Charles A. Reich
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Charles A. Reich (May 20, 1928 – June 15, 2019) was an American legal and social scholar as well as author who was a Professor at Yale Law School when he wrote the 1970 paean to the 1960s counterculture and youth movement, The Greening of America.
- One of the problems with fame … is they try to pigeonhole you… like I’m stuck with The Greening of America for the rest of my life.
- If there was any doubt about the need for social transformation in 1970, that need is clear and urgent today. … I am now more convinced than ever that the conflict and suffering now threatening to engulf us are entirely unnecessary, and a tragic waste of our energy and resources. We can create an economic system that is not at war with human beings or nature, and we can get from here to there by democratic means.
- Preface to 1995 edition of The Greening of America
- My goal in life is to make people think. If I do that, I've been a success.
The Greening of America (1970)
- America is dealing death, not only to people of other lands, but to its own people. So say the most thoughtful and passionate of our youth, from California to Connecticut.
- Chapter I : The Coming American Revolution, p. 3, opening lines
- There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions and social structure are changing in consequence. It promises a higher reason, a more human community, and a new and liberated individual. Its ultimate creation will be a new and enduring wholeness and beauty — a renewed relationship of man to himself, to other men, to society, to nature, and to the land.
This is the revolution of the new generation.
- Chapter I : The Coming American Revolution, p. 4
- The logic and necessity of the new generation — and what they are so furiously opposed to — must be seen against a background of what has gone wrong in America. It must be understood in light of the betrayal and loss of the American dream, the rise of the Corporate State of the 1960's, and the way in which that State dominates, exploits, and ultimately destroys both nature and man. Its rationality must be measured against the insanity of existing "reason" — reason that makes impoverishment, dehumanization, and even war appear to be logical and necessary. Its logic must be read from the fact that Americans have lost control of the machinery of their society, and only new values and a new culture can restore control. Its emotions and spirit can be comprehended only by seeing contemporary America through the eyes of the new generation.
- Chapter I : The Coming American Revolution, p. 5
- We seem to be living in a society that no one created and that no one wants.
- Chapter I : The Coming American Revolution, p. 10
- To the American people of 1789, their nation promised a new way of life: each individual a free man; each having the right to seek his own happiness; a republican form of government in which the people would be sovereign; and no arbitrary power over people's lives. Less than two hundred years later, almost every aspect of the dream has been lost.
- Chapter II : Consciousness I: Loss Of Reality, p. 21 (See also: Hunter S. Thompson)
- The American dream was not, at least at the beginning, a rags-to-riches type of narrow materialism.
- Chapter II : Consciousness I: Loss Of Reality, p. 22
- Innocence and optimism have one basic failing: they have no fundamental depth.
- Chapter II : Consciousness I: Loss Of Reality, p. 36
- The presumed causes of Americas troubles can be summed up simply: the evils of unlimited competition, and abuses by those with economic power.
- Chapter III : The Failure Of Reform, p. 43
- Thus we have the spectacle, still to be seen today, of the western rancher who accepts federal aid for his cattle operations and federal aid for his grazing requirements, but bitterly opposes all social programs that do not concern him, and the philosophy that lies behind them.
- Chapter III : The Failure Of Reform, p. 55
- The great crime of our time, says Vonnegut, was to do too much good secretly, too much harm openly.
- Chapter IV : Consciousness II, p. 78
- The corporate state is an immensely powerful machine, ordered, legalistic, rational, yet utterly out of human control, wholly and perfectly indifferent to any human values.
- Chapter V : Anatomy Of The Corporate State, p. 88
- What looks like a man is only a representation of a man who does what the organization requires. He (or it) does not run the machine; he tends it.
- Chapter V : Anatomy Of The Corporate State, p. 107
- Organizations are not really "owned" by anyone. What formerly constituted ownership was split up into stockholders' rights to share in profits, management's power to set policy, employees' right to status and security, government's right to regulate. Thus older forms of wealth were replaced by new forms.
- Chapter V :, Anatomy Of The Corporate State, p. 107
- It is not the misuse of power that is evil; the very existence of power is an evil.
- Chapter V : Anatomy Of The Corporate State, p. 125
- The end result of this personal and public impoverishment is a hollow man.
- Chapter VI : The Lost Self, p. 150
- One cannot sell anything to a satisfied man. Ergo, make him want something new, or take away something that he has and then sell him something to take its place.
- Chapter VII : "It's Just Like Living", p. 162
- Perhaps the greatest and least visible form of impoverishment caused by the Corporate State is the destruction of community.
- Chapter VII : "It's Just Like Living", p. 181
- Technology has deprived the family of almost all its functions.
- Chapter VII : "It's Just Like Living", p. 182
- Marx saw exploitation in terms of the rewards of human labor, but we can see it in terms of all the values of our society.
