Joel Kovel (born 27 August 1936) is an American politician, academic, writer, and eco-socialist. A practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst until the mid-1980s, he has lectured in psychiatry, anthropology, political science and communication studies. He has published many books on his work in psychiatry, psychoanalysis and political activism. Kovel is a member of the Green Party of the United States (GPUS).
Joel Kovel at Judson Memorial Church
New York City, 2009
In 1936, Kovel was born in Brooklyn, New York, and spent his childhood between Brooklyn and Long Island. He first attended Yale College and then studied medicine at Columbia University, where he gained a medical degree in 1961. Following this, he studied psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, becoming Director of Residency Training (1977-83) and Professor of Psychiatry (1979-86) at the college. He also holds a diploma in psychoanalysis from the Downstate Medical Center Institute.
Kovel is married, has three children, three stepchildren and five grandchildren, and resides in Willow, a rural district of Woodstock, Ulster County, New York. Kovel is the Father-in-law of comedian Greg Fitzsimmons.
Kovel took up a career in psychiatry and psychoanalysis until the mid-1980s, when he became disillusioned with the health care system. In addition to his work in Psychiatry, Kovel has been Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Faculty in the New School for Social Research; Visiting Professor of Political Science and Communications at the University of California (1986-7); Visiting Professor at San Diego State University (1990); Visiting Professor of Communication at the University of California (1993); and Alger Hiss Professor of Social Studies, Bard College between 1988 and 2003, and Distinguished Professor of Social Studies at the institution from 2003 to 2008.
In 2009, Kovel accused Bard College of terminating him in retaliation for his political views. The college president, Leon Botstein, countered that the reasons were financial and not political. The firing took place at the height of the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, when the college let several members of the faculty go. College President Leon Botstein wrote to Kovel accusing him of "tak(ing) what is self-evidently a result of economic constraint and turn(ing) it into a trumped-up case of prejudice and political victimization."
Kovel has contributed to many journals and magazines. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Capitalism Nature Socialism, a quarterly journal on Eco-socialism.
As a writer, Kovel has published nine books and over a hundred articles in various publications. Many of his books have been related to his work psychiatry and psychoanalysis. White Racism: A Psychohistory, released in 1972, was nominated for a National Book Award in Religion and Philosophy. His work in the psychiatric-psychoanalytic system was documented in 1981 with the publication of The Age of Desire: Case Histories of a Radical Psychoanalyst. The Radical Spirit: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Society won "Choice Outstanding Academic Book" for 1989.
Other works have focused on politics and eco-socialism, including Against the State of Nuclear Terror (1983) and 1994's Red Hunting in the Promised Land, a study of anticommunist repression in America. The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or The End of the World, was published in 2002.
Kovel's most recent book, Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel-Palestine, became the focus of intense controversy in 2007.
Kovel became involved in political activism during the Vietnam War. He has been an active member of anti-nuclear movement and peace campaigns, Central American and Caribbean solidarity movements, the movements for democratic media and environmental campaigns. As part of his campaigning work, he lived briefly in Nicaragua in 1986 and joined the Pastors for Peace as they broke the US blockade on Cuba in their 1994 Friendshipment.
In 1990, Kovel moved into party politics by joining the Green Party of the US. In 1998 he ran as the party's candidate for US Senator from New York, finishing fourth among the six candidates. Kovel also ran for the party's Presidential nomination in 2000 finishing fourth overall well behind nominee Ralph Nader.
Kovel is an advisory editor of Socialist Resistance.
In 2001, Kovel and Michael Löwy, an anthropologist and member of the Reunified Fourth International (a principal Trotskyist organisation), released An ecosocialist manifesto, which set out to define eco-socialist ideology has been adopted by some organisations. Kovel's 2002 work, The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?, is considered by many, such as Derek Wall, to be the most up-to-date exposition of eco-socialist thought.
Kovel is anti-capitalist and anti-globalization, seeing globalization as a force driven by capitalism - in turn, the rapid economic growth encouraged by globalization causes acute ecological crises. He believes that capitalist firms have to continue to generate profit through a combination of continually intensifying exploitation and selling to new markets: this means that capitalism must grow indefinitely to exist, which seems impossible on a planet of finite resources.
In the Ecosocialist manifesto, Kovel and Löwy suggest that capitalist expansion causes both "crises of ecology" through "rampant industrialization" and "societal breakdown" that springs "from the form of imperialism known as globalization". They believe that capitalism's expansion "exposes ecosystems" to pollutants, habitat destruction and resource depletion, "reducing the sensuous vitality of nature to the cold exchangeability required for the accumulation of capital", while submerging "the majority of the world's people to a mere reservoir of labor power" as it penetrates communities through "consumerism and depoliticization". Furthermore, Kovel sees the form of neo-liberal globalization as "a return to the pure logic of capital" that "has effectively swept away measures which had inhibited capital’s aggressivity, replacing them with naked exploitation of humanity and nature"; for Kovel, this "tearing down of boundaries", which was "a deliberate response to a serious accumulation crisis" in the 1970s, has become the definition of modern 'globalization'.
As eco-socialists disagree with the elite theories of capitalism, which tend to label a specific class or social group as conspirators who construct a system that satisfies their greed and personal desires, Kovel suggests that the capitalist system itself is self-perpetuating, fuelled by extra-human or impersonal forces. He uses the Bhopal Union-Carbide industrial disaster as an example. Many anti-corporation observers would blame the avarice of those at the top of many multi-national corporations. Conversely, Kovel traces systemic impulses. Union Carbide were experiencing a decrease in sales that led to falling profits, which, due to stock market conditions, translated into a drop in share values. The depreciation of share value made many shareholders sell their stock, weakening the company and leading to cost-cutting measures that eroded the safety procedures and mechanisms at the Bhopal site. Though this did not, in Kovel's mind, make Bhopal inevitable, it illustrates the effect market forces can have on increasing the likelihood of ecological and social problems.
Kovel follows Marx's theories about the contradiction between use values and exchange values. As he explains in The Enemy of Nature, within a market economy, goods are not produced to meet needs but are produced to be exchanged for money that we then use to acquire other goods. As we have to keep selling in order to keep buying, we must persuade others to buy our goods just to ensure our survival, which leads to the production of goods with no previous use that can be sold to sustain our ability to buy other goods. Kovel stresses that this contradiction has reached a destructive extent, where certain essential activities - such as caring for relatives full-time and basic subsistence - are unrewarded, while unnecessary economic activities earn certain individuals huge fortunes.
Capitalist expansion is seen by Kovel as being "hand in glove" with "corrupt and subservient client states" that repress dissent against the system, governed by international organisations "under the overall supervision of the Western powers and the superpower United States", which subordinate peripheral nations economically and militarily. Kovel further claims that capitalism itself spurs conflict and, ultimately, war. Kovel states that the 'War on Terror', between Islamist extremists and the USA, is caused by "oil imperialism", whereby the capitalist nations require control over sources of energy, especially oil, which are necessary to continue intensive industrial growth - in the quest for control of such resources, Kovel argues that the capitalist nations, specifically the USA, have come into conflict with the predominantly Muslim nations where oil is often found.
Kovel believes that state or self-regulation of markets does not solve the crisis "because to do so requires setting limits upon accumulation", which is "unacceptable" for a growth-orientated system; they believe that terrorism and revolutionary impulses cannot be tackled properly "because to do so would mean abandoning the logic of empire". Instead, eco-socialists feel that increasing repressive counter-terrorism increases alienation and causes further terrorism and believe that state counter-terrorist methods are, in Kovel and Löwy's words, "evolving into a new and malignant variation of fascism". They echo Rosa Luxemburg's "stark choice" between "socialism or barbarism", which was believed to be a prediction of the coming of fascism and further forms of destructive capitalism at the beginning of the twentieth century (Luxemburg was in fact murdered by proto-fascist Freikorps in the revolutionary atmosphere of Germany in 1919).
Kovel criticises many within the Green movement for not being overtly anti-capitalist, for working within the existing capitalist, statist system, for voluntarism, or for reliance on technological fixes. He suggests that eco-socialism differs from Green politics at the most fundamental level because the 'Four Pillars' of Green politics (and the 'Ten Key Values' of the US Green Party) do not include the demand for the emancipation of labour and the end of the separation between producers and the means of production.
Kovel is highly critical of those Greens who favour "working within the system". While he recognises the ability of within-system approaches to raise awareness, and believe that "the struggle for an ecologically rational world must include a struggle for the state", he believes that the mainstream Green movement is too easily co-opted by the current powerful socio-political forces as it "passes from citizen-based activism to ponderous bureaucracies scuffling for 'a seat at the table'". For Kovel, capitalism is "happy to enlist" the Green movement for "convenience", "control over popular dissent" and "rationalization". He further attacks within-system green initiatives like carbon trading, which he sees as a "capitalist shell game" that turns pollution "into a fresh source of profit".
In addition, Kovel criticises the "defeatism" of voluntarism in some local forms of environmentalism that do not connect together: he suggests that they can be "drawn off into individualism" or co-opted to the demands of capitalism, as in the case of certain recycling projects, where citizens are "induced to provide free labor" to waste management industries who are involved in the "capitalization of nature". He labels the notion on voluntarism "ecopolitics without struggle".
Kovel notes that "events in nature are reciprocal and multi-determined" and can therefore not be predictably "fixed"; socially, technologies cannot solve social problems because they are not "mechanical". He posits an analysis, developed from Marx, that patterns of production and social organisation are more important then the forms of technology used within a given configuration of society. Under capitalism, he suggests that technology "has been the sine qua non of growth" - thus he believes that, even in a world with hypothetical "free energy", the effect would be to lower the cost of automobile production, leading to the massive overproduction of vehicles, "collapsing infrastructure", chronic resource depletion and the "paving over" of the "remainder of nature". In the modern world, Kovel considers the supposed efficiency of new post-industrial commodities is a "plain illusion", as miniaturized components involve many substances and are therefore non-recyclable (and, theoretically, only simple substances could be retrieved by burning out-of-date equipment, releasing more pollutants). He is quick to warn "environmental liberals" against over-selling the virtues of renewable energies that cannot meet the mass energy consumption of the era; although he would still support renewable energy projects, he believes it is more important to restructure societies to reduce energy use before relying on renewable energy technologies alone.
