Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem


Disobedienceas a Psychological and Moral Problem

Fromm, E. (1963). Disobedience as aPsychological and Moral Problem. New York: Seabury Press.

Throughout the history of human beings, their living in the societyhas since been conditioned to view obedience as a disobedience and“virtue” as a vice. Whether it is through threat of coercion orpunishment, the German Nazis shows the length and degree of thoseindividuals they obey before going against the high power doctrines.In the “Disobedience as a Psychological Problem,” Erich Frommremains adamant that this kind of conditioning is like a threat tothe future of humanity. This is because freedom is needed fordisobedience and disobedience demands freedom.

Far from becoming the notorious evil it is portrayed to be, Frommargues that when Adam disobeyed God, God freed mankind and allowedAdam and Eve to be full humans. Again, Fromm argues that specificperks are offered to those individuals who conform permanently frompromotions to elevate power. However, many of these things are notsticking with life. Fromm maintains that even though our conditioningto stick with and obey, human being evolves most following their actsof disobedience. Following a critique of this thesis, it is apparentthat greatest civilization advancement are a result of disobediencerather that the obedience.

Looking at the essay, Erich Fromm talks about the concept ofobedience, and the manner in which we human beings have secured andare seduced by its luxuries and comforts, which include better payingpositions, peer approval, and being “liked.” The author arguesthat some of the seductive comforts, which he considers as“life-affirming.” However, others are completely destructive.Fromm points out that in spite of individuals’ unwillingness to goagainst authority people have “continuously evolve as disobedienceacts.” In support of his case, both Gandhi and Martin Luther, Jr.are two of the many examples. Here, Martin’s obedience resulted inthe Civil Rights Act and Gandhi’ allowing freedom to the Indiansfrom decades of oppression from the British Rule.

Fromm approach is paradoxical. On one hand, he insists that the“human history started with a single act of disobedience…,” andextensively moving on about humanity could completely be obliteratedwhen some things falls blindly to disobedience with regard to usingnuclear weapons. Fromm surprises the readers, especially when theideas about obedience being completely unique when it is from therational or irrational authority. The concept is difficult tocomprehend, especially when it focuses on the two extreme instancesof disobedience. The first situation is about the teacher and thestudent, while the second one is between the slave and the master.Here, Fromm did clarify about the difference between every source ofauthority may fail. Other indirect relationships for instance, arerepresented afterwards like the State and citizen, self and publicopinion, and Church and faithful.

Fromm, in his essay, does make it clear when he argued that obedienceshould always be accompanied with ideas that emphasize that “freedomand obedience capacity being inseparable.” Therefore, anypolitical, social, religious, and political system that proclaimsfreedom, yet on the other hand, it stamps out disobedience, and couldnot speak out for the truth. In a way, Fromm is emphasizing thatobedience acceptable always, more so when the options to differ areavailable.


Fromm, E. (1963). Disobedience as a Psychological and MoralProblem. New York: Seabury Press.