In universities in Germany, psychology has been more and more oriented towards paradigms of natural sciences and behaviorism. Psychodynamic concepts are by and large neglected. To counteract this development, the International Psychoanalytic University (IPU) Berlin was founded in 2009. Furthermore, Erich Fromm's scientific thinking in the field of psychoanalysis and psychodynamically-oriented social psychology as well as his humanistic view of human nature are also finding less and less resonance in teaching programs at universities.
The Erich Fromm Study Center (EFSC) was established at the IPU Berlin in 2016. The activities conducted by the Erich Fromm Study Center serve the aim of conveying and further developing the sociopsychological thinking of Erich Fromm. Taking a humanistic understanding of science as its basis, it is concerned with investigating and probing the psychological and social conditions for the success of humans and society, as well as with the application of corresponding findings to course contents and research projects.
Professor Dr. Thomas Kühn, who holds the Erich Fromm Endowed Professorship, and Dr. Rainer Funk, Head of the Erich Fromm Institute in Tübingen, manage and run the Erich Fromm Study Center together.
Since the winter semester 2016/17, Prof. Dr. Thomas Kühn has held the Erich Fromm Foundation professorship for work and organizational psychology. He is also in charge of the Master programs "Leadership and Counselling – Psychodynamically based Organisational Development" and "Psychology Focusing on Organisation. Transformation Processes in Work, Society and Environment", for which the examination of the work of Erich Fromm is of central importance. He is supported by the staff scientists Katrin Voigt and Niclas O'Donnokoé.
One of the main concerns of the Erich Fromm Study Center is the teaching of Erich Fromm’s social-psychoanalytical and humanistic theories in teaching, advanced education, and training at the IPU Berlin. The teaching activities of the holder of the Erich Fromm professorship, as well as of lecturers in as many courses of study at the IPU as possible, are used to convey this knowledge. In addition to the Master's program on "Leadership and Counselling - Psychodynamically Based Organisational Development", the modules "Social Psychology", "Empirical Social Research", "Personality Theory", "Qualification of Executives" as well as "Clinical and Non-clinical Applications of Psychoanalysis" are offered in other study programmes.
In order to promote young scientists worldwide, an international seminar for young Fromm researchers (PhD students, post-docs, and others) is offered annually at the Erich Fromm Institute in Tübingen.
In addition, the EFSC can provide support for the development of planned and ongoing doctoral and postdoctoral projects in the field of (social) psychology that deal with Erich Fromm's work as well as student theses. Furthermore, the Erich Fromm Study Center organizes an annual Erich Fromm lecture at the IPU Berlin by a renowned guest scholar.
In June 2018, the Erich Fromm Study Center at the IPU organized the 2nd International Erich Fromm Research Conference with approx. 120 participants and 50 lecturers/ moderators. Important lectures and discussions can be found in the media center. Rainer Funk and Thomas Kühn have published resulting publications in the Fromm Forum 23/2019 under the main topic "Putting Society on the Couch". The articles are available on our website as open access documents.
The 1st International Erich Fromm Research Conference took place in June 2014 with 50 Fromm researchers. The most important results were published in "Towards a Human Science: The Relevance of Erich Fromm for Today" (edited by R. Funk and N. McLaughlin, Giessen, Psychosozial Verlag, 2015) and are also available in the media center.
The next International Erich Fromm Research Conference will take place in 2023.
Erich Fromm Center for Humanistic Ethics, Leadership and Consulting
The Erich Fromm Center for Humanistic Ethics, Leadership and Consulting will strengthen the focus on research in the field of work and organizational psychology and contribute to a transfer of Fromm's approach for important and system-relevant issues in society and business. This will bring even more attention to how relevant Fromm's approach is for the practice of leadership and consulting based on humanistic ethics. At the same time, the theoretical development of approaches in this area and the utilization of these approaches by decision-makers will be promoted. The basis for this are publications on the systematic use of Fromm's approach for leadership, consulting and organizational development and the development of practical tools based on this.