Kovel believes that eco-socialists must reject at a fundamental level what he calls "ecological economics" or the "ecological wing of mainstream economics" for being "uninterested in social transformation". He furthers rejects the Neo-Smithian school, who believe in Adam Smith's vision of "a capitalism of small producers, freely exchanging with each other", which is self-regulating and competitive. The school is represented by thinkers like David Korten who believe in "regulated markets" checked by government and civil society but, for Kovel, they do not provide a critique of the expansive nature of capitalism away from localised production and ignore "questions of class, gender or any other category of domination". Kovel also criticises their "fairy-tale" view of history, which refers to the abuse of "natural capital" by the materialism of the Scientific Revolution, an assumption that, in Kovel's eyes, seems to suggest that "nature had toiled to put the gift of capital into human hands", rather than capitalism being a product of social relations in human history.
Other forms of Community-based economics are also rejected by Kovel, including followers of E. F. Schumacher and some members of the Cooperative movement, for advocating "no more than a very halting and isolated first step". He thinks that their principles are "only partially realizable within the institutions of cooperatives in capitalist society" because "the internal cooperation" of cooperatives is "forever hemmed in and compromised" by the need to expand value and compete within the market. For Kovel, Community-based economics and Green Localism are "a fantasy" because "strict localism belongs to the aboriginal stages of society" and would be an "ecological nightmare at present population levels" due to "heat loses from a multitude of dispersed sites, the squandering of scare resources, the needless reproduction of effort, and cultural impoverishment". While he feels that small-scale production units are "an essential part of the path towards an ecological society", he sees them not as "an end in itself"; in his view, small enterprises can be either capitalist or socialist in their configuration and therefore must be "consistently anti-capitalist", through recognition and support of the emancipation of labour, and exist "in a dialectic with the whole of things", as human society will need large-scale projects, such as transport infrastructures. He highlights the work of Herman Daly, who exemplifies what eco-socialists see as the good and bad points of ecological economics - while he offers a critique of capitalism and a desire for "workers ownership", he only believes in workers ownership "kept firmly within a capitalist market", ignoring the eco-socialist desire for struggle in the emancipation of labour and hoping that the interests of labour and management today can be improved so that they are "in harmony".
Kovel has attacked deep ecology because, like other forms of Green politics and Green economics, it features "virtuous souls" who have "no internal connection with the critique of capitalism and the emancipation of labor". He is particularly scathing about deep ecology and its "fatuous pronouncement" that Green politics is "neither left nor right, but ahead", which, for him, ignores the notion that "that which does not confront the system comes its instrument".
Even more scathingly, Kovel suggests that in "its effort to decentre humanity within nature", deep ecologists can "go too far" and argue for the "splitting away of unwanted people", as evidenced by their desire to preserve wilderness by removing the groups that have lived there "from time immemorial". Kovel thinks that this lends legitimacy to "capitalist elites", like the US State Department and the World Bank, who can make preservation of wilderness a part of their projects that "have added value as sites for ecotourism" but remove people from their land. Between 1986 and 1996, Kovel notes that over three million people were displaced by "conservation projects"; in the making of the US National Parks, three hundred Shoshone Indians were killed in the development of Yosemite. Kovel believes that deep ecology has affected the rest of the Green movement and led to calls from restrictions on immigration, "often allying with reactionaries in a... cryptically racist quest". Indeed, he finds traces of deep ecology in the "biological reduction" of Nazism, an ideology many "organicist thinkers" have found appealing, including Herbert Gruhl, a founder of the German Green Party (who subsequently left when it became more Left-wing) and originator of the phrase "neither left nor right, but ahead". Kovel warns that, while 'ecofascism' is confined to a narrow band of far right intellectuals and disaffected white power skinheads who involved themselves alongside far left groups in the anti-globalization movement, it may be "imposed as a revolution from above to install an authoritarian regime in order to preserve the main workings of the system" in times of crisis.
Bioregionalism, a philosophy developed by writers like Kirkpatrick Sale who believe in the self-sufficiency of "appropriate bioregional boundaries" drawn up by inhabitants of "an area", has been critiqued by Kovel, who fears that the "vagueness" of the area will lead to conflict and further boundaries between communities. While Sale cites the bioregional living of Native Americans, Kovel notes that such ideas are impossible to translate to populations of modern proportions, and evidences the fact that Native Americans held land in commons, rather than private property - thus, for eco-socialists, bioregionalism provides no understanding of what is needed to transform society, and what the inevitable "response of the capitalist state" would be to people constructing bioregionalism.
Kovel also attacks the problems of self-sufficiency. Where Sale believes in self-sufficient regions "each developing the energy of its peculiar ecology", such as "wood in the northwest [USA]", Kovel asks "how on earth" these can be made sufficient for regional needs, and notes the environmental damage of converting Seattle into a "forest-destroying and smoke-spewing wood-burning" city. Kovel also questions Sale's insistence on bioregions that do "not require connections with the outside, but within strict limits", and whether this precludes journeys to visit family members and other forms of travel.
Kovel acknowledges the importance of "the gendered bifurcation of nature" and supports the emancipation of gender as it "is at the root of patriarchy and class". Nevertheless, while he believes that "any path out of capitalism must also be eco-feminist", he criticises types of ecofeminism that are not anti-capitalist and can "essentialize women's closeness to nature and build from there, submerging history into nature", becoming more at place in the "comforts of the New Age Growth Centre". These limitations, for Kovel, "keep ecofeminism from becoming a coherent social movement".
Though Kovel recognises Social Ecology as part of a similar radical tradition as eco-socialism, he still distinguishes one from the other because Social Ecologists see hierarchy "in-itself" as the cause of ecological destruction, whereas eco-socialists focus on gender and class domination embodied in capitalism and recognise that forms of authority that are not "an expropriation of human power for... self-aggrandizement", such as a student-teacher relationship that is "reciprocal and mutual", are beneficial. In practice, Kovel describes Social Ecology as continuing the anarchist tradition of non-violent direct action, which is "necessary" but "not sufficient" because "it leaves unspoken the question of building an ecological society beyond capital". Furthermore, Social Ecologists and anarchists tend to focus on the state alone, rather than the class relations behind state domination (in the view of Marxists). Kovel fears that this is political, springing from historic hostility to Marxism among anarchists and sectarianism, which he points out as a fault of the "brilliant" but "dogmatic" founder of Social Ecology, Murray Bookchin.
For Kovel and Lowy, eco-socialism is "the realization of the “first-epoch” socialisms" by resurrecting the notion of "free development of all producers", distancing themselves from "the attenuated, reformist aims of social democracy and the productivist structures of the bureaucratic variations of socialism", such as forms of Leninism and Stalinism. They ground the failure of past socialist movements in "underdevelopment in the context of hostility by existing capitalist powers", which led to "the denial of internal democracy" and "emulation of capitalist productivism". Kovel believes that the forms of 'actually existing socialism' consisted of "public ownership of the means of production", rather than meeting "the true definition" of socialism as "a free association of producers", with the Party-State bureaucracy acting as the "alienating substitute 'public'".
In analysing the Russian Revolution, Kovel feels that "conspiratorial" revolutionary movements "cut off from the development of society" will "find society an inert mass requiring leadership from above". From this, he notes that the anti-democratic Tsarist heritage meant that the Bolsheviks, who were aided into power by World War One, were a minority who, when faced with a counter-revolution and invading Western powers, continued "the extraordinary needs of 'war communism'", which "put the seal of authoritarianism" on the revolution; thus, for Kovel, Lenin and Trotsky "resorted to terror", shut down the Soviets (workers' councils) and emulated "capitalist efficiency and productivism as a means of survival", setting the stage for Stalinism. Lenin, in Kovel's eyes, came to oppose the nascent Bolshevik environmentalism and its champion Aleksandr Bogdanov, who was later attacked for "idealism"; Kovel describes Lenin's philosophy as "a sharply dualistic materialism, rather similar to the Cartesian separation of matter and consciousness, and perfectly tooled... to the active working over of the dead, dull matter by the human hand", which led him to want to overcome Russian backwardness through rapid industrialization. This tendency was, according to Kovel, augmented by a desire to catch-up with the West and the "severe crisis" of the revolution's first years. Furthermore, Kovel quotes Trotsky, who believed in a Communist "superman" who would "learn how to move rivers and mountains". Kovel believes that, in Stalin's "revolution from above" and mass terror in response to the early 1930s economic crisis, Trotsky's writings "were given official imprimatur", despite the fact that Trotsky himself was eventually purged, as Stalinism attacked "the very notion of ecology... in addition to ecologies". Kovel adds that Stalin "would win the gold medal for enmity to nature", and that, in the face of massive environmental degradation, the inflexible Soviet bureaucracy became increasingly inefficient and unable to emulate capitalist accumulation, leading to a "vicious cycle" that led to its collapse.
Kovel advocates the non-violent dismantling of capitalism and the state, focusing on collective ownership of the means of production by freely associated producers and restoration of the Commons.
Kovel focuses on working-class involvement in the formation of eco-socialist parties or their increased involvement in existing Green Parties; however, he believes that, unlike many other forms of socialist analysis, "there is no privileged agent" or revolutionary class, and that there is potential for agency in numerous autonomous, grassroots individuals and groups who can build "prefigurative" projects for non-violent radical social change. He defines "prefiguration" as "the potential for the given to contain the lineaments of what is to be", meaning that "a moment toward the future exists embedded in every point of the social organism where a need arises". If "everything has prefigurative potential", Kovel notes that forms of potential ecological production will be "scattered", and thus suggests that "the task is to free them and connect them". While all "human ecosystems" have "ecosocialist potential", Kovel points out that ones such as the World Bank have low potential, whereas internally democratic anti-globalization "affinity groups" have a high potential through a dialectic that involves the "active bringing and holding together of negations", such as the group acting as an alternative institution ("production of an ecological/socialist alternative") and trying to shut down a G8 summit meeting ("resistance to capital"). Therefore "practices that in the same motion enhance use-values and diminish exchange-values are the ideal" for eco-socialists.
For Kovel, the main prefigurative steps "are that people ruthlessly criticize the capitalist system... and that they include in this a consistent attack on the widespread belief that there can be no alternative to it", which will then "deligitimate the system and release people into struggle". Kovel justifies this by stating that "radical criticism of the given... can be a material force", even without an alternative, "because it can seize the mind of the masses of people", leading to "dynamic" and "exponential", rather than "incremental" and "linear", victories that spread rapidly. Following this, he advocates the expansion of the dialectical eco-socialist potential of groups through sustaining the confrontation and internal cohesion of human ecosystems, leading to an "activation" of potentials in others that will "spread across the whole social field" as "a new set of orienting principles" that define an ideology or "'party-life' formation".
