April 28, 2012

Finally! "The Greening of America" is out on Kindle.

Got it!

[CAVEAT: The Kindle version is newly abridged, "compressing the original 125,000 words to an Internet-friendly 24,000 words and eliminating most of the sections on "Consciousness III." Updated? Charles Reich wrote a new preface and final chapter." Damn. As you see below, I'm most interested in the stuff that is outdated and embarrassing!]

[From the first link:]
In 1970, The New Yorker Magazine ran a 39,000-word excerpt of ‘The Greening of America' -- the longest in its history. Then the book was published. It caused a firestorm. Written by Charles Reich, a distinguished professor at Yale Law, it showed how a once-free America had become a Corporate State that made no one happy. And then it suggested a remedy.

The way out? It wasn't political change — for Reich, politics came last. The first and most important thing: Consciousness. As he saw it, America had outgrown "Consciousness I," which had helped form a nation of free individuals. It had outgrown "Consciousness II," which was corporate and heartless. Now it was time for "Consciousness III," in which people would turn away from the quest for traditional success and forge a new, personal path to satisfaction.

In short: Change the way you think, help others do the same, and soon the system has to change.
Ah, soon the system has to change. Hope and change, baby. It's 42 years later and look at all this change. It's change as far as the eye can see.

I love reading these pop culture books of the past, that is, my past. Especially circa 1970.

I also got the Kindle version of Roger Kimball's "The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America," which I have already read and enjoyed, because I wanted to be able to cut and paste a little something of what Kimball says about "The Greening of America," which he memorably savages:

Though it spread like the measles, Consciousness III is difficult to describe because, as Reich notes, the very attempt to say what it is draws on intellectual habits that Consciousness III rejects: “Authority, schedules, time, accepted customs, are all forms which must be questioned. Accepted patterns of thought must be broken; what is considered ‘rational thought’ must be opposed by ‘nonrational thought’— drug-thought, mysticism, impulses.”

Not entirely, though. Reich does allow that the “foundation” of Consciousness III is “liberation.” He adds that “the meaning of liberation is that the individual is free to build his own philosophy and values, his own life-style, and his own culture from a new beginning.” More generally, Consciousness III comes into being when an individual frees himself from the “false consciousness” that society imposes. People infused with the spirit of Consciousness III do “not believe in the antagonistic or competitive doctrine of life,” they “do not compete ‘in real life.’ ... People are brothers, the world is ample for all.... No one judges anyone else.” Also, everyone rather likes himself: “Consciousness III says, ‘I’m glad I’m me.’”
ADDED: From Woodward and Armstrong's book "The Brethren," about the Supreme Court, describing the funeral of Justice Hugo Black:
The minister selected to deliver the eulogy went to Black’s library and found various books that Black had underlined, including The Greening of America, by Charles Reich, one of his former clerks. The minister selected some of the underlined portions to read at the funeral. During the eulogy, Brennan gently nudged Stewart. “Hugo would turn over in his grave if he heard that,” Brennan said. Only Black’s intimates knew that Black thought Reich’s book absurd, and that Black underlined the sections he disliked.
AND: More about the new edition, from the second link, above, written by the editor of the new version:
The other reason to read The Greening of America is for its brilliant and original suggestion of a way out: the radical, idealistic "Consciousness III."...
Then why did you edit most of this stuff out?
Last year, we saw the emergence of the "Occupy" movement, and, with it, ideas that would be instantly familiar to anyone who had read The Greening of America
Now we are in the middle of a Presidential election, with a campaign that sounds a lot like a debate between a "Consciousness II" Administration (which argues that the federal government can best protect us from an unregulated marketplace and a shredded safety net) and "Consciousness I" Republican candidates (who tell us that the solution to all our problems is a return to a time when men took care of their own business and government barely existed).

In short: "The Greening of America" is reappearing at a time when it can contribute to — and shape —the national conversation.
Because you've got another alternative but you're not going to embarrass yourselves by telling us the details of what it is.

38 comments:

madAsHell said...

...and pretty soon you're living on sunshine.

Seven Machos said...

For some real fun, Althouse, you should revisit Tom Wolfe's The “Me” Decade and the Third Great Awakening.

As relevant and hilarious as ever.

SteveR said...

For a minute I thought that was describing a local "Occupy" resident.

Henry said...

Isn't today's liberal conventional wisdom the idea that the postwar corporate state, with its unions and pensions was infinitely superior to the at-will employment of today?

Consciousness IV is all about the freedom of the teat.

Alex said...

Uh no thanks. I'll wait for Ann to post excerpts and we can comment on them.

Roger Sweeny said...

Reich rejected a good deal of "The Greening of America" within a few years of its publication. He discovered that he really was gay and it wasn't a bad thing. He tells the story in an autobiography published soon afterwards, "The Sorcerer of Bolinas Reef."

I had hoped it would lead him to a more realistic understanding of American and Americans. Alas, the hate that made "Greening" unreadable to me many years ago persists.

MnMark said...

People infused with the spirit of Consciousness III do “not believe in the antagonistic or competitive doctrine of life,” they “do not compete ‘in real life.’ ...