Thomas Kühn, born 1971, has been the Erich Fromm Endowed Professor since October 2016. At the same time, he is responsible for the specialist field of work and organisational psychology at the IPU Berlin. Prior to this as a Senior Researcher at the University of Bremen from 2009 to 2016, he was Head of the Social and Market Psychology Department at the Institute of Psychology and Transfer. In 2015, he was awarded the Venia legendi for psychology at the University of Bremen. His post-doctoral (habilitation) treatise was entitled: "Kritische Sozialpsychologie des modernen Alltags. Zum Potenzial einer am Lebenslauf orientierten Forschungsperspektive"/Critical Sociopsychology of the Modern Everyday. On the Potential for a Research Perspective Oriented to a Life Course. (Springer VS publisher 2015).
He is the author and editor of several books, including some on group discussions (Springer VS publisher 2011, together with Kay-Volker Koschel) and on the social situation in Brazil (Springer VS publisher 2006, together with Jessé Souza). He began his scientific career in the DFG German Research Association 186 Special Research Area "Status Passages and the Life Course" at the University of Bremen, for which he wrote his doctoral thesis in 2003 on the interlinking of professional biographies and founding families. Since then his research work has focused on exploring identity, biographic processes and their socio-political framing. At the University of Bremen, he headed the DFG German Research Association research project "Identity Constructions in a Life Course". He is a member of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP).
Thomas Kühn’s scientific works were awarded the Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and an Endeavour Fellowship from the Australian government.
Rainer Funk, born 1943, is a psychoanalyst with his own practice in Tübingen. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the ethics of Erich Fromm and he was Fromm’s last assistant in the 1970s. Fromm named him his executor and rights proprietor and bequeathed his library, scientific legacy and academic estate to him. In 2014, Funk transferred this into the Erich Fromm Non-profit Foundation (EFS) which is the sole Fromm research centre worldwide supported by the Erich Fromm Institute in Tübingen (EFIT – Hintere Grabenstr. 26). Funk completed his training to become a psychoanalyst and analytic couple therapist between 1977 and 1983 at the Stuttgart Academy.
In addition to his therapeutic practice, Funk has published the works of Fromm (including the Erich Fromm complete edition in twelve volumes, DVA and dtv publishers 1999) as well as works on Fromm’s biography, sociopsychology and psychoanalysis. His own sociopsychology book publications worth mentioning include: "Ich und Wir. Psychoanalyse des postmodernen Menschen"/I and We. Psychoanalysis of the Postmodern Human (dtv publisher 2005) and "Der entgrenzte Mensch"/The Unbounded Human (Gütersloher Verlagshaus publisher 2011).
Funk has lectured in Bremen, Reutlingen and Fulda, and has taught at the International Psychoanalytic University (IPU) in Berlin since 2013. Moreover, he is the administrator of Erich Fromm’s rights (www.erich-fromm.de) and has helped to shape and organise the International Erich Fromm Society (www.fromm-gesellschaft.de) since 1985. Together with Professor Thomas Kühn he has been head of the Erich Fromm Study Center at the IPU since autumn 2016.
Katrin Voigt is a research associate at the International Psychoanalytic University (IPU) Berlin in the field of work and organizational psychology and at the Erich Fromm Study Center. She is also doing her doctoral thesis on the relationship between national identity constructions and the reproduction of social inequality in Germany. She previously studied psychology and transcultural studies at the University of Bremen and wrote her master's thesis on the representation of fugitive women in feminist journals. As a student assistant, she worked in Bremen in the DFG project "Identity Constructions in Individual Biographies". Her research focuses on qualitative social research, social identity and subject-constructions in the context of class, gender, race and nation and transculturality.
Niclas O'Donnokoé has been working as a research associate at the International Psychoanalytic University (IPU) at the Erich Fromm Study Center since October 2023. He previously studied psychology at the University of Cologne and at the IPU. As a student assistant, he worked under the direction of Prof. Phil C. Langer and Dr. Sebastian Winter on a research project on right-wing extremist youth camps and trips. His main academic interests are critical theory, subject theory, gender and sexuality research, and alternative models of society, property and economics.