- Chapter VII : "It's Just Like Living", p. 186
- The machine itself has begun to do the work of revolution. The State is now generating forces that will accomplish what no revolutionaries could accomplish by themselves.
- Chapter VIII : The Machine Begins To Self-Destruct, p. 189-190
- Moreover, the human condition, if that is what it is, has been getting steadily worse in the Corporate State; more and more life-denying just as life should be opening up.
- Chapter IX : The New Generation, p. 220
- A work of art is not valued because it changes itself for each person who views it, it retains its own integrity and thus means something unique and marvelous to those who see it.
- Chapter IX : The New Generation, p. 228
- Of all the qualities of human beings that are injured, narrowed, or repressed in the Corporate State, it is consciousness, the most precious and the most fragile, that suffers the most.
- Chapter IX : The New Generation, p. 253
- Nothing makes us angrier than the fear that some pleasure is being enjoyed by others but forever denied to us.
- Chapter X : Beyond Youth: Recovery Of Self, p. 279
- We do not see it because we can not afford to-because the truth is too explosive.
- Chapter X : Beyond Youth: Recovery Of Self, p. 287
- "there is every reason to fear that the State is growing ever more powerful, more autonomous, more indifferent to its own inhabitants."
- Chapter XI : Revolution By Consciousness, p. 299
- One of the most clearly marked trends for over twenty years has been the decline in civil liberties.
- Chapter XI : Revolution By Consciousness, p. 301
- The crucial fact to realize about all the powerful machinery of the Corporate State — its laws, structure, political system — is that it possesses no mind.
- Chapter XI : Revolution By Consciousness, p. 305
- Our history shows that what we must do is assert domination over the machine, to guide it so that it works for the values of our choice.
- Chapter XII : The Greening Of America, p. 351
- Surely this new age is not a repudiation of, but a fulfillment of, the American dream. What were the machines for, unless to give man a new freedom to choose how he would live?
- Chapter XII : The Greening Of America, p. 356
- No person's gain in wisdom is diminished by anyone else's gain.
- Chapter XII : The Greening Of America, p. 383 ( See also: Vilfredo Pareto)
- Once a person reaches Consciousness III, there is no returning to a lower consciousness.
- Chapter XII : The Greening Of America, p. 393
The Liberals' Mistake (1987)
- The country we live in is a laboratory. We have one experiment after another. Unfortunately, it is not a laboratory where no one gets hurt: some lives are enhanced, others are ruined. We have to view our society with concern and passion, and see what we can learn from each of our experiments. When we get upset and angry about politics — whether it is conservative, liberal, or whatever — we tend to think in terms of right and wrong, not what we can learn.
- As Reagan conservatism is becoming less popular, people are asking: Where do we go from here? We can also ask: Does the last era of liberalism provide any indications as to where we might or should go from here?
The liberalism of the nineteen-thirties emerged after the catastrophe that resulted from the conservatism of the nineteen-twenties. Conservatives had been in power for a long time, and ended by nearly wrecking the country. Liberals came along and performed a rescue operation. Ironically, they are credited with saving the establishment, which they surely did.
- The liberals were wide-ranging in their interests, ready to question the orthodoxies of the time, and looking for new horizons. It is always difficult to find people like that, but it is even more difficult today.
The liberals of the nineteen-thirties were diverse, but they had a common vision. They accepted democracy, the free market, and capitalism. However, they thought that unless the market was not corrected or ameliorated, there would be child labor, neglect of the elderly, dangerous and harmful consumer goods, monopolies squeezing people out of business and forcing down wages — in short, there would be the horror of Great Britain's Industrial Revolution before the British began passing social legislation.
- The liberals were right when they insisted that we had enough food and goods for all of our people. But they did not — and we still do not — know how to distribute those goods in a rational way. We have failed to figure out how to turn this abundance into an advantage. The liberals were also right about labor-saving. If we evenly distributed the work that needs to be done, there ought to be a lot of time left over for everybody to have the leisure that people need. But we have managed to reverse that. Today, a great many people cannot find any work. People are dispossessed and cannot support themselves or their families. Many are homeless. For many others, work has become a rat race: something to be endured, not enjoyed.
Today we are witnessing an impoverishment: the apparent drying up of resources for all kinds of things that are badly needed. We seem to have no money for housing, for education, or for health and social services. And yet we have a deficit, and we are told by candidates for public office that we must cut the federal budget even more. This impoverishment is a mystery.
- Liberals placed an unreasonable amount of faith in large institutions: unions, foundations, big government, large corporations, and universities. These institutions are based on principles that are antithetical to democracy. They are not democratic, they are hierarchical: Someone is at the top and everybody else is at the bottom. Their policies are not made democratically, they are made at the top. These institutions are also not egalitarian. They operate by administrative discretion and authority, not the rule of law: There is no legislature, no group lawmaking body.
