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Paul Goodman
(1911 – 1972)

 

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Paul Goodman, known in his day as "the philosopher of the New Left," set the agenda for the youth movement of the Sixties with his best-selling Growing Up Absurd. He produced new books every year throughout that turbulent decade, while lecturing to hundreds of audiences on the nation's campuses, covering subjects that ranged from movement politics to education and community planning; from psychotherapy and religion to literature, language theory, and media. There was little that did not fall within his purview as an old-fashioned “man of letters.” During this same heady period of his fame he also published his public letters and his journals, the Living Theatre performed his plays, his poems were set to music, and his fiction was chosen for book club distribution. America’s most celebrated public intellectual at the time of his death in 1972, his work still resonates for our own times of national crisis.

Trailer for Paul Goodman Changed My Life film by Jonathan Lee

 

 

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New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative
Authors: Paul Goodman with Introduction by Michael C. Fischer
Publisher: PM Press
Published: July 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60486-056-6
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 200
Dimensions: 9 by 6
Subjects: Essays, Political Science

$20.00

New Reformation was Paul Goodman’s last book of social criticism. The man who set the agenda for the Youth Movement of the Sixties with his best-selling Growing Up Absurd, and who wrote a book a year to keep his “crazy young allies” focused on the issues as he saw them, stepped back in 1970 to re-assess the results of what he considered a moral and spiritual upheaval comparable to the Protestant Reformation--“the breakdown of belief, and the emergence of new belief, in sciences and professions, education, and civil legitimacy.”

Michael Fisher’s introduction situates Goodman in his era and traces the development of his characteristic insights, now the common wisdom of every radical critique of American society. A poet and novelist famous in his day for books on decentralization, community planning, psychotherapy, education, linguistics, and media, nowhere is Goodman’s voice more prescient and still relevant than in New Reformation.

Praise:

“Goodman’s frightening brilliance and integrity scared people, for his was the honesty of the moral man who saw things and connections with clarity that others did not even know were there. Writers and thinkers have a vogue. They are in fashion or forgotten. If Goodman is forgotten, if his work is found only in ash heaps, it is where humanity will end up.”
--Marcus Raskin, co-founder, Institute for Policy Studies

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The Paul Goodman Reader
Author: Paul Goodman, edited by Taylor Stoehr
Publisher: PM Press
Published: Feb. 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60486-058-0
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 488
Dimensions: 9 by 6
Subjects: Politics, Literature
$28.95

A one-man think-tank for the New Left, Paul Goodman wrote over thirty books, most of them before his decade of fame as a social critic in the Sixties. A Paul Goodman Reader that does him justice must be a compendious volume, with excerpts not only from best-sellers like Growing Up Absurd, but also from his landmark books on education, community planning, anarchism, psychotherapy, language theory, and poetics. Samples as well from The Empire City, a comic novel reviewers compared to Don Quixote, prize-winning short stories, and scores of poems that led America’s most respected poetry reviewer, Hayden Carruth, to exclaim, “Not one dull page. It’s almost unbelievable.

Goodman called himself as an old-fashioned man of letters, which meant that all these various disciplines and occasions added up to a single abiding concern for the human plight in perilous times, and for human promise and achieved grandeur, love and hope.

Priase:

“It was that voice of his that seduced me--that direct, cranky, egotistical, generous American voice… Paul Goodman’s voice touched everything he wrote about with intensity, interest, and his own terribly appealing sureness and awkwardness… It was his voice, that is to say, his intelligence and the poetry of his intelligence incarnated, which kept me a loyal and passionate fan.”
--Susan Sontag, novelist and public intellectual

“Goodman, like all real novelists, is, at bottom, a moralist. What really interests him are the various ways in which human beings living in a modern metropolis gain, keep or lose their integrity and sense of selfhood.”
–-W. H. Auden, poet

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Drawing The Line Once Again
Authors: Paul Goodman, Edited by Taylor Stoehr
Publisher: PM Press
Published: July 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60486-057-3
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 128
Dimensions: 9 by 6
Subjects: Essays, Political Science

$14.95

Five years after his death in 1972, Paul Goodman was characterized by anarchist historian George Woodcock as “the only truly seminal libertarian thinker in our generation.” In this new PM Press initiative, Goodman’s literary executor Taylor Stoehr has gathered together nine core texts from his anarchist legacy to future generations. 

Here will be found the “utopian essays and practical proposals” that inspired the dissident youth of the Sixties, influencing movement theory and practice so profoundly that they have become underlying assumptions of today’s radicalism. Goodman’s analyses of citizenship and civil disobedience, decentralism and the organized system, show him Drawing the Line Once Again, mindful of the long anarchist tradition, and especially of the Jeffersonian democracy that resonated strongly in his own political thought. This is a deeply American book, a potent antidote to US global imperialism and domestic anomie.

