Barbara Ehrenreich Criticism - Essay

Edward Edelson (review date 24 January 1971)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "In Sickness and in Wealth," in The Washington Post, Vol. V, No. 4, January 24, 1971, pp. 1, 3.

[In the following review, Edelson praises The American Health Empire as an innovative look at the problems with health care in America, although he finds some flaws in the authors' presentation.]

The American Health Empire is yet another book about the sad state of American medicine—but don't stop reading there. This one is different. It is galvanizing, irritating, flawed and fascinating, and it presents an argument that has never been touched in what can be called the standard book on the health care crisis.

The standard book has been written under a score of titles by a score of authors. The standard book's villains and heroes are unvarying. On one side, in the black hats, are the old-line doctors, whose spokesman is the American Medical Association and whose aim is to keep American medicine disorganized in the interests of personal profit. The men in the white hats are the medical liberals, working out of modern hospitals and university-based medical centers, eager to press medical research, hopeful about drastically different methods of financing medical care (such as national health insurance) and anxious to use computers and the other tools of technology to end the present "nonsystem" of medical care for the benefit of the health consumer. If we can just help the liberals beat the AMA, says the standard book, our health care problems will be over.

It is at this point, where the standard book ends, that The American Health Empire begins. Its authors are members of a group of young activists working out of a self-created think-tank called the Health Policy Advisory Center. They present the reader with an entirely new villain—the very medical liberal whom most authors present as the last great hope of American medicine.

Health-PAC dismisses the AMA briefly as a declining organization whose prestige and power are falling rapidly, chiefly interested in fighting a forlorn rear guard action against the twentieth century. (Just last year, for the first time, the AMA's membership fell below 50 per cent of the nation's physician population. The AMA is now a minority group.)

With the AMA out of the way, Health-PAC follows the first rule of investigatory reporting: Look where the money goes. It finds that the money is going chiefly to the large university-based "medical empires" that are run by medical liberals. These centers carry on most medical research, use most of the new medical technology, sponsor most of the community action medical programs.

Between 1960...

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Tod Gitlin (review date 28 May 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Where the Boys Aren't," in The Nation, Vol. 236, No. 21, May 28, 1983, pp. 663-65.

[In the following review, Gitlin praises the insights and synthesis of divergent cultural icons in The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment.]

If the specter that haunts the American home is that of the woman walking out the door, Barbara Ehrenreich tells us in her stunningly subversive new book, our culture is once again deceiving us. Backlash panic has inverted the truth of the sexual war, which is that the family is threatened not because women want to get out but because men do.

Ehrenreich argues that men have been plotting their...

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Carol Tavris (review date 5 June 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Who Started This?," in The New York Times Book Review, June 5, 1983, pp. 12, 31, 32.

[In the following review of The Hearts of Men, Tavris finds Ehrenreich's analysis of male/female role dynamics insightful, but criticizes her conclusions about cause and effect.]

Over the past two decades we've heard many criticisms of the housewife's lot, mostly from women, and counterattacking complaints about the breadwinner trap, mostly from men. Now Barbara Ehrenreich offers a provocative new argument: Male complaints about their restrictions and responsibilities, and their grievances about women, did not follow the women's movement; they preceded it. Indeed, Miss...

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Benjamin R. Barber (review date 11 July 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Beyond the Feminist Mystique," in New Republic, Vol. 189, No. 3, July 11, 1983, pp. 26-32.

[In the following excerpt, Barber summarizes developments in the Feminist Movement that he describes as anti-women and then discusses Ehrenreich's The Hearts of Men as a fresh perspective on the dynamics of male/female relationships, but oversimplified and flawed.]

This is more than the internecine bickering of ideological purists. It issues out of a basic disenchantment—a revisionism that is ready to rewrite the history of the past without yet being ready to revise its blueprint for the future. Barbara Ehrenreich, who is a loyal and unswerving feminist in the...

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Phyllis Rose (review date September 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sex in Our Time," in The Atlantic, Vol. 258, No. 3, September, 1986, pp. 100-103.

[In the following review, Rose compares the opposite philosophies expressed in the books Re-Making Love and Willard Gayling's Rediscovering Love.]

"Higgimus, hoggimus, men are monogamous. Hoggimus, higgimus, women polygamous." My friends tell me I have got this wrong. It should be "Hoggimus, higgimus, men are polygamous. Higgimus, hoggimus, women monogamous." But I prefer my version, because it expresses a partial truth less often heard: many women have an instinct for sexual adventure, most often stifled, and many men, even promiscuous men, are at heart romantics, sexual...

