our work as practitioners?

Course summary
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
Event starts: 
01/24/2025 - 6:30pm EST
Event ends: 
01/24/2025 - 8:00pm EST

Roger Frie, PhD, PsyD, RPsych, is professor of education at Simon Fraser University and affiliate professor of psychiatry at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and Faculty and Supervisor at the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology in New York. He is 2023-2024 Visiting Scholar in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and was 2022 Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis at Kyoto University and 2021 DAAD Visiting Professor at the International Psychoanalytic University in Berlin. He writes and lectures on the themes of historical trauma, memory and social responsibility. His newest book is Edge of Catastrophe: Erich Fromm, Fascism and the Holocaust (Oxford, 2024) and he is also author of Not in My Family: German Memory and Responsibility after the Holocaust (Oxford, 2017). His most recent edited book, with Pascal Sauvayre, is Culture, Politics and Race in the Making of Interpersonal Psychoanalysis: Breaking Boundaries (Routledge, 2022).

Austen Riggs Center Inc. adheres to the ACCME’s Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Medical Education. All those at Austen Riggs Center involved in the planning of this activity, including the presenter(s) listed above, report they have no relevant financial relationships with an ineligible company*.

The views and opinions expressed in this presentation are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the Austen Riggs Center.


* An ineligible company is any entity whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.

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