In the short-term, Kovel advocates activities that have the “promise of breaking down the commodity form”. This includes organizing labor, which is a “reconfiguring of the use-value of labor power”; forming cooperatives, allowing “a relatively free association of labor”; forming localised currencies, which he sees as “undercutting the value-basis of money”; and supporting “radical media” that, in his eyes, involve an “undoing of the fetishism of commodities”. He advocates economic localisation in the same vein as many in the Green movement, although only as a prefigurative step rather than an end in itself. He also advises political parties attempting to “democratize the state” that there should be “dialogue but no compromise” with established political parties, and that there must be “a continual association of electoral work with movement work” to avoid “being sucked back into the system”. Such parties, he believes, should focus on “the local rungs of the political system” first, before running national campaigns that “challenge the existing system by the elementary means of exposing its broken promises”.
Kovel believes in building prefigurations around forms of production based on use values, which will provide a practical vision of a post-capitalist, post-statist system. Such projects include Indymedia ("a democratic rendering of the use-values of new technologies such as the Internet, and a continual involvement in wider struggle"), open-source software, Wikipedia, public libraries and many other initiatives, especially those developed within the anti-globalisation movement.
Kovel believes that examples like the Christian Bruderhof Communities (despite elements of patriarchy that he attacks) show that "communistic" organizations can "survive rather well in a heavily industrialized market" if they are "protected" from the dependence on the market by "anti-capitalist intentionality". He further posits that class struggle is "internationalized in the face of globalization", as evidenced by a wave of strikes across the Global South in the first half of the year 2000; indeed, he says that "labor's most cherished values are already immanently ecocentric". Kovel therefore thinks that these universalizing tendencies must lead to the formation of "a consciously 'Ecosocialist Party'" that is neither like a parliamentary or vanguardist party. Instead, Kovel advocates a form of political party "grounded in communities of resistance", where delegates from these communities form the core of the party's activists, and these delegates and the "open and transparent" assembly they form are subject to recall and regular rotation of members. He holds up the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the Gaviotas movement as examples of such communities, which "are produced outside capitalist circuits" and show that "there can be no single way valid for all peoples". Nonetheless, he also firmly believes in connecting these movements, stating that "ecosocialism will be international or it will be nothing" and hoping that the Ecosocialist Party can retain the autonomy of local communities while supporting them materially. With an ever-expanding party, Kovel hopes that "defections" by capitalists will occur, leading eventually to the armed forces and police who, in joining the revolution, will signify that "the turning point is reached".
Kovel uses the term “Eco-socialist revolution” to describe the transition to an eco-socialist world society. In the immediate socio-political transition, he believes that four groups will emerge from the revolution – revolutionaries, those “whose productive activity is directly compatible with ecological production” (such as nurses, schoolteachers, librarians, independent farmers and many other examples), those “whose pre-revolutionary practice was given over to capital” (including the bourgeoisie, advertising executives and more) and “the workers whose activity added surplus value to capitalist commodities”. In terms of political organisation, he advocates an “interim assembly” made up of the revolutionaries that can “devise incentives to make sure that vital functions are maintained” (such as short-term continuation of “differential remuneration” for labor), “handle the redistribution of social roles and assets”, convene “in widespread locations”, and send delegates to regional, state, national and international organisations, where every level has an “executive council” that is rotated and can be recalled. From there, he asserts that “productive communities” will “form the political as well as economic unit of society” and “organize others” to make a transition to eco-socialist production; he adds that people will be allowed to be members of any community they choose with “associate membership” of others, such as a doctor having main membership of healthcare communities as a doctor and associate membership of child-rearing communities as a father. Each locality would, in Kovel’s eyes, require one community that administered the areas of jurisdiction through an elected assembly. High-level assemblies would have additional “supervisory” roles over localities to monitor the development of ecosystemic integrity, and administer “society-wide services” like transport in “state-like functions”, before the interim assembly can transfer responsibilities to “the level of the society as a whole through appropriate and democratically responsive committees”.
Part of the eco-socialist transition, in Kovel’s eyes, is the reforming money to retain its use in “enabling exchanges” while reducing its functions as “a commodity in its own right” and “repository of value”. He argues for directing money to “enhancement of use-values” through a “subsidization of use-values” that “preserves the functioning core of the economy while gaining time and space for rebuilding it”. Internationally, he believes in the immediate cessation of speculation in currencies (“breaking down the function of money as commodity, and redirecting funds on use-values”), the cancellation of the debt of the Global South (“breaking the back of the value function” of money) and the redirecting the “vast reservoir of mainly phony value” to reparations and “ecologically sound development”. He suggests the end of military aid and other forms of support to “comprador elites in the South” will eventually “lead to their collapse”.
In terms of trade, Kovel advocates a ‘World People’s Trade Organization’ (WPTO), “responsible to a confederation of popular bodies”, in which “the degree of control over trade is... proportional to involvement with production”, meaning that “farmers would have a special say over food trade” and so on. He posits that the WPTO should have an elected council that will oversee a reform of prices in favour of an ‘Ecological Price’ (EP) “determined by the difference between actual use-values and fully realized ones”, thus having low tariffs for forms of ecological production like organic agriculture; he also envisages the high tariffs on non-ecological production providing subsidies to ecological production units. The EP would also internalize the costs of current externalities (like pollution) and “would be set as a function of the distance traded”, reducing the effects of long-distance transport like carbon emissions and increased packaging of goods. He thinks that this will provide a “standard of transformation” for non-ecological industries, like the automobile industry, thus spurring changes towards ecological production.
Kovel pursue "ecological production" that goes beyond the socialist vision of the emancipation of labor to "the realization of use-values and the appropriation of intrinsic value". He envisions a form of production in which "the making of a thing becomes part of the thing made" so that, using a high quality meal as an analogy, "pleasure would obtain for the cooking of the meal" - thus activities "reserved as hobbies under capitalism" would "compose the fabric of everyday life" under eco-socialism. This, for Kovel, is achieved if labor is "freely chosen and developed... with a fully realized use-value" achieved by a "negation" of exchange-value, and he exemplifies the Food Not Bombs project for adopting this. He believes that the notion of "mutual recognition... for the process as well as the product" will avoid exploitation and hierarchy. With production allowing humanity to "live more directly and receptively embedded in nature", Kovel predicts that "a reorientation of human need" will occur that recognises ecological limits and sees technology as "fully participant in the life of eco-systems", thus removing it from profit-making exercises.
In the course on an Eco-socialist revolution, Kovel advocates the “rapid conversion to ecosocialist production” for all enterprises, followed by “restoring ecosystemic integrity to the workplace” through steps like workers ownership. He then believes that the new enterprises can build “socially developed plans” of production for societal needs, such as efficient light-rail transport components. At the same time, Kovel argues for the transformation of essential but, under capitalism, non-productive labour, such as child care, into productive labour, “thereby giving reproductive labour a status equivalent to productive labour”. During such a transition, he believes that income should be guaranteed and that money will still be used under “new conditions of value… according to use and to the degree to which ecosystem integrity is developed and advanced by any particular production”. Within this structure, Kovel asserts that markets and will become unnecessary – although “market phenomena” in personal exchanges and other small instances might be adopted – and communities and elected assemblies will democratically decide on the allocation of resources.
Kovel is quick to assert that the focus on “production” does not mean that there will be an increase in production and labor under Eco-socialism. He thinks that the emancipation of labor and the realization of use-value will allow “the spheres of work and culture to be reintegrated”. He cites the example of Paraguayan Indian communities (organised by Jesuits) in the eighteenth century who made sure that all community members learned musical instruments, and had labourers take musical instruments to the fields and takes turns playing music or harvesting.
Kovel focuses on a modified version of the notion of ‘Usufruct’ to replace capitalist private property arrangements. As a legal term, Usufruct refers to the legal right to use and derive profit or benefit from property that belongs to another person, as long as the property is not damaged. According to Kovel, a modern interpretation of the idea is “where one uses, enjoys – and through that, improves – another’s property”, as its Latin etymology “condenses the two meanings of use – as in use-value, and enjoyment – and as in the gratification expressed in freely associated labour”. The idea, according to Kovel, has roots in the Code of Hammurabi and was first mentioned in Roman law “where it applied to ambiguities between masters and slaves with respect to property”; it also features in Islamic Sharia law, Aztec law and the Napoleonic Code.
Kovel highlights the fact that Marx mentioned the idea when he stated that human beings are no more than the planet’s “usufructaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition”. Kovel has taken on this reading, asserting that, in an eco-socialist society, “everyone will have... rights of use and ownership over those means of production necessary to express the creativity of human nature”, namely “a place of one’s own” to decorate to personal taste, some personal possessions, the body and its attendant sexual and reproductive rights. However, Kovel sees property as “self-contradictory” because individuals emerge “in a tissue of social relations” and “nested circles”, with the self at the centre and extended circles where “issues of sharing arise from early childhood on”. He believes that “the full self is enhanced more by giving than by taking” and that eco-socialism is realized when material possessions weigh “lightly” upon the self – thus restoration of use-value allows things to be taken “concretely and sensuously” but “lightly, since things are enjoyed for themselves and not as buttresses for a shaky ego”. This, for Kovel, reverses what Marxists see as the commodity fetishism and atomization of individuals (through the “unappeasable craving” for “having and excluding others from having”) under capitalism. Under eco-socialism, he therefore believes that enhancement of use-value will lead to differentiated ownership between the individual and the collective, where there are “distinct limits on the amount of property individuals control” and no-one can take control of resources that “would permit the alienation of means of production from another”. He then hopes that the “hubris” of the notion of “ownership of the planet” will be replaced with usufruct.
Kovel asserts that "violence is the rupturing of ecosystems" and is therefore "deeply contrary to ecosocialist values". He believes that revolutionary movements must prepare for post-revolutionary violence from counter-revolutionary sources by "prior development of the democratic sphere" within the movement, because "to the degree that people are capable of self-government, so will they turn away from violence and retribution" for "a self-governed people cannot be pushed around by any alien government". It is therefore essential, in Kovel's view, that the revolution "takes place in" or spreads quickly to the USA, which "is capital's gendarme and will crush any serious threat", and that revolutionaries reject the death penalty and retribution against former opponents or counter-revolutionaries.
Writing in Capitalism Nature Socialism, Doug Boucher, Peter Caplan, David Schwartzman and Jane Zara criticise eco-socialists in general (and Kovel in particular) for a deterministic "catastrophism" that overlooks "the countervailing tendencies of both popular struggles and the efforts of capitalist governments to rationalize the system" and the "accomplishments of the labor movement" that "demonstrate that despite the interests and desires of capitalists, progress toward social justice is possible". They argue that an ecological socialism must be "built on hope, not fear".