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Judith Viorst (review date 14 September 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Rolling Back the Lust Frontier," in New York Times Book Review, September 14, 1986, p. 9.

[In the following review, Viorst praises Re-Making Love.]

It was women—it wasn't men—whose sexual attitudes and behavior drastically changed within the past two decades. The sexual revolution, Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs compellingly argue, is actually women's sexual revolution. Thus the counterrevolution, the sexual backlash that emerged in the early 1980's, is primarily directed against women and is a threat to women's achievements in "the remaking and reinterpretation of sex."

Much of Re-making Love is devoted to...

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Julie Abraham (review date 28 February 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Not My Revolution," in The Nation, Vol. 244, No. 8, February 28, 1987, pp. 266-67.

[In the following review, Abraham finds the source material in Re-Making Love too superficial, and the resultant conclusions over-generalized.]

Singles in the cities, paraphilias in the suburbs and sex aids in Ohio: according to Re-making Love, these are all manifestations of a women's sexual revolution that far outweighs the male-dominated phenomenon known as the sexual revolution. The latter, as Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs describe it—"what Gay Talese found when he set out on his quest to see what middle-aged, middle-class men...

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Leslie Dick (review date 9 October 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" in New Statesman, Vol. 114, No. 2950, October 9, 1987, pp. 25-26.

[Below, Dick gives a negative review of Re-Making Love.]

In 1964, when we were nine, my best friend and I played a secret game, enacting elaborate adventures in which we would take turns to be Paul McCartney or John Lennon. The story always ended with us "falling in love": we would roll around on the floor, kissing passionately.

In Re-making Love, the roots of the Women's Liberation Movement are found in the rebellion against the female sexual predicament of the early 1960s, as evidenced by Sex and the Single Girl-ism (nice girls...

(The entire section is 867 words.)

Jefferson Morley (review date 6 August 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Discreet Anxiety of the Bourgeoisie," in New York Times Book Review, August 6, 1989, pp. 12-13.

[In the following review, Morley praises the insights in Fear of Falling.]

I was a teen-age neoconservative, I came of age politically in the 1970's with a low tolerance for the foibles of my parents and an all-too-cool critique of the 1960's, especially of the decade's "permissiveness." The cultural contradictions of capitalism seemed less disturbing (and more fun) to me than the cultural contradictions of Communism, and I imagined I was rejecting middle-class culture. But in fact, as Barbara Ehrenreich's Fear of Falling makes clear, it defined my every...

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Mary Warner Marien (review date 11 September 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, in Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 81, September 11, 1989, p. 13.

[In the following essay, Marien praises Ehrenreich's perception and compassion in Fear of Falling.]

The recent death of Michael Harrington was taken by many to symbolize the end of socialist influence in American political thought. Through his many books, including The Other America (1982), the work said to have sparked the War on Poverty, Harrington served as the conscience of the left. "I see Michael Harrington as delivering the Sermon on the Mount to America," Senator Edward M. Kennedy once said.


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Joshua Henkin (review date 20 November 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Touch of Class," in The Nation, Vol. 249, No. 17, November 20, 1989, pp. 607-09.

[Although critical of several of Ehrenreich's conclusions, in the following review, Henkin finds much to like in Fear of Falling.]

Most books that make sweeping assertions about American culture, Barbara Ehrenreich argues, are really only about the middle class. When authors tell us that "Americans" are becoming "more self-involved, materialistic, spineless, or whatever," they are really referring to the relatively small "professional … middle class … from which every other group or class is ultimately [considered] a kind of deviation." In Fear of Falling: The Inner Life...

(The entire section is 1860 words.)

Wilfred M. McClay (review date January 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "High Anxiety," in Commentary, Vol. 89, No. 1, January, 1990, pp. 64-7.

[While praising Ehrenreich's writing, in the following review, McClay finds many flaws in the thesis of Fear of Falling.]

The debacle of the 1988 presidential election not only left the very word "liberalism" badly battered, but may have administered the coup de grâce to the only opposition movement with a shred of intellectual and political vitality: the so-called "neoliberals." Hence, in 1992, the Democratic party will find that it once again has to face the relentless demands of its Left; and that Left, if it is feeling any vestigial desire to win elections, will have to come up...

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James Fallows (review date 1 March 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Wake Up, America," in New York Review of Books, Vol. 137, No. 3, March 1, 1990, pp. 14-15.

[In the following excerpt, Fallows examines the correlation among culture, prosperity, and security and their place in Fear of Falling.]

Economists don't like to talk about the effects of culture or of ethics on economic development, since these are such subjective and imprecise matters. But most people, including economists off-duty, assume that there is a connection between the kinds of everyday behavior a society encourages and its stability and prosperity.

