Why Erich Fromm is ENFJ (and not ENFP)

Erich Fromm: ENFJ or ENFP?
This post is about why the famous psychologist Erich Fromm is ENFJ (and not ENFP) in the popular MBTI personality system. If you are curious about what type you are, you can take a free MBTI test here.

So you know the cognitive functions. If you do, you know that J and P are not functions that one can go by when typing. The relevant question then becomes: Is Fromm an Fe-Ni type (ENFJ), or an Ne-Fi type (ENFP)?

Luckily, in setting out to type Erich Fromm, we are blessed with a substantial TV interview; namely the interview with Mike Wallace conducted in 1958. Now, I know you know the functions. But do you also remember what Jung said about the difference between judging functions (T and F) and the perceiving functions (S and N)?

Perceiving functions are more loose and spontaneous and tend to approach a problem from multiple difference angles, all at once. If extroverted (Se and Ne), this approach weaves a convincing whole with regards to presentation but at the price of not penetrating as deeply into the problem, unless a judging function is also engaged in order to help out.[1] Yet at the same time, the judging functions could also be said to be further removed from reality, because by the time their workings have been crystallized into finalized judgments, immediate reality will already have moved on. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, one cannot step twice into the same river.[2]

Likewise, as we know from both Jung and van der Hoop, the Ne-dominant types’ ideas and perspectives tend to be particularly loose and chromatic (springy, as we like to call it). This is part of the reason why the ENP types are often perceived by others as being “cerebral but superficial.”

Yet, on the other hand, if they manage to develop their auxiliary function, they can counterbalance this springiness with something more solid and bring themselves to achieve an overarching synthesis of an impressive amount of knowledge. In the case of ENTPs, what is solid about them is their logic and principles. In the case of ENFPs what is solid about them is their values and causes.

Now on to Fromm

Now watching the aforementioned interview with Fromm it would seem to me that Fromm is anything but an Ne dominant type. Yet how can we reconcile this with his doctrines that make a habit of championing individuality (which is perhaps more of an Fi thing)? Well…

Fromm was part of a post-war generation of intellectuals where both Fi and Fe users saw individualism as the bulwark against repeating the horrors of WW2’s industrialized genocide. Both Fe and Fi intellectuals championed individualism over the community in this milieu. The point was to get to a place where people could never again say “I was only following orders.” So in a sense, it is correct to say that Fromm “goes against the system,” which, on average points more to ENFP than to ENFJ. But I am not sure that that means Fromm was an Fi user after all.

If you look at the interview, you will see that he has a particular agenda: He wants America to give up capitalism and become a Marxist state. So yes, he knocks the system, which ENFJs will, on average, be less likely to do than ENFPs, but he also has a personal stake in why he does so. It is not merely because he can loosely envision something better than the status quo (such as tends to be the fuel for the fire in the rebelliousness of NFPs.) Fromm clearly believes that there is a singular, rationally deduced alternative (Marxisim) which should be followed. He is not about the prospect of a solution; he is about what he believes to be the solution itself.

Likewise, showing true Fe, he takes care to clothe his statements in hope and optimism, rather than renouncing people for the course they’re on or by persuading by personal enthusiasm (Fi).

I think it is clear from Jung and Myers that the search for universality is more of an NTP + NFJ trait [Fe-Ti], whereas the truth of [Fi-Te] is more singular and personally felt. The ENFP is sort of a mixed type in this regard as they have the knack for personal truths [Fi], but at the same time they are also dominant pattern-recognizers [Ne] who take in as many perspectives as possible.

And incidentally, that is also the difference I see between him and Campbell: Campbell starts from a field of personal interest (mythology) and then works his way to the universal pattern contained in all cultures’ mythologies (Ne). This illustrates what I mean about the ENFP being a “mixed type” with regards to universality.

Fromm starts from the universal (Marxism, psychology, politics, love) and he ends with the universal (how to apply his agenda to society).
It is probably necessary to state here that more ‘universality’ is not necessarily better. Like everything else, it has an upside and a downside. The downside to too much “universality” is:

  • That one’s feeling becomes tyrannical and self-righteous – you cushion your surroundings in an emotional atmosphere where these people cannot reasonably be allowed to disagree.
  • A falsehood of appropriateness where the Fe-user is distanced from his own feelings, losing himself in what he “should” mean in each situation.

So all in all, that is why Fromm is ENFJ and not ENFP.

[1] Van der Hoop: Conscious Orientation pp. 106-107

[2] Heraclitus: Fragment DK 22B91: “It is not possible to step two times into the same river.”