Wilhelm Reich: A Disappointed Utopian

JHI Blog

by guest contributor Zachary Levine

Wilhelm Reich, later in life (Wikimedia Commons) Wilhelm Reich, later in life (Wikimedia Commons)

What should we do when brilliant thinkers push their ideas in strange directions? Should we try to interpret their later work in the context of their earlier work, or vice versa? Should we reject their later work but embrace their earlier work, as JS Mill did with Auguste Comte? By and large, this latter approach has been applied to Wilhelm Reich. His early political writings,including “Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis” (1929) and The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933), have been of interest to political dissidents and intellectual historians, while Character Analysis (1933) is still read by psychoanalysts. By contrast, Reich’s theory of the “orgone,” a specific, measurable life energy that formed the centerpiece of his research from the late 1930’s until his death in 1957, has been written off as an especially bizarre form of vitalism by…

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About dmf

alienist @ large, mostly on foot
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