In nearly every discussion about Europe's future, for instance, all sides take it for granted...

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Michiko Kakutani (review date 13 July 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Plague of Gray Caterpillars and a Preacher," in The New York Times, July 13, 1993, p. C18.

[In the following essay, Kakutani negatively reviews Kipper's Game.]

It's no surprise that science-fiction and futuristic novels are a favorite forum for social critics: after all, they provide an easy means of extrapolating and satirizing the problems of the contemporary world. Certainly, this is what the author and magazine columnist Barbara Ehrenreich seems to be up to in her first novel. "Kipper's Game," a dark, convoluted piece of apocalyptic fiction that enables her to combine her scientific training (she holds a Ph.D. in biology from Rockefeller University and a...

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Barbara Ehrenreich with Wendy Smith (interview date 26 July 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An interview in Publisher's Weekly, Vol. 270, No. 30, July 26, 1993, pp. 46-47.

[In the following interview, Ehrenreich discusses the writing of her first fiction book.]

"I feel like a criminal," says Barbara Ehrenreich. "I didn't mean to do it!" She's not referring to an act of civil disobedience from her anti-war past (about which she'd be unlikely to repent); she's talking about the reckless act of writing a novel. Kipper's Game (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Fiction Forecasts, Apr. 26), an adventurous tale involving a computer game, Nazi scientists and a mysterious illness that causes uncontrollable bleeding, is indeed not the book you'd necessarily...

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Steven J. Kellman (review date Spring 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ehrenreich's Game," in Michigan Quarterly, Vol. XXXIII, No. 2, Spring, 1994, pp. 375-84.

[Below, Kellman offers a mixed review of Kipper's Game.]

"When a scholar of John Kenneth Galbraith's immense sagacity has a tale to tell, it is time to put away our toys, sit quietly and attend with great care," wrote Barbara Ehrenreich in The New York Times Book Review of February 11, 1990. It is the opening sentence to the enthusiastic account she gave of A Tenured Professor. The book was Galbraith's third published novel, but he is much better known for his nonfiction, including The Affluent Society, The Liberal Hour, and The New Industrial...

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Vicky Hutchings (review date 20 May 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Lamb Stakes," in New Statesman & Society, Vol. 7, No. 303, May 20, 1994, pp. 37-8.

[In the following review, Hutchings provides a summary of the plot elements in Kipper's Game.]

Like the famous trick with mirrors, this book endlessly repeats itself in different sizes. The leitmotif is the search for understanding. It starts with an addictive computer game condensed on to three disks: you have to get the scrolls to the wise woman, past the black knights, past all the obstacles in the way. The game is also a pedagogical tool, a summary of all that we are capable of and all we have learned. Hey, these disks can lead to "Enlightenment, the mystic goal...

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Penelope Mesic (review date 28 May 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Heat and the Intimacy," in Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1995, sec. 14, p. 3.

[In the following review, Mesic compares the essay styles of Ehrenreich and Joseph Epstein.]

Other than a review, these two collections of essays by Joseph Epstein and Barbara Ehrenreich deserve something more closely resembling a National Geographic Special. For no team of Sherpaled climbers or divers finning through the crannies of a coral reef, ever discovered more diverse or improbable life forms thriving in a single culture. Well-adapted to the hot, volcanic slopes of national politics we find the highly colored clusters of barbed remarks known as commentarius...

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Andrew Ferguson (review date August 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Snarling Citizen, in The American Spectator, Vol. 28, No. 8, August, 1995, pp. 66-7.

[In the following review, Ferguson suggests that Ehrenreich's writing is rife with factoids and faulty syllogisms.]

Barbara Ehrenreich's career as a journalist has followed an interesting trajectory. She is a witty, graceful stylist who first came to prominence in the Nation, Ms., and Mother Jones. Unlike Molly Ivins, she's a mom—a working mom!—and unlike Anna Quindlen, she never whimpers. The fat cats of "main-stream" journalism do not allow writers with Ehrenreich's attributes to languish on the leftward fringe, and so for the past...

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Kirkus Reviews (review date 15 March 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. LXV, No. 6, March 15, 1997, pp. 432-33.

[Below, the reviewer describes Blood Rites as an iconoclastic study in which social commentator and Time essayist Ehrenreich challenges accepted notions of why human beings wage war.]

In her tenth book Ehrenreich (The Worst Years of Our Lives, 1990, etc.) takes a multidisciplinary approach in her investigation of "the feelings people invest in war and often express as their motivations for fighting." She makes a thorough examination of a wide range of historical, psychological, sociological, biological,...

(The entire section is 329 words.)