Paul Goodman: American Writer, Critic, Psychotherapist, and Anarchist Philosopher
September 9, 1911 — August 2, 1972
As the movement became the Movement and shifted to a struggle between the Old Left and the New Left, Goodman remained unapologetically free. Many of his former followers abandoned him as he refused to offer a blueprint for building structures for the future, preferring the formulation of here, now, next.
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From : Fitzgerald Bio
"Anarchism is grounded in a rather definite proposition: that valuable behavior occurs only by the free and direct response of individuals or voluntary groups to the conditions presented by the historical environment. It claims that in most human affairs, whether political, economic, military, religious, moral, pedagogic, or cultural, more harm than good results from coercion, top-down direction, central authority, bureaucracy, jails, conscription, states, pre-ordained standardization, excessive planning, etc."
From : "The black flag of anarchism," by Paul Goodman
"There cannot be a history of anarchism in the sense of establishing a permanent state of things called 'anarchist.' It is always a continual coping with the next situation, and a vigilance to make sure that past freedoms are not lost and do not turn into the opposite, as free enterprise turned into wage-slavery and monopoly capitalism, or the independent judiciary turned into a monopoly of courts, cops, and lawyers, or free education turned into School Systems."
From : "The black flag of anarchism," by Paul Goodman
"As our families are, the children in both their present satisfaction and the free growth of their powers, are certainly crushed, thwarted, pushed, hurt, and misled by their hostile and doting grown-ups. Frankly, I doubt that you can find one child in a dozen who is not being seriously injured, in quite definite and tangible ways, by his family."
From : "The Children and Psychology," by Paul Goodman
About Paul Goodman
Through the next twenty-five years he lived with his common-law wife Sally. Goodman had two daughters, Susan (whose mother was Virginia Miller, Goodman's first wife) and Daisy, and a son, Matthew Ready. During this time they lived in decent poverty and an ideal environment for serious people. They got by on little jobs including a $5 per story contract with the MGM story department in New York for plot synopses of French novels. During this time he wrote furiously. He considered himself an artist and produced mostly poems, plays and short stories. He promoted himself vigorously but met with little acceptance of his mostly avant-garde style. He was involved with little literary magazines, theater groups and political activities centered around the Spanish Anarchist Hall (Solidaridad International Anti-Fascista).
Midlife found Paul Goodman drained and fearful in the face of his status as a marginal artist with children to raise. He wrote in a journal: I am at a loss, in our great city, how to do anything at all that could make an immediate difference in our feeling and practice (and so in my own feeling and practice). Therefore I have ceased to want anything, I do not know what we want. It was at this time that he met Fritz Perls, a German Jew who spent the Hitler years in South Africa and fled to the United States as the apartheid regime arose there. Perls had studied with the founding generation of Freudians but soon developed a very unconventional therapeutic practice. Perls' ideas blended well with Goodman's and they were soon involved in a rich collaboration, founding the Gestalt Therapy Institute and writing Gestalt Therapy.
This exposure shifted Goodmanâs career from artist/writer to social critic. He wrote no more stories or plays and fewer poems. His breakthrough book, Growing Up Absurd, was rejected by a dozen publishers before finally seeing print in 1960 and becoming a huge success. Soon the rest of society began to catch up to him as young people began to rebel against the excessive conventionality of the fifties. He was well placed to address the anti-institutional critique which emerged at this time and led to massive change in the years to come. By the mid-sixties he was adopted as sort of an uncle of the youth/student movement, wrote a book a year, and made almost constant campus appearances. His contribution was scholarly yet personal, classical yet revolutionary, and thoroughly natural and anti-institutional.
As the movement became the Movement and shifted to a struggle between the Old Left and the New Left, Goodman remained unapologetically free. Many of his former followers abandoned him as he refused to offer a blueprint for building structures for the future, preferring the formulation of here, now, next. He seemed both saddened and relieved by this and soon settled into his familiar status as outsider critic, but now with a comfortable fame and some financial security.
In 1967 his son Mathew died tragically in a mountain climbing accident. Friends say he never recovered from the grief this caused him. Soon his health began to deteriorate and his writing mellowed into the reflections of an old warrior. He died of a heart attack on August 2, 1972, just short of his sixty-first birthday.
By: John Fitzgerald
From : Paul Goodman Biography, by John Fitzgerald, from Anarchy Archives
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