Essay Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem by Erich Fromm

Essay Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem by Erich Fromm

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Necessary Rebellion

Erich Fromm is a psychoanalyst and sociologist who wrote many books and journals over the years. Fromm closely studied other psychologists such as Freud and Marx, and he published analytical works on both many other theories. In his essay, “Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem,” Fromm explains that as humans we start out with disobedience, and make it into something horrible—something for which we must repent, feel sorry for, and act as if we won’t do it again (621).
Obedience is thought to be a high moral standard which we are to follow. On the other hand, disobedience is considered a moral flaw, wrongness, or something you just should not do. When your mother says that you can’t eat cookies for dinner, how likely are you to listen? This is an act of disobedience.
Let’s go back to biblical times for just a moment. Fromm explains that during the time Adam and Eve reside in the Garden of Eden, they live in innocence and harmony. This harmony is disrupted by the “Act of Disobedience,” which is labeled in biblical terms as the “original sin.” This act of disobedience describes the first moral flaw, and the consequential corruption of mankind. By disobeying God, Adam and Eve take the first steps towards independence and freedom. This helps them reach their spiritual and intellectual capacity. After Adam and Eve leave the Garden of Eden, they create a new harmony referred to as “the end of days” (622). To the prophets, man is right to disobey; this allows him to think for himself. In many ways, parents encourage kids to think for themselves. By simply picking out their clothes or packing their own lunch, children move away from following their parents, and towards the formation of their own identities...


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... mothers, the ability to pick out their own clothes is different from their mothers choosing what they will wear. What separates us from our parents and our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers—it’s rebellion. The differences between us define us and make us matter. And this begins in childhood. It begins with blue hair dye, blown curfews, and mouthing off. The self needs distance if it is to form.
Obedience and disobedience play a huge role in our lives as humans. We begin with disobedience. With that, though, we develop the ability to choose to obey or disobey. In doing this, we obey the highest calling that we must: human nature. No matter how we modernize as a society, the primal instincts and decisions that rise up in every human being are very much the same as they have always been. Yes, we live in the Stone Age—but what would a modern soul look like, anyway?

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