Some environmentalists and conservationists have criticised Kovel from within the Green movement. In a review of The Enemy of Nature, David M. Johns criticises eco-socialism for not offering "suggestions about near term conservation policy" and focusing exclusively on long-term societal transformation. Johns believes that species extinction "started much earlier" than capitalism and suggests that eco-socialism neglects the fact that an ecological society will need to transcend the destructiveness found in "all large-scale societies". Johns questions whether non-hierarchical social systems can provide for billions of people, and criticises eco-socialists for neglecting issues of population pressure. Furthermore, Johns describes Kovel's argument that human hierarchy is founded on raiding to steal women as "archaic". Overall, Johns feels that eco-socialism asks "many of the right questions" and will encourage conservationists "to better understand which obstacles to conservation are structural", but still feels that eco-socialists suffer from trying "to fit ecological processes and problems into categories long used to describe human society", the very tendency that Kovel himself attacks among capitalists and traditional leftists who attempt to reduce nature to "linear" human models.
The American distributor of Kovel's book Overcoming Zionism, the University of Michigan Press, temporarily suspended distribution of the book in August 2007 after accusations of anti-semitism. Philip Pachoda, Director of the University of Michigan Press, characterized Kovel's book as "hate speech." Three members of the University's board of Regents criticized distribution of Kovel's book on the grounds that it "“debases the press’ franchise and leaves the press and the university open to damage.”  Betsy Kellman, director of the Michigan Anti-Defamation League chapter described the book as dealing in "anti-Semitic canards." A group of six religious organizations, including the National Christian Leadership Council for Israel and the Michigan chapters of the American Jewish Congress, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and B'nai Brith, issued a statement describing Kovel's book as "often anti-Semitic in nature."
Nevertheless, the University of Michigan Press "voted unanimously" in October 2007 to continue distributing books with Kovel's publisher, Pluto Press, overturning the original suspension. This came after what Democracy Now! called a "growing campaign led by fellow academics and civil libertarians", including historian Howard Zinn. Zinn wrote a letter on behalf of the Committee for an Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) - a group formed in September 2007 to support Kovel immediately and then organise a conference "that will address both the issue of suppression and Zionism itself" - urging the end of the suspension, which he blamed on an "ultra-Zionist group called StandWithUs" with links to Campus Watch; he described Overcoming Zionism as "serious, well researched work espousing a humanistic resolution". CODZ, whose Honourary Co-Chairs include Zinn and Norman Finkelstein, further claimed to have "successfully solicited hundreds of letters in support of continuing the distribution agreement with Pluto Press Publications". Other groups, such as Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) at the University of Michigan, also supported Kovel.
Following a review of its arrangements with all outside publishers, the University of Michigan Press announced in June 2008 that it will sever its ties with Pluto Press when the current contract expires at the end of 2008, which will end UMP's distribution of Kovel's book. 
Ecological economics is a transdisciplinary field of academic research that aims to address the interdependence and coevolution of human economies and natural ecosystems over time and space. It is distinguished from environmental economics, which is the mainstream economic analysis of the environment, by its treatment of the economy as a subsystem of the ecosystem and its emphasis upon preserving natural capital. One survey of German economists found that ecological and environmental economics are different schools of economic thought, with ecological economists emphasizing "strong" sustainability and rejecting the proposition that natural capital can be substituted for human-made capital.
Ecological economics was founded in the works of Kenneth E. Boulding, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Herman Daly, Robert Costanza, and others. The related field of green economics is, in general, a more politically applied form of the subject.
The identity of ecological economics as a field has been described as fragile, with no generally accepted theoretical framework and a knowledge structure which is not clearly defined. According to ecological economist Malte Faber, ecological economics is defined by its focus on nature, justice, and time. Issues of intergenerational equity, irreversibility of environmental change, uncertainty of long-term outcomes, and sustainable development guide ecological economic analysis and valuation. Ecological economists have questioned fundamental mainstream economic approaches such as cost-benefit analysis, and the separability of economic values from scientific research, contending that economics is unavoidably normative rather than positive (empirical). Positional analysis, which attempts to incorporate time and justice issues, is proposed as an alternative.
Ecological economics includes the study of the metabolism of society, that is, the study of the flows of energy and materials that enter and exit the economic system. This subfield is also called biophysical economics, sometimes referred to also as bioeconomics. It is based on a conceptual model of the economy connected to, and sustained by, a flow of energy, materials, and ecosystem services. Analysts from a variety of disciplines have conducted research on the economy-environment relationship, with concern for energy and material flows and sustainability, environmental quality, and economic development.
A simple circular flow of income diagram is replaced in ecological economics by a more complex flow diagram reflecting the input of solar energy, which sustains natural inputs and environmental services which are then used as units of production. Once consumed, natural inputs pass out of the economy as pollution and waste. The potential of an environment to provide services and materials is referred to as an "environment's source function", and this function is depleted as resources are consumed or pollution contaminates the resources. The "sink function" describes an environment's ability to absorb and render harmless waste and pollution: when waste output exceeds the limit of the sink function, long-term damage occurs.:8 Some persistent pollutants, such as some organic pollutants and nuclear waste are absorbed very slowly or not at all; ecological economists emphasize minimizing "cumulative pollutants".:28 Pollutants affect human health and the health of the climate.
The economic value of natural capital and ecosystem services is accepted by mainstream environmental economics, but is emphasized as especially important in ecological economics. Ecological economists may begin by estimating how to maintain a stable environment before assessing the cost in dollar terms.:9 Ecological economist Robert Costanza led an attempted valuation of the global ecosystem in 1997. Initially published in Nature, the article concluded on $33 trillion with a range from $16 trillion to $54 trillion (in 1997, total global GDP was $27 trillion). Half of the value went to nutrient cycling. The open oceans, continental shelves, and estuaries had the highest total value, and the highest per-hectare values went to estuaries, swamps/floodplains, and seagrass/algae beds. The work was criticized by articles in Ecological Economics Volume 25, Issue 1, but the critics acknowledged the positive potential for economic valuation of the global ecosystem.:129
The Earth's carrying capacity is another central question. This was first examined by Thomas Malthus, and more recently in an MIT study entitled Limits to Growth. Although the predictions of Malthus have not come to pass, some limit to the Earth's ability to support life are acknowledged. In addition, for real GDP per capita to increase real GDP must increase faster than population growth. Diminishing returns suggest that productivity increases will slow if major technological progress is not made. Food production may become a problem, as erosion, an impending water crisis, and soil salinity (from irrigation) reduce the productivity of agriculture. Ecological economists argue that industrial agriculture, which exacerbates these problems, is not sustainable agriculture, and are generally inclined favorably to organic farming, which also reduces the output of carbon.:26 Global wild fisheries are believed to have peaked and begun a decline, with valuable habitat such as estuaries in critical condition.:28 The aquaculture or farming of piscivorous fish, like salmon, does not help solve the problem because they need to be feed products from other fish. Studies have shown that salmon farming has major negative impacts on wild salmon, as well as the forage fish that need to be caught to feed them. Since animals are higher on the trophic level, they are less efficient sources of food energy. Reduced consumption of meat would reduce the demand for food, but as nations develop, they adopt high-meat diets similar to the United States. Genetically modified food (GMF) a conventional solution to the problem, have problems – Bt corn produces its own Bacillus thuringiensis, but the pest resistantance is believed to be only a matter of time.:31 The overall effect of GMF on yields is contentious, with the USDA and FAO acknowledging that GMFs do not necessarily have higher yields and may even have reduced yields.
Global warming is now widely acknowledged as a major issue, with all national scientific academies expressing agreement on the importance of the issue. As the population growth intensifies and energy demand increases, the world faces an energy crisis. Some economists and scientists forecast a global ecological crisis if energy use is not contained – the Stern report is an example. Others, notably William Nordhaus, believe that the world should spend little to reduce carbon emissions because the damage in the future should be discounted. The disagreement has sparked a vigorous debate on issue of discounting and intergenerational equity.
Mainstream economics has attempted to become a value-free 'hard science', but ecological economists argue that value-free economics is generally not realistic. Ecological economics is more willing to entertain alternative conceptions of utility, efficiency, and cost-benefits such as positional analysis or multi-criteria analysis. Ecological economics is typically viewed as economics for sustainable development, and may have goals similar to green politics.
|Renewable energy sources|
Hydro power • Solar power • Tidal power
Wave power • Wind power
Various competing schools of thought exist in the field. Some are close to resource and environmental economics while others are far more heterodox in outlook. An example of the latter is the European Society for Ecological Economics. An example of the former is the Swedish Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics.
In ecological economics, natural capital is added to the typical capital asset analysis of land, labor, and financial capital. Ecological economics uses tools from mathematical economics, but may apply them more closely to the natural world. Whereas mainstream economists tend to be technological optimists, ecological economists are inclined to be technological pessimists. They reason that the natural world has a limited carrying capacity and that its resources may run out. Since destruction of important environmental resources could be practically irreversible and catastrophic, ecological economists are inclined to justify cautionary measures based on the precautionary principle.
The most cogent example of how the different theories treat similar assets is tropical rainforest ecosystems, most obviously the Yasuni region of Ecuador. While this area has substantial deposits of bitumen it is also one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth and some estimates establish it has over 200 undiscovered medical substances in its genomes - most of which would be destroyed by logging the forest or mining the bitumen. Effectively, the instructional capital of the genomes is undervalued by both classical and neoclassical means which would view the rainforest primarily as a source of wood, oil/tar and perhaps food. Increasingly the carbon credit for leaving the extremely carbon-intensive ("dirty") bitumen in the ground is also valued - the government of Ecuador set a price of US$350M for an oil lease with the intent of selling it to someone committed to never exercising it at all and instead preserving the rainforest. Bill Clinton, Paul Martin and other former world leaders have become closely involved in this project which includes lobbying for the issue of International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights to recognize the rainforest's value directly within the framework of the Bretton Woods institutions. If successful this would be a major victory for advocates of ecological economics as the new mainstream form of economics.
Early interest in ecology and economics dates back to the 1960s and the work by Kenneth Boulding and Herman Daly, but the first meetings occurred in the 1980s. It began with a 1982 symposium in Sweden which was attended by people who would later be instrumental in the field, including Robert Costanza, Herman Daly, Charles Hall, Ann-Mari Jansson, Bruce Hannon, H.T. Odum, and David Pimentel. Most were ecosystem ecologists or mainstream environmental economists, with the exception of Daly. In 1987, Daly and Costanza edited an issue of Ecological Modeling to test the waters. Ecological Economics by Joan Martinez-Alier was published later that year.
