Evaluating Fromm’s Theory of Love and its Pedagogical Significance

  • Marcus Schulzke


Erich Fromm presents an expansive conception of love, according to which love is a universalistic orientation toward others that promotes autonomy and mutual respect for humanity. This is a compelling theory, but it suffers from several conceptual limitations, such as vagueness and unresolved internal contradictions. After exploring these challenges, I show how they can be overcome in ways that clarify Fromm’s theory of love and its significance for formulating ethical norms that should govern specific relationships. Once it is rehabilitated Fromm’s conception of love provides a way of explaining how the teacher-student relationship can rely on hierarchy and authority while still promoting autonomy and empowerment. Specifically, it shows that the basis of the teacher-student relationship lies not in differences of knowledge or authority, which are only enabling conditions for this relationship, but rather in the mutual recognition that teachers and students are engaged in the same pursuit of knowledge.