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Escape from Evil Paperback – March 1, 1985

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Escape from Evil + The Denial of Death + The Birth and Death of Meaning: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Problem of Man
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reissue edition (March 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029024501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029024508
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

After receiving a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Syracuse University, Dr. Ernest Becker (1924-1974) taught at the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State College, and Simon Fraser University, Canada. He is survived by his wife, Marie, and a foundation that bears his name--The Ernest Becker Foundation.

Customer Reviews

Not an easy read, but very insightful.
Anwar Philson
Ernest Becker is a must read, and "Escape from Evil" is a good place to start.
I read the latter in college and have since read it again on several occasions.
John F. McBride

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

110 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan on December 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
In our dark time, where ethno-nationalism and militant fundamentalism have lead to hatred and genocide, we are all what Robert J. Lifton calls "survivors (p. 235, Lifton, R. J. "The Future of Immortality", Basic Books, Inc., Publisher, New York, NY, 1987.)." As "survivors" we cannot help but search for an explanation of the violence and destruction that have plagued our century. In his book "Escape from Evil", Ernest Becker proposes a very convincing, and often harrowing, explanation of this destruction. He writes,
"Since men must now hold for dear life onto the self-transcending meanings of the society in which they live, onto the immortality symbols which guarentee them indefinite duration of some kind, a new kind of instability and anxiety are created. And this anxiety is precisely what spills over into the affairs of men. In seeking to avoid evil, man is responsible for bringing more evil into the world than organisms could ever do merely by excercising their digestive tracts. It is man's ingenuity, rather than his animal nature, that has given his fellow creatures such a bitter earthly fate (pg. 5, Becker)."
From this point, Becker attempts to define how man's ingenuity, hopes, and desires have lead to an incredible amount of trouble in the world. Becker is at once cultural analysist, religious scholar, and social psychologist. "Escape from Evil" is an amazing inquiry, exploring the frightening needs of diverse social groups, looking into the deep inner fears of man, explaining Hitler and the origin of guilt, delving into the meaning of culture and the origins of inequality. These are not small subjects and they will challenge the ideas of any reader.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By R. Fanning on April 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Man is an animal...moving about on a planet shining in the sun. Whatever else he is, is built on this." So begins the opening pages of Becker's "Escape". "Existence, for all organismic life, is a constant struggle to feed--a struggle to incorporate whatever other organisms they can fit into their mouths and press down their gullets without choking. Seen in these stark terms, life on this planet is a gory spectacle...in which digestive tracks fitted with teeth at one end are tearing away at whatever flesh they can reach, and at the other end are piling up the fuming waste excrement as they move along..." Becker's "Denial of Death" dealt with the way man controls his basic anxiety by keeping it unconscious, "Escape from Evil", once again, tracks man from his organismic beginning to his emphatic end--detailing man's various ways he USES culture, ritual, power, inequality, money, etc as modes to achieving an expansiveness of meaning in the limited form of his physical body. Becker: "Man is an organism who KNOWS that he wants food and who KNOWS what will happen if he doesn't get it. This translates into a principle of prosperity...Once we have an animal who recognizes that he needs prosperity, we also have one who realizes that anything that works AGAINST continued prosperity is bad." Other insights: Becker's great insights into the primitive economy as religious because nature always gave freely to man, causing man to sacrifice food to remove his basic guilt...which may solve the dilema as to why native people were not content to just "exist" in paradise and be happy: Primitve life was a rich and playful dramatization of cosmic flirtation until Western man, who had long ago forgoten how to "play", came into the picture. Becker: "Society...Read more ›
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By John F. McBride on October 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Decades ago I read a book by Joseph Chilton Pierce titled, 'The Crack in the Cosmic Egg'. That book used an egg inside an eggshell as a metaphor for the state of the average human being living inside his or her eggshell world of ideas, traditions, beliefs, and thoughts. It went on to discuss how that 'eggshell' of ideas, traditions, beliefs, and thoughts can be false or misleading, and talked about the manner in which one can escape that shell in the interest of building an 'eggshell' unique to the individual and not necessarily inherited or imposed. Of course, to not remain open to change and to cease to challenge one's 'shell' is to run the risk of simply reconstructing another that is equally misleading.
No two books have affected my beliefs and thoughts any more than have Becker's 'Escape from Evil' and 'The Denial of Death'. I read the latter in college and have since read it again on several occasions. I read 'Escape from Evil' nearly as a sequel to 'Denial of Death' and recommend it as a companion work.
I would in retrospect probably read 'Escape from Evil' before 'Denial of Death.' But to say that is of course quantum mechanics. I've already performed the experiment the results of which I've measured but whose effects have now altered my 'quantum state' of thinking. My opinion might have been the reverse had I read 'Escape...' first. C'est la vie.
So read them as you will, but please, do read them. The language is somewhat dated, his statements are at times prone to the same errors of logic that most of us are prone to and he focuses on only those authors and works that support his thesis, but it is very likely 'Escape from Evil' will crack the shell of your beliefs about your world as well as our shared world and will change the way you think, perhaps, even hopefully, for the remainder of your life.
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