Praise:

 “Paul Goodman has been one of the few integrated and hence liberated people of our age… He may well have been the only truly seminal libertarian thinker in our generation.”
--George Woodcock, historian of anarchism

“The core of Goodman’s politics was his definition of anarchism…look not to the state for solutions but discover them for yourselves… He most passionately believed that man must not commit treason against himself, whatever the state—capitalist, socialist, et al—commands.”
--Nat Hentoff, The Village Voice

 

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Events

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New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative: A Review
by Paul J. Comeau
The Fifth Estate

June 2012

As a whole, New Reformation is in many ways the culmination of Goodman’s writing, a synthesis of his ideas, tempered by both age and experience. With the revival of popular interest in his writing, many of his ideas are slowly gaining traction with a new audience. 

As the Occupy movement ushers in the next upsurge of politically awakened youth, Goodman is well poised to take his place as one of the most important thinkers of the past century, and to influence yet another generation of radicals.

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Redrawing the Line: The Anarchist Writings of Paul Goodman
by Paul Comeau
The Fifth Estate
Spring 2012

“A free society,” Goodman writes, “cannot be the substitution of a ‘new order’ for the old order; it is the extension of spheres of free action until they make up most of the social life.” While the move towards a free society can be gradual, it cannot occur without “revolutionary disruption,” of some areas of society, “e.g., war, economics, sexual education – any genuine liberation whatsoever involves a total change.”

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The Paul Goodman Reader: A Review
Publishers Weekly
July 2011

Compiled for those not yet born" when editor and friend Taylor Stoehr met the astonishingly prolific social critic Paul Goodman in 1950, this selection of essays, excerpts, short fiction, and poetry presents the work of the self-confessed "Man of Letters" to a new generation. Seldom afraid to plead ignorant on specialist topics, Goodman instead applies his own forte--human beings--to wholly illuminating social critiques incorporating philosophy, theology, psychoanalysis (he co-founded Gestalt Therapy), and American popular culture. At the core of many a discourse is speech and language. With terrifyingly accurate sketches of "Orwellian" politics and Goffman-esque analyses of media-influenced human communication, Goodman sweeps through notions of apathy, alienation, and power while exuding his own sense of enterprise and belief in infamous zeitgeist pieces. A renaissance thinker rather than an active proponent for social change, his prophetic writing garnered attention, especially Growing Up Absurd (1960) which hugely, if unintentionally, inspired the youth movements of the following decade. This celebratory compendium is as pertinent today as when Goodman first furiously put pen to paper, and while there may be few concrete answers, Goodman's way of seeing is riveting and decidedly infectious.

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Arrested Development
By Kerry Howley
Bookforum.org
Dec/Jan 2011

Almost everything written about Paul Goodman refers to him as a "man of letters," a designation interesting only in that it indicates a terrific triumph of self-branding. Goodman very much enjoyed calling himself a man of letters, or sometimes an "old-fashioned man of letters," so stated with an air of declinist resignation, and could be counted on to complain if described as anything less. He produced essays with titles like "The Present Plight of a Man of Letters," the gist of which was that the plight was rather taxing, and that they don't make 'em like Paul Goodman anymore.

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Radical ideas implicit in the Jeffersonian democracy on which the US was foundedt
By Belinda Webb
The Tribune Magazine
June 2011

“Pacifist anarchist” may seem like an oxymoron, but Goodman was fervently anti-violent; passive resistance, like that espoused by Gandhi, was key. It may surprise some that Goodman was also one of the co-founders of gestalt therapy, the phenomenological existential therapy created by Fritz and Laura Perls in the 1940s. The goal of a phenomenological method is awareness of what’s happening in the here and now, not an interpretation and re-jigging of existing attitudes. You could almost imagine Karl Marx taking to it with gusto because the aim is not to interpret, but to change. It was the attitude that Goodman brought to all his many and diverse writings, and one which won him admirers like Susan Sontag, for whom he was a hero, although she felt he held her in disdain.

 
Drawing the Line: A Review
By Veronica Manfredi
Theory in Action
Vol. 4, No. 1
January 2011

In his preface, Taylor Stoehr introduces the reader to the life and work of his friend and mentor, Paul Goodman. Stoehr's perspective contextualizes the appeal of Goodman's ideas to the 1960's youth movement in America. The preface includes excerpts from Goodman's writing not found in the body of the book which underline Goodman's ever-present concern with the penal system, which Stoehr believes is the “apotheosis” of the modern state.

 


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