SOCIOL 4EE3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Eric Fromm, Intellectual, Eurocentrism

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13 Oct 2015
Somya Paliwal
How to Become a Forgotten Intellectual
This article draws upon a comparative analysis between the careers of Eric Fromm and
Derrida to help explain the rise and fall of Fromm and why his reputation plummeted. The author
suggests that the success of a public intellectual does not necessarily entirely rest upon the
inherent qualities of their ideas, rather the process is far more complicated than that when
considering reputation studies. To offer a framework, the article suggests that Fromm’s
reputation can be considered in accordance to climate of the times, geography or national
traditions, institutional prestige, and personal characteristics.
Climate of the times affects the fate of public intellectuals because it outlines the certain
historical, political, and cultural factors that dictate whether ideas fit into the desired model of
the time. Geography is an important factor in the case of Fromm because his distance from
American institutions when he moved to Mexico arguably made it difficult for him to maintain
networks, which was more feasible when he lived in New York. The author also argues that ties
to academic organizations and a certain element of institutional prestige is necessary for
intellectual reputations to stay afloat because it provides individuals with professional and
positive reputations and useful connections. Lastly, personal characteristics are important in
order to gain and maintain recognition.
As a case study, Derrida was successful because his ideas found a niche in the cultural
market of French intellectuals which fit the contemporary model of the climate of the times, and
also effectively networked with people in the academic world to establish intellectual prestige,
which provided the means for him to diffuse his ideas. His ideas were also presented with
optimal timing because they fit the needs of the academic field. In comparison, all of the four
factors (climate of the times, e.t.c.) aligned neatly in the 1940s for Fromm which allowed him to
rise to fame, but they degraded and worked against him into the 1960s, explaining his
reputational downfall. In addition, Fromm was known to step foot into multiple fields of study to
argue his ideas, which in a sense made him unappealing because he belonged to no specific field
and therefore could not contribute strong theories to any discipline. Fromm’s disassociation with
the Frankfurt School also took a large toll on his institutional prestige, networking opportunities,
and ability to defend his ideas from critics. In addition, Fromm faced scrutiny because he
criticized Marx and Freud and attempted to reform their theories to use them in social
psychology, but in this process, he made enemies with supporters of both theorists. Most
importantly, Derrida was able to remain prominent because his ideas were of use to theorists at
the time, while Fromm’s were untimely and failed to fit the favourable model. This made Derrida
an insider and Fromm an outsider.
Woman’s Place in Man’s Life Cycle
The authors main argument for the introduction and first chapter is that the field of
psychology has very problematic shortcomings in terms of its inclusion of female models of
thinking about human development and morality. Gilligan argues that although past research
appears to be objective in depicting a woman’s development and life cycle, upon further review,
it is not actually objective because the observer was almost always a man and women were fit
into a model revolving around men. By attempting to fit a woman into a man’s life cycle, men
are made the norm and women are perceived as deviants. She draws upon the problematic work
of Freud and Erickson to illustrate how women’s inevitable “failure” to fit models favourable to
men is unfairly conveyed as pathology.
Gilligan refers to works about gender identity formation at the child and adolescent
stages, analysing the ways in which boys construct ideas about masculinity and girls construct
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