No, but they sure do like them gummint handouts!

Cuz it's hard to focus your Consciousness III when you're so damned hungry because you gave up all that materialistic bullshit like trying to produce something other people will voluntarily pay you for so you can buy some food and shelter.

It's regretable that because so many people are still stuck in Consciousness II, and thus are not willing to voluntarily give their earnings over to the more enlightened Consciouness II people to spend, that some government force has to be applied to tax it out of them, but what can you do? It's not always easy being so enlightened!

Ann Althouse said...

"For some real fun, Althouse, you should revisit Tom Wolfe's The “Me” Decade and the Third Great Awakening."

I will. I recently read "Radical Chic and Mau-Mau-ing the Flak Catchers.

n.n said...

Consciousness III precedes submission to individuals and cooperatives which embrace a reasonable hybrid of Consciousness I & II. The greater misalignment between individuals in a society, the less likely they will unite in common effort including their own preservation. When Consciousness III in a population reaches critical mass, its conclusion in the real word is anarchy followed by submission.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Well thank Gawd someone finally spoke out about the need for stasis and stagnation! Everyone knows that systemic change is an absolute evil and the enemy of civilization, and of all human existence. From the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution, from the age of reason to the age of discovery -- all ABSOLUTE DISASTERS, each and every single one! Founding a new nation carved out of the British Empire on North American soil? Complete catastrophe!

When are these fuzzy-headed "free thinkers" going to finally realize that doing nothing new, and pessimistically sitting back while we wallow in our Calvinist cynicism is the only hope?

How could we be the enlightened nation of complainers that we are without Republicans constantly reminding us of how bad we're supposed to have it?

You goofs should consider careers in demotivational speaking. Clearly the grouchy gasbag, Dr. Phil, could use some assistants.

New GOP motto: You people suck! We need better Americans for a better America!

Run with it.

Seven Machos said...

You and Tom Wolfe and Camille Paglia should get together somehow. Some kind of tour, or avant-garde folk rock concept album.

If Paglia can't do it, that's okay.

Palladian said...

Nothing says Consciousness III and free thinking like nationalized medicine, government-mandated health food and unmanned drone strikes, eh Ritmo?

Ann Althouse said...

"Reich rejected a good deal of "The Greening of America" within a few years of its publication. He discovered that he really was gay and it wasn't a bad thing. He tells the story in an autobiography published soon afterwards, "The Sorcerer of Bolinas Reef.""

Yes, Kimball covers that nicely in the long march.

Palladian said...

The "Occupy" Movement : Consciousness II in Consciousness III clothing.

Ann Althouse said...

From Kimball's book:

"Greening of America is in part a paean to sexual liberation and polymorphous sensuality, an obvious heir to the thought of countercultural gurus like Herbert Marcuse, the other Reich—Wilhelm—and Norman O. Brown. “What the new generation has already achieved is a way of being with other people that is closer, warmer, more open, more sensitive, more capable of sharing, than prior generations have know.” But in The Sorcerer of Bolinas Reef, Reich tells us that in December, 1971, he left Yale for a six-month leave of absence and went to San Francisco. There he responded to an ad placed by a male model and for $35 the prophet of Consciousness III and “closer, warmer, more open, more sensitive” relationships had his first sexual experience at the age of forty-three."

Ann Althouse said...

"Nothing says Consciousness III and free thinking like nationalized medicine, government-mandated health food and unmanned drone strikes, eh Ritmo?"

According to the editor of the ebook, who worked with Reich, those things are Consciousness II.

Palladian said...

I was suggesting that Ritmo's... confused.

Mark O said...

It's about time. What's a Kindle?

Mark O said...

"Radical Chic and Mau-Mau-ing the Flak Catchers" is fully applicable to Progressives today.

mesquito said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

Your mention of this brings back a lot of memories... I read "The Greening of America" when I was 10 or 11. My grandparents had a basement full of thousands of moldering books, collected over the years, bought in bulk at auctions, everything from 18th century editions of Pascal to every Mad Magazine published before 1974. There were also many books of poetry and the classics, left behind by my aunt, who committed suicide in that same basement, the year before I was born, and there were dozens of my uncle's college-era books. Since he was born in 1946, books like "The Greening of America" were the books of his past, left in that basement to be read by me, and to become my past as well. I read "Future Shock" and "Silent Spring" and "The Joy Of Sex" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" and some hateful Rod McKuen books, and nearly everything that R.D. Laing ever wrote...

Also down there were thousands of records, from 78rpm hard rubber discs of opera arias, to wonderful Colombia Records orchestral LPs, to most of Bob Dylan (up to and including "Blood On The Tracks"), to Frank Zappa's early records.

It's always been weird having lived as a vicarious Boomer and an actual "Gen Xer".

mesquito said...

"The Greening Of America is a surprising accomplishment of eleven chimpanzees and one Yale law professor."

http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmSpectator-1971apr-00013

Ann Althouse said...

"I was suggesting that Ritmo's... confused."

I know. Just backing you up with the author(s)' official position.