European conceptual founders include Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1971), William Kapp (1944) and Karl Polanyi (1950). Some key concepts of what is now ecological economics are evident in the writings of E.F. Schumacher, whose book Small Is Beautiful – A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (1973) was published just a few years before the first edition of Herman Daly's comprehensive and persuasive Steady-State Economics (1977). Other figures include ecologists C.S. Holling, H.T. Odum and Robert Costanza, biologist Gretchen Daily and physicist Robert Ayres. CUNY geography professor David Harvey explicitly added ecological concerns to political economic literature. This parallel development in political economy has been continued by analysts such as sociologist John Bellamy Foster.
The antecedents can be traced back to the Romantics of the 1800s as well as some Enlightenment political economists of that era. Concerns over population were expressed by Thomas Malthus, while John Stuart Mill hypothesized that the "stationary state" of an economy might be something that could be considered desirable, anticipating later insights of modern ecological economists, without having had their experience of the social and ecological costs of the dramatic post-World War II industrial expansion. As Martinez-Alier explores in his book the debate on energy in economic systems can also be traced into the 1800s e.g. Nobel prize-winning chemist, Frederick Soddy (1877-1956). Soddy criticized the prevailing belief of the economy as a perpetual motion machine, capable of generating infinite wealth — a criticism echoed by his intellectual heirs in the now emergent field of ecological economics.
The Romanian economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994), who was among Daly's teachers at Vanderbilt University, provided ecological economics with a modern conceptual framework based on the material and energy flows of economic production and consumption. His magnum opus, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1971), has been highly influential.
Articles by Inge Ropke (2004, 2005) and Clive Spash (1999) cover the development and modern history of ecological economics and explain its differentiation from resource and environmental economics, as well as some of the controversy between American and European schools of thought. An article by Robert Costanza, David Stern, Lining He, and Chunbo Ma  responded to a call by Mick Common to determine the foundational literature of ecological economics by using citation analysis to examine which books and articles have had the most influence on the development of the field.
|Laws of thermodynamics|
|Table of thermodynamic equations|
The primary objective of ecological economics (EE) is to ground economic thinking and practice in physical reality, especially in the laws of physics (particularly the laws of thermodynamics) and in knowledge of biological systems. It accepts as a goal the improvement of human well-being through development, and seeks to ensure achievement of this through planning for the sustainable development of ecosystems and societies. Of course the terms development and sustainable development are far from lacking controversy. Richard Norgaard argues traditional economics has hi-jacked the development terminology in his book Development Betrayed. Well-being in ecological economics is also differentiated from welfare as found in mainstream economics and the 'new welfare economics' from the 1930s which informs resource and environmental economics. This entails a limited preference utilitarian conception of value i.e., Nature is valuable to our economies, that is because people will pay for its services such as clean air, clean water, encounters with wilderness, etc.
Ecological economics distinguishes itself from neoclassical economics primarily by its assertion that the economy is an embedded within an environmental system. Ecology deals with the energy and matter transactions of life and the Earth, and the human economy is by definition contained within this system. Ecological economists feel neoclassical economics has ignored the environment, at best relegating it to be a subset of the human economy. Economic theory, as encapsulated in general equilibrium models, then assume both an infinite resource base and also infinite waste sinks with no feedbacks; in simpler terms, resources never run out and pollution never occurs. This allows neoclassical economics to claim theoretically that infinite economic growth is both possible and desirable.
However, this belief disagrees with much of what the natural sciences have learned about the world, and, according to Ecological Economics, completely ignores the contributions of Nature to the creation of wealth e.g., the planetary endowment of scarce matter and energy, along with the complex and biologically diverse ecosystems that provide goods and ecosystem services directly to human communities: micro- and macro-climate regulation, water recycling, water purification, storm water regulation, waste absorption, food and medicine production, pollination, protection from solar and cosmic radiation, the view of a starry night sky, etc.
There has then been a move to regard such things as natural capital and ecosystems functions as goods and services.  However, this is far from uncontroversial within ecology or ecological economics due to the potential for narrowing down values to those found in mainstream economics and the danger of merely regarding Nature as a commodity. This has been referred to as ecologists 'selling out on Nature'. There is then a concern that ecological economics has failed to learn from the extensive literature in environmental ethics about how to structure a plural value system.
Resource and neoclassical economics focus primarily on the efficient allocation of resources, and less on two other fundamental economic problems which are central to ecological economics: distribution (equity) and the scale of the economy relative to the ecosystems upon which it is reliant. Ecological Economics also makes a clear distinction between growth (quantitative) and development (qualitative improvement of the quality of life) while arguing that neoclassical economics confuses the two. Ecological economics challenges the common normative approach taken towards natural resources, claiming that it misvalues nature by displaying it as interchangeable with human capital--labor and technology. EE counters this convention by asserting that human capital is instead complementary to and dependent upon natural systems, as human capital inevitably derives from natural systems. From these premises, it follows that economic policy has a fiduciary responsibility to the greater ecological world, and that, by misvaluing the importance of nature, sustainable progress (as opposed to economic growth) --which is the only solution to elevating the standard of living for citizens worldwide—will not result. Furthermore, ecological economists point out that, beyond modest levels, increased per-capita consumption (the typical economic measure of "standard of living") does not necessarily lead to improvements in human well-being, while this same consumption can have harmful effects on the environment and broader societal well-being.
It rejects the view of energy economics that growth in the energy supply is related directly to well being, focusing instead on biodiversity and creativity - or natural capital and individual capital, in the terminology sometimes adopted to describe these economically. In practice, ecological economics focuses primarily on the key issues of uneconomic growth and quality of life. Ecological economists are inclined to acknowledge that much of what is important in human well-being is not analyzable from a strictly economic standpoint and suggests an interdisciplinary approach combining social and natural sciences as a means to address this.
Thermoeconomics is based on the proposition that the role of energy in biological evolution should be defined and understood through the second law of thermodynamics, but also in terms of such economic criteria as productivity, efficiency, and especially the costs and benefits (or profitability) of the various mechanisms for capturing and utilizing available energy to build biomass and do work. As a result, thermoeconomics are often discussed in the field of ecological economics, which itself is related to the fields of sustainability and sustainable development.
Exergy analysis is performed in the field of industrial ecology to use energy more efficiently. The term exergy, was coined by Zoran Rant in 1956, but the concept was developed by J. Willard Gibbs. In recent decades, utilization of exergy has spread outside of physics and engineering to the fields of industrial ecology, ecological economics, systems ecology, and energetics.
An energy balance can be used to track energy through a system, and is a very useful tool for determining resource use and environmental impacts, using the First and Second laws of thermodynamics, to determine how much energy is needed at each point in a system, and in what form that energy is a cost in various environmental issues. The energy accounting system keeps track of energy in, energy out, and non-useful energy versus work done, and transformations within the system. 
Scientists have written and speculated on different aspects of energy accounting.
A study was carried out by Costanza and colleagues to determine the 'price' of the services provided by the environment. This was determined by averaging values obtained from a range of studies conducted in very specific context and then transferring these without regard to that context. Dollar figures were averaged to a per hectare number for different types of ecosystem e.g. wetlands, oceans. A total was then produced which came out at 33 trillion US dollars (1997 values), more than twice the total GDP of the world at the time of the study. This study was criticized by pre-ecological and even some environmental economists - for being inconsistent with assumptions of financial capital valuation - and ecological economists - for being inconsistent with an ecological economics focus on biological and physical indicators.. See also ecosystem valuation and price of life.
The whole idea of treating ecosystems as goods and services to be valued in monetary terms remains controversial to some. A common objection is that life is precious or priceless, but this demonstrably degrades to it being worthless under the assumptions of any branch of economics. Reducing human bodies to financial values is a necessary part of every branch of economics and not always in the direct terms of insurance or wages. Economics, in principle, assumes that conflict is reduced by agreeing on voluntary contractual relations and prices instead of simply fighting or coercing or tricking others into providing goods or services. In doing so, a provider agrees to surrender time and take bodily risks and other (reputation, financial) risks. Ecosystems are no different than other bodies economically except insofar as they are far less replaceable than typical labour or commodities.
Despite these issues, many ecologists and conservation biologists are pursuing ecosystem valuation. Biodiversity measures in particular appear to be the most promising way to reconcile financial and ecological values, and there are many active efforts in this regard. The growing field of biodiversity finance  began to emerge in 2008 in response to many specific proposals such as the Ecuadoran Yasuni proposal   or similar ones in the Congo. US news outlets treated the stories as a "threat"  to "drill a park"  reflecting a previously dominant view that NGOs and governments had the primary responsibility to protect ecosystems. However Peter Barnes and other commentators have recently argued that a guardianship/trustee/commons model is far more effective and takes the decisions out of the political realm.
Commodification of other ecological relations as in carbon credit and direct payments to farmers to preserve ecosystem services are likewise examples that permit private parties to play more direct roles protecting biodiversity. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization achieved near-universal agreement in 2008  that such payments directly valuing ecosystem preservation and encouraging permaculture were the only practical way out of a food crisis. The holdouts were all English-speaking countries that export GMOs and promote "free trade" agreements that facilitate their own control of the world transport network: The US, UK, Canada and Australia . Increasingly the pro-GMO pro-trade view is in the extreme minority worldwide though it is disproportionately represented at the IMF, World Bank and so on.
Ecological economics is founded upon the view that the neoclassical economics (NCE) assumption that environmental and community costs and benefits are mutually canceling "externalities" is not warranted. Juan Martinez Alier , for instance shows that the bulk of consumers are automatically excluded from having an impact upon the prices of commodities, as these consumers are future generations who have not been born yet. The assumptions behind future discounting, which assume that future goods will be cheaper than present goods, has been criticised by Fred Pearce and by the recent Stern Report (although the Stern report itself does employ discounting and has been criticised by ecological economists). Concerning these externalities, Paul Hawken argues that the only reason why goods produced unsustainably are usually cheaper than goods produced sustainably is due to a hidden subsidy, paid by the non-monetized human environment, community or future generations. These arguments are developed further by Hawken, Amory and Hunter Lovins in "Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution".
Schools and institute:
International Journal of Green Economics http://www.inderscience.com/ijge/
Claude Steiner was born January 6, 1935 in Paris, France. His parents were Austrian, his mother Jewish and his father Christian. The family left France in 1939 ahead of the impending Nazi invasion. Eventually the family settled in Mexico.
In 1952, Steiner went to the United States to study engineering. In 1957 he met and became a follower of Eric Berne, psychiatrist and founder of the transactional analysis school of psychotherapy. In 1965 he obtained a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is founding member and teaching member of the International Transactional Analysis Association.
In the 1970s and '80s, Steiner was a founder and practitioner of Radical Psychiatry, a new approach to psychotherapy based in a social theory (of alienation) rather than a medical one (of individual pathology). Influenced by progressive movements of the time, work in the modality continues into the present.
