Born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1900, Erich Fromm's early influences came from scholarly Jews: Herman Cohen, known as a neo-Kantian, was a very liberal thinker; Rabbi Nehemia Nobel, a famous Talmudist who was also knowledgeable of much psychoanalytical literature; and Rabbi Salman Baruch Rabinkow, a student of Jewish mysticism with a strong sympathy for socialism. From these men, Fromm chose a vocation as a rabbi, but World War I deterred him from it. He wrote that he was obsessed with the question of how war was possible, and desirous of a wish to understand human mass behavior.
Moving from his religious background, Fromm became profoundly influenced by the psychonanlytical theories of Sigmund Freud and social theories of Karl Marx. In addition, his experiences at the University of Frankfurt and the Frankfurt Psychoanalytical Institute exerted influence upon him.
Erich Fromm sought to bring together psychoanalysis and an appreciation of the influence of social structure. He wrote,
I wanted to understand the laws that govern the life of the individual man, and the laws of society--that is, of men in their social existence. I tried to see the lasting truth in Freud's concepts as against those assumptions which were in need of revision. I tried to do the same with Marx's theory, and finally I tried to arrive at a synthesis which followed from the understanding and criticism of both thinkers. (quoted by Funk, 1999)
Fromm's great work, The Art of Loving, however, disturbed orthodox Freudians because of its inclusion of religion. Also, it is an exploration of love as a social theory, asking "Is love an art?" He goes on to examine the theory of love, then discusses love and its disintegration in modern Western society. In the final chapter, the practice of love is examined. Written from a humanistic perspective, Erich Fromm's works manifests much religious influence, as well, attesting to the early affects of his Jewish scholars.