Ann Althouse said...

@Palladian That's one hell of a basement.

Ann Althouse said...

You could do a whole endless blog about just that basement... telling your stories, grabbing pics of things in the books and in Mad.... the feeling of being in such a place.... the weirdness of relating to the previous generation (which had so much great stuff and so much bad stuff).

Ann Althouse said...

I'd read it!

But where are those things now?

Palladian said...

That's a good idea, Althouse. I should sort those memories out.

ETBass said...

I had to read it for a college humanities class, ca. 1973. One class period the professor was thrilled that we (a bunch of engineering students) were having a spirited discussion about the book.

At the end of class time a student in the rear had his hand up. The professor glanced at the clock and said "We're out of time but this discussion is so good I'll allow one more comment. Yes?"

Student: "Are we gonna have a test next week?"

Professor: "Awwww get out of here. You're still in Con II!"

Professor's balloon (deflating): "Hisssssssssssss....."

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Nothing says Consciousness III and free thinking like nationalized medicine, government-mandated health food and unmanned drone strikes, eh Ritmo?

Who knows and who cares? You bring up some obscure and irrelevant set of ideas as if they define themselves and everything outside of your own personal ideology as pure evil.

I'd suggest the confusion belongs to the person who does such a thing in reaction to a set of ideas that have nothing in common but the word "change".

You find the concept of change so unsettling that you're willing to cast it as hopelessly complex (just because 2 dudes 40 years ago did). But go ahead and call me confused, though. Life is change and I don't need to have the patience to listen to which part of the scary and conceptually hypothetical book or books (that no one reads) set your rigid programming awry.

Palladian said...

But where are those things now?

I have a few of them. The house sat empty after I moved out and my grandmother died. My father lived there for some years after that. He sold the Pascal books to a local guy for beer money.

Many of the remaining books were destroyed by him in the early 2000s, when he stopped taking his medications that controlled the symptoms of his schizophrenia, and spent months alone in the house without electricity, tearing books apart looking for listening devices. He was also convinced that all the jumbled voices he heard were the sound of all the books whispering and fighting, so he burned a lot of them in the yard.

Eventually remaining family had him hospitalized. I visited the basement one last time in the spring of 2007. We had to wear respirators because by that time the moldering had become toxic. Some of my favorite books and records were barely intact, but they were so infected with mold and mildew that I didn't bother to take them. Everything was carted away by a junkman. The house was renovated and is being rented to some local nuclear family.

The basement is now a rec room.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Nothing says Consciousness III and free thinking like nationalized medicine, government-mandated health food and unmanned drone strikes, eh Ritmo?

Let's make it simpler and try to figure out what makes uninformed backwater, provincial country medicine, junk food, and unecessarily putting personnel into combat products of "free thought".

Doing so sounds more like free thoughtlessness. There is little reason oppose these things except to be rebelliously obstinant in the face of suggestions that have empirical advantage.

I find little kids who throw temper tantrums more entertaining. At least they cry and scream (usually) about not receiving something tangible. Conservatives (or their little libertarian piggy-backers) who cry and scream about their ideological constraints not being met in policy are a bit more dull and stuffy.

But they come from the same emotional place.

edutcher said...

The biggest laugh in "Greening" was the pompous claim that jeans would be the great leveler of society. Everyone would wear them (like Mao suits in Red China) and we would all be equal.

Except that jeans quickly turned into the great status symbol depending on which pattern was stitched across your left, right (or both) tush.

That was the hippie crowd.

Ann Althouse said...

@Palladian That's one hell of a basement.

I should say.

One hopes he at least kept the Mad magazines. He could make a small fortune allowing Boomers a glimpse back at the days when we were all cool.

Rob said...

Consciousness III is just drug-induced Consciousness I.

Richard Dolan said...

"I love reading these pop culture books of the past ... my past ...."

Reich is an odd choice for that, unlike Tom Wolfe (discussed a bit upthread). Reich was over-the-top even in the day; dated doesn't begin to describe the silly fantasy-land quality of his book today. Similar to Gingrich at his silly-futurist worst (I bet Gingrich liked the book even if he may have disagreed with its thesis). In contrast, Wolfe is well worth the time in part because he was dealing with a reality that is still very much with us -- those cheese balls chez Lenny are still being served, in the same company and for the same reasons, today as 50 years ago; just like the hype-as-criticism (Flat! Flatter!) that he skewered so well.

While I'd happily spend an afternoon with TW, I can't imagine investing the time in rereading Reich now.

Seven Machos said...

You really should do that blog, Palladian. 1000 Things from an Eclectic Old Basement. It would be similar in theme (not content) to Stuff White People Like, but it would be interesting for well beyond 15 minutes.

It could then be a book. A TV show. I'm quite serious.

Seven Machos said...

Reading down...never mind. Oh well.

Seven Machos said...

And poor Ritmo is so out of his league. It's sad. I don't even bother any more.

Michael said...

Fortunately, The Greening of America is still available in a place called "a used bookstore."

Embarrassing Kindle era books will be disposed of much more untraceably.