Claude Steiner has written extensively about transactional analysis. His writings have focused especially on life scripts, alcoholism, "emotional literacy", and Interpersonal power plays.
Steiner has been active in political causes. He opposed the US role in Vietnam War of the 1960s and has been an outspoken critic of US policy and actions involving Latin America.
Claude Steiner summarises his views in his conclusion to his Treatise: TRANSACTIONAL ANALYSIS IN THE INFORMATION AGE 
It seems that many in Transactional Analysis are impatient with the state of transactional analysis as a dynamic, developing theory. For myself, I have thought at times that Transactional Analysis has had its day. Many of its ideas have been silently incorporated into the psychiatric culture, but on the whole its point has been missed and it has not been given a place among the great psychiatric theories of the century and I was ready to put it to rest. Accordingly I followed my interest in power and its abuses away from Transactional Analysis into propaganda, journalism and Central American politics. From the distant perspective of an investigator into media and information, in a dawning Information Age I came to see Transactional Analysis in a brand new light; as a visionary theory of Information Age psychology and psychiatry. As the world peers into the twenty first century with every one wondering how they will be affected by the looming millennial changes, we, in Transactional Analysis, are in possession of a legacy which is only now becoming clear: we have the tools and the insights of an Information Age, communication-based psychology and psychiatry.
the Study of Emotions” Transactional Analysis Journal 1996, January #1.
3, 1957 (aged 60)
|Alma mater||University of Vienna|
|Known for||Freudo-Marxism, body psychotherapy, orgone|
|Influences||Max Stirner, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx|
|Influenced||Saul Bellow, William Burroughs, Paul Edwards, Arthur Janov, Paul Goodman, Alexander Lowen, Norman Mailer, A.S. Neill, Fritz Perls|
Wilhelm Reich (March 24, 1897 – November 3, 1957) was an Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, known as one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry. He was the author of several notable textbooks, including The Mass Psychology of Fascism and Character Analysis, both published in 1933.
Reich worked with Sigmund Freud in the 1920s and was a respected analyst for much of his life, focusing on character structure rather than on individual neurotic symptoms. He tried to reconcile Marxism and psychoanalysis, arguing that neurosis is rooted in the physical, sexual, economic, and social conditions of the patient, and promoted adolescent sexuality, open relationships outside marriage, the availability of contraceptives, abortion, and divorce, and the importance for women of economic independence. His work influenced a generation of intellectuals, including Saul Bellow, William Burroughs, Paul Edwards, Norman Mailer, and A. S. Neill, and shaped innovations such as Fritz Perls's Gestalt therapy, Alexander Lowen's bioenergetic analysis, and Arthur Janov's primal therapy.
Later in life, he became a controversial figure who was both adored and condemned. He began to violate some of the key taboos of psychoanalysis, using touch during sessions, and treating patients in their underwear to improve their "orgastic potency." He said he had discovered a primordial cosmic energy, which he said others called God, and which he called "orgone." He built "orgone energy accumulators" that his patients sat inside to harness the reputed health benefits, leading to newspaper stories about "sex boxes" that cured cancer.
Reich was living in Germany when Hitler came to power in January 1933. On March 2, the Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter published an attack on one of Reich's pamphlets, The Sexual Struggle of Youth. He left immediately for Vienna, then Scandinavia, moving to the United States in 1939. In 1947, following a series of articles about orgone in The New Republic and Harper's, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) obtained an injunction against the interstate sale of orgone accumulators. Charged with contempt for violating it, Reich conducted his own defense, which involved sending the judge all his books to read and arguing that a court was no place to decide matters of science. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and in August 1956, several tons of his publications were burned by the FDA, arguably one of the worst examples of censorship in U.S. history. He died in jail of heart failure just over a year later, days before he was due to apply for parole.
Reich was born the first of two sons to Leon Reich, a prosperous farmer, and Cecilia Roniger, in Dobrzanica, a village in Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was by all accounts strict, cold, and jealous. He was Jewish, but Reich was later at pains to point out that his father had moved away from Judaism and had not raised his children as Jews; Reich wasn't even allowed to play with Yiddish-speaking children. As an adult, Reich corrected anyone who referred to him as a Jew. His biographer, Myron Sharaf, writes that this was in part because of his rejection of what he called "Jewish chauvinism," in part because he disliked being forced into any position he had not chosen for himself, and in part because he never wanted to be an outsider.
Shortly after his birth, the family moved south to a farm in Jujinetz, near Chernivtsi, Bukovina, where Reich's father took control of a cattle farm owned by his mother's uncle, Josef Blum. Reich attributed his later interest in the study of sex and the biological basis of the emotions to his upbringing on the farm where, as he later put it, the natural life functions were never hidden from him. He also spoke of having witnessed the family maid having intercourse with her boyfriend, and asking her later if he could "play" the part of the lover. He said that, by the time he was four years old, there were no secrets about sex for him; in his early memoirs, Passion of Youth, he writes that he had intercourse for the first time at the age of 11½, though elsewhere said that he was 13.
|“||I had read somewhere that lovers get rid of any intruder, so with wild fantasies in my brain I slipped back to my bed, my joy of life shattered, torn apart in my inmost being for my whole life! — Wilhelm Reich.||”|
He was taught at home until he was 12, when his mother committed suicide after she was discovered having an affair with Reich's tutor, who lived with the family. Her death was particularly brutal: she drank a common household cleaner, which left her in great pain for days before she died.
Reich wrote in 1920 about how deeply his mother's affair had affected him. Night after night he had followed her as she crept to the tutor's bedroom. He would stand outside listening, feeling ashamed, angry, and jealous; he wondered if they would kill him if they found out, and briefly thought of forcing her to have sex with him too. Torn between wanting to protect her, but also tell his father, he later blamed himself for her death, waking in the night overwhelmed by the thought that he had killed her. The tutor was sent away, leaving Reich without a mother or a teacher, and with a powerful sense of guilt.
He was sent to the all-male Czernowitz gymnasium, excelling at Latin, Greek, and the natural sciences. It appears to have been during this period that a skin condition developed that plagued him for the rest of his life. When it began is unclear, but it was diagnosed as psoriasis; Sharaf speculates that it may have been triggered by his mother's suicide. He was given medication that contained arsenic, now known to make psoriasis worse.
His father was devastated by his wife's suicide. In or around 1914, he took out a life insurance policy, then stood for hours in a cold pond, apparently fishing, but in fact intending to commit slow suicide, according to Reich and his brother, Robert. He contracted pneumonia and tuberculosis, and died in 1914. Despite the insurance policy, no money was forthcoming.
Reich managed the farm and continued with his studies, graduating in 1915 mit Stimmeneinhelligkeit (unanimous approval). In the summer of that year, the Russians invaded Bukovina and the Reich brothers fled to Vienna, losing everything. In his Passion of Youth, Reich wrote: "I never saw either my homeland or my possessions again. Of a well-to-do past, nothing was left."
Reich joined the Austrian Army after school, serving from 1915-18, for the last two years as a lieutenant. When the war ended in 1918, he entered the medical school at the University of Vienna. As an undergraduate, he was drawn to the work of Sigmund Freud. The men first met in 1919 when Reich visited Freud to obtain literature for a seminar on sexology, Freud making a strong impression on him. He became one of Freud's favorite students. Freud allowed him to start seeing analytic patients in 1920, when Reich was accepted as a guest member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association, becoming a regular member in October that year at the age of 23. He was allowed to complete his six-year medical degree in four years because he was a war veteran, and received his M.D. in July 1922.
Reich worked in internal medicine at University Hospital, Vienna, and studied neuropsychiatry from 1922-24 at the Neurological and Psychiatric Clinic under Professor Julius Wagner-Jauregg. In 1922, he set up private practice as a psychoanalyst, and became a clinical assistant, and later deputy director of Freud's Psychoanalytic Polyclinic. He joined the faculty of the Psychoanalytic Institute in Vienna in 1924, conducted research into the social causes of neurosis, and became Deputy Director of Training.
It was in Vienna that he met Annie Pink, a medical student who came to him for analysis, and who later became an analyst herself. They married on March 17, 1922, when she was 20 and Reich one week short of 25, with Otto Fenichel as a witness. The marriage produced two daughters, Eva in 1924 and Lore in 1928. They moved to Berlin in 1930, where he set up clinics in working-class areas, taught sex education, and published pamphlets. He joined the Communist Party of Germany, and his book, The Sexual Revolution, was published in Vienna, but he became too outspoken for the communists, and was expelled from the German party in 1933 and a year later from its Danish counterpart. He was also expelled from the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1934 for political militancy.
Reich had several affairs during his marriage, including one with his wife's friend, Lia Lasky, in 1927. He and his wife finally separated in 1933 after he began a serious relationship in May 1932 with Elsa Lindenburg, a choreographer and dance therapist, trained in Laban movement analysis, and a pupil of Elsa Gindler. He and Lindenburg were living in Germany when Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933. On March 2, the Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter published an attack on Reich's Der Sexuale Kampf der Jugend (The Sexual Struggle of Youth). He was derided as a womanizer, a communist, and a Jew who advocated free love. He and Lindenburg left for Vienna the next day. They moved to Scandinavia, first to Denmark where Reich ran into trouble, accused of corrupting Danish youth with German sexology, then to Sweden, and in the fall of 1934 to Norway.
Reich stayed in Norway for five years, working under the auspices of Professor Schjelderup of the Psychological Institute at the University of Oslo.
He first presented the principles of his vegetotherapy in a paper called "Psychic contact and vegetative current" in August 1934 at the 13th International Congress of Psychoanalysis at Lucerne, Switzerland, and went on to develop the technique between 1935 and 1940. Vegetotherapy involves the patient physically simulating the effects of certain emotions, in the hope of triggering them. Reich argued that the ability to feel sexual love depended on a physical ability to make love with what he called "orgastic potency." He tried to measure the male orgasm, noting that four distinct phases occurred physiologically: first, the psychosexual build-up or tension; second, the tumescence of the penis, with an accompanying charge, which Reich measured electrically; third, an electrical discharge at the moment of orgasm; and fourth, the relaxation of the penis. He believed the force that he measured was a distinct type of energy present in all life forms.
He was a prolific writer for psychoanalytic journals in Europe. Originally, psychoanalysis was focused on the treatment of neurotic symptoms. Reich's Character Analysis was a major step in the development of what today would be called ego psychology. In Reich's view, a person's entire character, not only individual symptoms, could be looked at and treated as a neurotic phenomenon. The book also introduced Reich's theory of body armoring. He argued that unreleased psychosexual energy could produce actual physical blocks within muscles and organs, and that these act as a "body armor" preventing the release of the energy. An orgasm was one way to break through the armor. These ideas developed into a general theory of the importance of a healthy sex life to overall well-being, a theory compatible with Freud's views.