The individual in the large organization does not have the kind of constitutional rights that an individual in the society at large has. There are no protections of autonomy and free speech. Employees can be fired for many reasons. We need to constitutionalize large organizations to protect the people within them, to ensure that they can be politically outspoken.
- What we need is a concept of "gross national cost." Life is a balance sheet, not simply economic growth. It is income and outgo. And until we know what the cost of growth is we will continue to operate under an illusion. As long as we consider only the growth of goods and ignore the growth of personal and community well-being, we will be impoverished by growth. That is what is happening in our society today.
- There were various kinds of direct action in the nineteen-sixties: the Civil Rights movement, in which minorities realized that nobody would do anything for them, that they had to do things for themselves; the women's movement, in which women realized they themselves had to do something about their rights; the environmental movement; and other social movements. The point is that people could not get what they wanted through the system — they had to get it directly. It is no wonder that what began as an idealistic concern for those who were deprived of their rights led to a great deal of selfishness by those who were not deprived. And here lies the affinity between the radicalism of the nineteen-sixties and the conservatism of the nineteen-eighties. Both grew from the same soil: They are different responses to the same problem.
- All of us are responding to the fact there is no system that can keep any promises. Everybody is fighting each other under the illusion that it is the "other people" that are causing the problem. We don't realize that we are all in the same boat. We are all suffering from the absence of a system that can pull us together and assure us that the results of each person's work will come back to him and enhance his life in some way.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans today offer any vision of how we can overcome our present difficulties and build a more satisfying life. Both offer merely palliatives and, at best, a holding pattern. We have to look beyond the politicians to see a different future.
- There is a point at which material things offer less than do some nonmaterial things. We ought to be able to live on a reasonable level and at the same time have others live on a reasonable level. Then we would not be afraid to work in our cities, we would not be at war with ourselves, which is characteristic of people in this country. If we were at peace with ourselves, we would be able to see other less material, but still quite rewarding, horizons. In The Greening of America, I did not mean that we would all become richer in material things, I meant that we would all become richer in the totality. I still think it is possible for that vision to become a reality.
The Greening of America turns 40 (2010)
- Quotes of Reich from "The Greening of America turns 40 : Q&A: Charles Reich", by Daniel Schwartz, CBC News (23 September 2010)
- It gave people a great leap of hope, made people feel good. This was a world that could get better, a whole lot better. I might say to those who stuck with it in some way or other they will still swear by the values of the '60s.
- The question was what's happening to the individual in America? Is the individual going the way of the environment, being destroyed? In other words, were we becoming the creatures of the machine?
That was the way people thought in the '60s. Now maybe that's passé today but that's the kind of thing people thought about. Are we turning into machines? They wanted to rebel against that.
Their rebellion cannot be called a success by any means, far from it. Those of us who tried are very grateful that we tried to the degree we did. Anybody who achieved any success against the machine feels good about it.
- I see self-destruction now on a grand scale. That is, the unwillingness to pay for the things society needs. That's the most basic kind of self-destruction. That we're not prepared to pay for schools, we're not prepared to pay for highways. That is self-destruction. What are we doing to ourselves? It is nuts.
- What is lacking today is that people are not in any way experimenting with a different way to live, a different way to feel, a different way to be.
The things that troubled young people in the '60s and the things that trouble young people today seem quite different, in the sense that the troubles today are mostly material trouble — I can't get a job; I can't support a family; whereas the complaints in the 1960s were more spiritual — I don't feel like a real person, or something like that. However, they are related.
Whether you're complaining about spiritual emptiness or material emptiness, you're ultimately complaining about the same system that's creating both kinds of emptiness. That's the link between The Greening of America of 40 years ago and the way young people are feeling today.
Quotes about Reich
- The book combines history, sociology, political science and prophecy. The first two-thirds of the book features a critique of modern American society and its consumerism and conformity. In that, it was far from unique.
But Reich also wrote about three categories of consciousness. Consciousness I was the traditional self-reliant outlook of early America. It was replaced by the New Deal conformism of organizational society, Consciousness II. … It was Consciousness III, the counterculture of '60s youth, that attracted the most controversy.
Reviews were mixed but mostly negative. For some reviewers, when it came to Consciousness III, Reich was politically naive and excessively romantic.
- "Charles Reich’s Journey From the Yale Law Journal to the New York Times Best-Seller List: The Personal History of The Greening of America" by Rodger Citron, in The New York Law School Law Review, Vol. 52, (2007/2008), p. 387
- "The Greening of America turns 40 : Q&A: Charles Reich", by Daniel Schwartz, CBC News (23 September 2010)