Paul Goodman was a radical critic of American society, an anarchist who believed that centralized power, whether government or business, was inherently oppressive. He traced his worldview to Pyotr Kropotkin, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Thomas Jefferson, and he wrote fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in support of his views.
Goodman was born in 1911, the fourth child of Barnett and Augusta Goodman. His father abandoned his mother while she was pregnant with him. His mother, a traveling saleswoman for women’s clothing, spent most of her time on the road and left the raising of young Paul to his aunts and his sister, Alice, who was nine years older than he. He graduated from Townsend Harris, a selective New York City public high school, in 1927 and went on to the City College of New York, from which he graduated with an A.B. in philosophy in 1931.
For the next six years, he concentrated on writing, living with his sister and having no regular employment (though he was briefly employed as a script reader by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). In 1936 he entered the University of Chicago as a graduate student in literature and philosophy. He passed the qualifying exams for a doctorate in literature but was asked to leave in 1940, probably because of his open bisexuality.
In 1938 he entered a common-law marriage with Virginia Miller. Their daughter, Susan, was born in 1939; the couple separated in 1943. In that year Goodman was employed as an instructor at Manumit School of Progressive Education in Pawling, New York, but he was fired the following year, once again because of his sex life. In 1945 he began another common-law marriage, with secretary Sally Duchsten. They remained together for the rest of his life. The following year, his son Matthew was born. (They would have a second child, Daisy, in 1963.) In 1947 he collaborated with his brother, architect Percival Goodman, to write what became one of his best-known books, Communitas, which recommended decentralized approaches to urban living. At around this time, personal problems and his interest in the...
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