His idea was that the orgasm was not simply a device to aid recreation, but was the body's emotional energy regulator. The better the orgasm, the more energy was released, meaning that less was available to create neurotic states. Reich called the ability to release sufficient energy during orgasm "orgastic potency," something that very few individuals could achieve, he argued, because of society's sexual oppression. A man or woman without orgastic potency was in a constant state of tension, developing a body armor to keep it in. The outer rigidity and inner anxiety is the state of neurosis, leading to hate, sadism, greed, and at a political level, fascism and antisemitism.
He agreed with Freud that sexual development was the origin of mental illness. They both believed that most psychological states were dictated by unconscious processes; that infant sexuality develops early but is repressed, and that this has important consequences for mental health. At that time a Marxist (see Freudo-Marxism), Reich argued that the source of sexual repression was bourgeois morality and the socio-economic structures that produced it. As sexual repression was the cause of the neuroses, the best cure would be to have an active, guilt-free sex life. He argued that such a liberation could come about only through a morality not imposed by a repressive economic structure. In 1928, he joined the Austrian Communist Party and founded the Socialist Association for Sexual Counseling and Research, which organized counseling centers for workers.
From 1934-39, Reich conducted experiments looking at vegetative energy in the body, especially the Galvanic skin response, which became research into the origins of life. These he called the "Bion Experiments."
He examined protozoa, single-celled creatures with nuclei. He grew cultured vesicles using grass, sand, iron, and animal tissue, boiling them, and adding potassium and gelatin. Having heated the materials to incandescence with a heat-torch, he noted bright, glowing, blue vesicles, which, he said, could be cultured, and which gave off an observable radiant energy. He named the vesicles "bions" and believed they were a rudimentary form of life, halfway between life and non-life. When he poured the cooled mixture onto growth media, bacteria were born, he said, dismissing the idea that the bacteria were already present in the air or on other materials.
In 1936, Reich wrote that "[s]ince everything is antithetically arranged, there must be two different types of single-celled organisms: (a) life-destroying organisms or organisms that form through organic decay, (b) life-promoting organisms that form from inorganic material that comes to life." This idea of spontaneous generation led him to believe he had found the cause of cancer. He called the life-destroying organisms "T-bacilli," with the T standing for Tod, German for death. He described in The Cancer Biopathy how he had found them in a culture of rotting cancerous tissue obtained from a local hospital. He wrote that T-bacilli were formed from the disintegration of protein; they were 0.2 to 0.5 micrometer in length, shaped like lancets, and when injected into mice, they caused inflammation and cancer. He concluded that, when orgone energy diminishes in cells through aging or injury, the cells undergo "bionous degeneration," or death. At some point, the deadly T-bacilli start to form in the cells. Death from cancer, he believed, was caused by an overwhelming growth of the T-bacilli.
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From 1930 onwards, Reich became more interested in his patients' physical responses during therapy sessions, and toward the late 1930s, he began to violate several of psychoanalysis's great taboos. He began to sit next to his patients, rather than behind them, and starting touching them. He would ask his male patients to undress down to their shorts, and sometimes to undress entirely, and his female patients down to their underclothes. He began talking to them, answering their questions, rather than the stock, "Why do you ask?" analyst's reponse.
All this undermined the position of analytic neutrality. The analyst is meant to be a blank screen onto which the patient projects his old desires, his loves, his hates, his neurosis, a process known as transference. Reich wrote that the psychoanalytic taboos reinforced the neurotic taboos of the patient. He slowly broke away from them, writing that he wanted his patients to see him as human. He would press hard on their "body armor," his thumb or the palm of his hand pressing on their jaws, necks, chests, backs, or thighs, aiming to dissolve their muscular, and thereby characterological, rigidity. He wanted to see their movements soften, their breathing ease. This dissolution of the "body armor" also brought back the repressed memory of the childhood situation that had caused the repression, he wrote. If the session worked as intended, he wrote that he could see waves of pleasure move through their bodies, a series of spontaneous, involuntary movements. Reich called these the "orgasm reflex." The two goals of Reichian therapy became the attainment of this orgasm reflex during therapy, and orgastic potency during intercourse. Reich called the flow of energy that he said he observed in his patients' bodies, "bio-electricity," and considered calling his therapy "orgasmotherapy," but thought better of it for political reasons.
Scientists in Oslo reacted strongly to his work on bions, deriding it as nonsense. Tidens Tegn, a leading liberal newspaper, launched a campaign against him in 1937, supported by scientists and other newspapers. Between September 1937 and the fall of 1938, over 100 articles denouncing him appeared in the main Oslo newspapers.
In 1937, Leiv Kreyberg, the country's top cancer specialist, was allowed to examine one of Reich's bion preparations under the microscope. Kreyberg wrote that the broth Reich had used as his culture medium was indeed sterile, but that the bacteria were ordinary staphylococci. He concluded that Reich's control measures to prevent infection from airborne bacteria were not as foolproof as Reich believed. Kreyberg accused Reich of being ignorant of basic bacteriological and anatomical facts, while Reich accused Kreyberg of having failed to recognize living cancer cells under magnification. Thus, Sharaf writes, an opportunity for scientific exchange degenerated into name-calling.
Reich sent a sample of the bacteria to another Norwegian biologist, Professor Thjötta of the Oslo Bacteriological Institute, who also said they resulted from air infection. Kreyberg and Thjötta had their views published in Aftenposten on April 19 and 21, 1938, Krayberg referring to him as "Mr. Reich," alleging that Reich knew less about bacteria and anatomy than a first-year medical student. When Reich requested a detailed control study, Kreyberg responded that his work did not merit it.
Reich's The Bion Experiments on the Origin of Life was published in 1938, leading to attacks by the scientific and lay press that he was a "Jew pornographer," who was daring to meddle with the origins of life. Alan Cantwell writes that Reich's detractors focused on one paragraph in which Reich wrote that his research had "proved particularly fruitful for an understanding of cancer," which led to the claim that he was promoting a quack cancer cure.
By February 1938, his visa had expired. Several Norwegian scientists argued against an extension, Kreyberg saying, "If it is a question of handing Dr. Reich over to the Gestapo, then I will fight that, but if one could get rid of him in a decent manner, that would be the best." The writer Sigurd Hoel wondered when it had become a crime to perform amateurish biological experiments. "When did it become a reason for deportation that one looked in a microscope when one was not a trained biologist?" Reich received influential support from overseas, first from Bronislaw Malinowski, who wrote to the Norwegian press in March 1938 that Reich's sociological work was a "distinct and valuable contribution to science," and from A.S. Neill, founder of Summerhill in England, a progressive school known throughout the world. Neill also wrote to the Norwegian press, arguing that "the campaign against Reich seems largely ignorant and uncivilized, more like fascism than democracy ..." Norway was proud of its intellectual tolerance, so the "Reich affair" put the government on the spot. A compromise was therefore found. Reich was given his visa, but a royal decree was issued stipulating that anyone wanting to practice psychoanalysis needed a licence, and it was widely understood that Reich would not be given one.
Throughout the affair, Reich had issued just one public statement, when he asked for a commission to replicate his bion experiments. Sharaf writes that the scientific opposition to his work affected his personality and relationships. He was angered and humiliated by the notoriety he had inadvertently achieved. His self-confidence undermined, he felt like a marked man, hunted and tormented, no longer comfortable in public, and seething with bitterness against the researchers who had denounced him.
Sharaf writes that, at a personal level, 1934–1937 had been the happiest period of Reich's life. His relationship with Elsa Lindenberg was good and he considered marrying her. When she became pregnant in 1935, they were initially overjoyed, buying clothes and furniture for the child, but doubts developed for Reich, who felt the future was too unsettled. Sharaf writes that, to Elsa's great distress, Reich insisted on an abortion, at that time illegal. They went to Berlin, where Edith Jacobson, a psychoanalyst, helped to arrange it.
In 1937, Reich began an affair with a female patient, an actress who was the ex-wife of a colleague. She had entered therapy with the explicit intention of seducing him, which he told her was impossible, but she succeeded. The analysis stopped because of the relationship, then the relationship ended and the analysis began again, a highly unprofessional situation. She eventually threatened to go to the press, but was persuaded that it would harm her at least as much as him. When a colleague asked him why he had behaved this way, he replied, "A man must do foolish things sometimes." He also had an affair with Gerd Bergersen, a 25-year-old Norwegian textile designer.
During the same period, as the newspaper campaign against him gained pace, he suddenly developed intense jealousy toward Elsa, demanding that she share his work with him, and not have a separate life of any kind. He even physically assaulted a composer she was working with on some choreography; Elsa briefly considered calling the police but decided Reich couldn't afford another scandal. His behavior took its toll on their relationship, and when Reich asked her to accompany him to the U.S., she said no, writing later that it was the hardest "no" she had ever had to say.
In March 1938, Hitler annexed Austria. Reich's ex-wife and daughters had already left Austria for the U.S. Later that year, an American psychiatrist at Columbia Medical School, Theodore P. Wolfe, traveled to Norway to study under Reich. Wolfe offered to help Reich settle in the U.S., and managed to arrange an official invitation from the The New School in New York. Wolfe and Walter Briehl, an old student of Reich's, put up several thousand dollars to guarantee Reich's salary. Wolfe also pulled strings with Adolph Berle, an official in the U.S. State Department. He finally received his visa in August 1939, and sailed out of Norway on August 19 on the Stavenger Fjord, the last boat to leave for the States before the war began on September 3.
He began teaching at the New School, where he remained for two years, living first at 75-02 Kessel Street, Forest Hills, Queens, then settling into a two-story brick house at 9906 69th Avenue in the same area. It had a basement that he used for animal experiments, a large room on the first floor that served as an office, dining room, living room, and a place for his seminar students every other week. The room that would normally have been a dining room became his laboratory. Two bedrooms on the top floor were shared by his maid and his secretary, Gertrud Gaasland, and three rooms on the second floor became Reich's bedroom and therapy rooms.
It was Gertrud Gaasland who introduced him to Ilse Ollendorf, 29 years old at the time. Reich was still in love with Elsa, but Ilse threw herself into organizing Reich's life for him, taking over the secretarial and bookkeeping tasks, learning laboratory techniques, and showing herself willing to mold herself completely to his lifestyle, something Elsa had been unwilling to do. They began living together on Christmas Day 1939, and she began to work for him on January 2, 1940. They had a son, Peter, in 1944, and were married in 1946.
