Wilhelm Reich Criticism - Essay

Paul Goodman (essay date 1960)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Dr. Reich's Banned Books," in Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals, Random House, 1962, pp. 138-44.

[Goodman was an American writer and educator whose works include Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System (1960) and People or Personnel: Decentralizing and the Mixed System (1965). In the following essay, which was first published in 1960, he defends Reich's books at a time when they were banned by the Food and Drug Administration.]

We are here concerned with the fate of Dr. Reich's books, banned by the Food and Drug Administration. The relation of theory and practice, of a scientific theory and its applications, is a thorny...

(The entire section is 1872 words.)

Walter Briehl (essay date 1966)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Wilhelm Reich: Character Analysis," in Psychoanalytic Pioneers, Franz Alexander, Samuel Eisenstein, Martin Grotjahn, eds., Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1966, pp. 430-38.

[In the following essay, Briehl provides an overview of Reich's career as a psychoanalyst.]

Of the many psychoanalysts who have contributed to the theoretical and technical aspects of the science, Wilhelm Reich stands out because of his overwhelming preoccupation with the problems of technique.

Reich was born in 1897 in Austria, where his father was a farmer. He became interested in biology early in life and, prior to his military service during World War I, maintained...

(The entire section is 2845 words.)

Michel Cattier (essay date 1969)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Irrational Mass Behavior," in The Life and Work of Wilhelm Reich, translated by Ghislaine Boulanger, Horizon Press, 1971, pp. 114-37.

[In the following excerpt, which was originally published in French in 1969, Cattier explains how Reich combined concepts from Marxism and psychoanalysis to create a "social psychology."]

Marx and Engels formulated a principle of sociological definition which contemporary social scientists still use—the way of assessing a group of people is determined by their living conditions. For example, the political attitudes, moral values, and artistic tastes of a social class reflect its material situation.


(The entire section is 5872 words.)

Bertell Ollman (essay date 1972)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Sex-Pol: Essays 1929-1934 by Wilhelm Reich, edited by Lee Baxandall, translated by Anna Bostock, Tom DuBose, and Lee Baxandall, Vintage Books, 1972, pp. xi-xxviii.

[Ollman is an American writer and educator whose works include Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society (1971) and Social and Sexual Revolution (1978). In the following essay, he discusses Marxist elements in Reich's writings.]

Marx claimed that from the sexual relationship "one can … judge man's whole level of development… the relationship of man to woman is the most natural relation of human being to human being. It therefore reveals the extent...

(The entire section is 5888 words.)

Charles Rycroft (essay date 1972)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Energy, Character, and Orgasm," in Wilhelm Reich, The Viking Press, 1972, pp. 13-32.

[An English psychoanalyst, Rycroft is noted for his dream theory, which differs significantly from the dream theories of both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Rycroft maintains that dreams are "the sleeping form of creative imagination," rather than expressions of latent desires. In the following essay, he examines the influence of Freud's psychoanalytic theory on Reich's concepts of energy, character, and orgasm.]

Reich's ideas about energy, character, and orgasm can only be understood in the light of their origin in the kind of psychoanalysis that he encountered in Vienna in the...

(The entire section is 4713 words.)

Paul Edwards (essay date 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Greatness of Wilhelm Reich," in The Humanist, Vol. XXXIV, No. 2, March-April, 1974, pp. 32-5.

[Edwards is an Austrian-born American philosopher and educator. In the following essay, he addresses what he considers misconceptions about Reich's life and works.]

When I came to New York in the fall of 1947, Wilhelm Reich was the talk of the town. Reich had at that time a large and enthusiastic following, especially among young intellectuals and people whose sympathies were clearly on the left but who, like Reich himself, had become totally disenchanted with communism as it had developed in Russia.

The main source of Reich's attractiveness was...

(The entire section is 3744 words.)

Frederick Crews (essay date 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Anxious Energetics," in Out of My System: Psychoanalysis, Ideology, and Critical Method, Oxford University Press, 1975, pp. 145-64.

[Crews is an American writer and educator. In the following essay, which was originally published in Partisan Review in 1974, he surveys the writings of Reich's followers and questions the validity of orgonomy in the treatment of psychological disorders.]

Until fairly recently it seemed apparent that Wilhelm Reich, though a persistent presence in "left" or "advanced" circles since the 1940's, was fated eventually to be dismissed as a minor curiosity of American cultural history. The founder of character analysis and...

(The entire section is 6285 words.)

Ira H. Cohen (essay date 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Character Structure, Ideology, and the Internalization of Social Relationships," in Ideology and Unconsciousness: Reich, Freud, and Marx, New York University Press, 1982, pp. 137-69.

[In the following essay, Cohen outlines the major social and psychological principles in Reich's works.]

Freud's great contribution was to develop the concepts and techniques which theorists have applied to try to reveal the influence of social forces on the individual psyche. Yet Freud himself failed to recognize the historical nature of the relationship between, on the one hand, the development of our civilization and, on the other, the repression and distortion of human needs...

(The entire section is 10708 words.)

Mark Shechner (essay date 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "From Socialism to Therapy, II: Wilhelm Reich," in After the Revolution: Studies in the Contemporary Jewish American Imagination, Indiana University Press, 1987, pp. 91-101.

[In the following essay, Shechner examines the influence of Reich's works on Jewish American writers.]

The most affirmative of the doctrines to make headway among writers during and after the war were those of Wilhelm Reich, whose system of character analysis (or vegetotherapy or, as it grew metaphysical, orgonomy) pinpointed the source of recent political disaster in the armored character of Western Man and prescribed an arduous program of action therapy as the key to individual salvation...

(The entire section is 4702 words.)

Joel Kovel (essay date 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Why Freud or Reich?" in The Radical Spirit.: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Society, Free Association Books, 1988, pp. 251-69.

[An American psychoanalyst and writer, Kovel is the author of White Racism: A Psychohistory (1970), A Complete Guide to Therapy: From Psychoanalysis to Behavior Modification (1976), and The Age of Desire: Case Histories of a Radical Psychoanalyst (1981). In the following essay, he critiques conceptions about Reich advanced by Janine Chassequet-Smirgel and Bela Grunberger in their book Freud or Reich? (1986), and explicates the principal differences between Freudian and Reichian psychotherapy.]


(The entire section is 7272 words.)