Reich's personality changed after the onslaught of the press in Oslo. He became socially isolated, and decided to keep his distance even from old friends and his ex-wife. He told a friend he was going to follow the "remarkable law": be distant, even a little haughty, withhold love, and then people will respect you. His students in the U.S. came to know him as a man that no colleague, no matter how close, called by his first name. He wrote to Elsa in January 1940 breaking off their relationship once and for all, telling her that he was in despair, and that he believed he would end up dying like a dog.
Rumors had been rife since the late 1920s that he was mentally ill in some way, and had even been hospitalized, though Sharaf writes that he had not. He was seen as paranoid, remote, belligerent, and fanatical. Sharaf writes that psychoanalysts have had a tendency to dismiss as ill anyone from within the fold who has digressed, and that never was this done so relentlessly or destructively as with Reich. His work was split into the pre-psychotic "good" Reich, and the post-psychotic "bad," the date of the illness's onset depending on which parts of his work were disliked by the speaker. Psychoanalysts wanted to see him as sane in the 1920s because of his solid work on character; political radicals regarded him as sane during the 1930s because of his Marxist-oriented psychology research.
Freud had argued that there was a sexual energy called libido, which he initially described as "something which is capable of increase, decrease, displacement and discharge, and which extends itself over the memory traces of an idea like an electric charge over the surface of the body," but by 1925 he had rejected the idea that it was a physical energy. Reich took the idea further, arguing that he had discovered a primordial cosmic energy. He called it "orgone," and the study of it "orgonomy."
Orgone is blue in color, he wrote, omnipresent, can be seen with the naked eye, and is responsible for such things as weather, the color of the sky, gravity, the formation of galaxies, and the biological expressions of emotion and sexuality. He argued that St. Elmo's Fire is a manifestation of it, as is the blue color of sexually excited frogs. Red corpuscles, plant chlorophyll, gonadal cells, protozoa, and cancer cells are all charged with orgone, he said.
He argued that humankind had previously split its knowledge of orgone in two: "ether" for its mechanistic, physical aspects, and God for the spiritual, the subjective. He wrote that, "God-Father is the basic cosmic energy from which all being stems, and which streams through (the) body as through anything else in existence."
In 1940, he built boxes called "orgone accumulators" to concentrate atmospheric orgone. Some of the boxes were for lab animals, and some were large enough for a human being to sit inside. Composed of alternating layers of ferrous metals and organic insulators with a high dielectric constant, the accumulators had the appearance of a large, hollow capacitor. Based on experiments with them, he argued that orgone energy was a negatively-entropic force in nature responsible for concentrating and organizing matter. The construction of the boxes caught the attention of the press, leading to wild rumors that they were "sex boxes" that caused uncontrollable erections.
According to Reich's theory, illness was primarily caused by depletion or blockages of the orgone energy within the body. He conducted clinical tests of the orgone accumulator on people suffering from a variety of illnesses. The patient would sit within the accumulator and absorb the "concentrated orgone energy." He built smaller, more portable accumulator-blankets of the same layered construction for application to parts of the body. The effects observed were said to boost the immune system, even to the point of destroying certain types of tumors, though Reich was hesitant to claim this constituted a cure. The orgone accumulator was also tested on mice with cancer, and on plant-growth, the results convincing Reich that the benefits of orgone therapy could not be attributed to a placebo effect. He had, he believed, developed a grand unified theory of physical and mental health, a claim regarded by the psychoanalytic community as quackery.
In December 1944, Reich began the 20th (Roman numeral XX) in his series of bion experiments. He filtered all the earth out of an earth bion preparation so that all that remained was clear yellow water, then buried the test tube outdoors in the frozen ground. When he retrieved it three weeks later and examined it under a microscope, he saw pulsating plasmatic flakes. Since the yellow water had not contained visible particulates before it had been frozen, Reich concluded that free orgone energy had condensed out to form the lifelike flakes. This experiment formed the basis for Reich's later theory that all matter in the universe had derived from orgone energy via cosmic superimposition.
Reich posited a conjugate, life-annulling energy in opposition to orgone, which he dubbed Deadly Orgone or DOR. He wrote that accumulations of DOR played a role in desertification, and he designed a "cloudbuster" with which he said he could manipulate streams of orgone energy in the atmosphere to induce rain by forcing clouds to form and disperse. It was a set of hollow metal pipes and cables inserted into water, which Reich argued created a stronger orgone energy field than was in the atmosphere, the water drawing the atmospheric orgone through the pipes.
Reich conducted dozens of experiments with the cloudbuster, calling the research "Cosmic Orgone Engineering." In 1953, a drought threatened Maine's blueberry crop, and several farmers offered to pay Reich if he could make it rain. The weather bureau had reportedly forecast no rain for several days when Reich began the experiment on at 10 a.m. on July 6, 1953. The Bangor Daily News reported on July 24:
Dr. Reich and three assistants set up their "rain-making" device off the shore of Grand Lake, near the Bangor hydro-electric dam ... The device, a set of hollow tubes, suspended over a small cylinder, connected by a cable, conducted a "drawing" operation for about an hour and ten minutes ...
According to a reliable source in Ellsworth the following climactic changes took place in that city on the night of July 6 and the early morning of July 7: "Rain began to fall shortly after ten o'clock Monday evening, first as a drizzle and then by midnight as a gentle, steady rain. Rain continued throughout the night, and a rainfall of 0.24 inches was recorded in Ellsworth the following morning."
A puzzled witness to the "rain-making" process said: "The queerest looking clouds you ever saw began to form soon after they got the thing rolling." And later the same witness said the scientists were able to change the course of the wind by manipulation of the device.
The blueberry crop survived, the farmers declared themselves satisfied, and Reich received his fee.
On December 30, 1940, Reich wrote to Albert Einstein saying he had a scientific discovery he wanted to discuss, and on January 13, 1941 went to visit Einstein in Princeton. They talked for five hours, and Einstein agreed to test an orgone accumulator, which Reich had constructed out of a Faraday cage made of galvanized steel and insulated by wood and paper on the outside. Einstein agreed that if, as Reich suggested, an object's temperature could be raised without an apparent heating source, it would be a "bombshell" in physics.
Reich supplied Einstein with a small accumulator during their second meeting, and Einstein performed the experiment in his basement, which involved taking the temperature atop, inside, and near the device. He also stripped the device down to its Faraday cage to compare temperatures. In his attempt to replicate Reich's findings, Einstein observed a rise in temperature, which Reich argued was caused by the orgone energy that had accumulated inside the Faraday cage. However, one of Einstein's assistants pointed out that the temperature was lower on the floor than on the ceiling. Following that remark, Einstein modified the experiment and, as a result, concluded that the effect was simply due to the temperature gradient inside the room. He wrote back to Reich, describing his experiments and expressing the hope that Reich would develop a more skeptical approach.
Reich responded with a 25-page letter to Einstein, expressing concern that "convection from the ceiling" would join "air germs" and "Brownian movement" to explain away new findings. The correspondence between Reich and Einstein was published by Reich's press as The Einstein Affair in 1953, possibly without Einstein's permission.
On December 12, 1941, five days after Pearl Harbor, Reich was arrested at his home at 2 a.m. by the FBI, and taken to Ellis Island, where he was held for over three weeks, because he was an immigrant with a communist background. He was furious, and blamed his first wife, with whom he had a very poor relationship, for having reported him in some way, though there is no evidence that she was involved. His psoriasis erupted, and his doctor persuaded the authorities to transfer him to the hospital ward, where Ilse was allowed to visit him twice a week. Wolfe and a lawyer did their best to find out what the charge was, Wolfe traveling several times to Washington to protest, but it was not until December 26 that a hearing was held, and still it remained unclear why he had been picked up. He was questioned about several books the FBI had found in his home, including Hitler's Mein Kampf, Trotsky's My Life, and a Russian alphabet book for children. Eventually Reich threatened to go on hunger strike, and he was released on January 5, 1942. The FBI released 789 pages of its files on Reich in 2000, which said:
This German immigrant described himself as the Associate Professor of Medical Psychology, Director of the Orgone Institute, President and research physician of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation and discoverer of biological or life energy. A 1940 security investigation was begun to determine the extent of Reich's communist commitments. A board of Alien Enemy Hearing judged that Dr. Reich was not a threat to the security of the U.S.
Using money from his income as a therapist, and contributions from students, Reich purchased an old farm near Dodge Pond, Maine in November 1942. He called the 160 acres of fields, forests, and hills "Orgonon." He built a laboratory there in 1945, and in 1948 began construction of the Orgone Energy Observatory, which included another laboratory, a library, and observation decks to study atmospheric orgone.
Until 1947, Reich enjoyed a largely uncritical press in the U.S. His psychotherapy practice was flourishing, his psychoanalytic theories were taught in universities and discussed in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the American Journal of Psychiatry. He was listed in American Men of Science, and The Nation gave his writing positive reviews. Only one science journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, had criticized him, calling his ideas about orgone a "surrealist creation."
His reputation took a sudden downturn in May 1947. On May 26, an article by freelance writer Mildred Edie Brady appeared in The New Republic entitled, "The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich," with the subhead, "The man who blames both neuroses and cancer on unsatisfactory sexual activities has been repudiated by only one scientific journal." Brady wrote: "Orgone, named after the sexual orgasm, is, according to Reich, a cosmic energy. It is, in fact, the cosmic energy. Reich has not only discovered it; he has seen it, demonstrated it and named a town—Orgonon, Maine—after it. Here he builds accumulators of it which are rented out to patients, who presumably derive 'orgastic potency' from it." Sharaf writes that the implication was clear: the accumulators gave orgastic potency, the lack of which causes cancer. Therefore, the claim for the accumulators was that they cured cancer. Brady argued that the "growing Reich cult" had to be dealt with.
The regulation and advertising of medical devices is shared and coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. On July 23, Dr. J.J. Durrett, director of the Medical Advisory Division of the Federal Trade Commission, wrote to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to look into Reich's claims about the health benefits of orgone. The FDA assigned an investigator to the case, who learned that Reich had built 250 accumulators; the FDA concluded that they were dealing with a "fraud of the first magnitude." Sharaf writes that the FDA suspected a sexual racket of some kind; questions were asked about the women associated with orgonomy and "what was done with them."
|“||I would like to plead for my right to investigate natural phenomena without having guns pointed at me. I also ask for the right to be wrong without being hanged for it. — Wilhelm Reich, November 1947||”|
In November, Reich wrote in Conspiracy. An Emotional Chain Reaction: "I would like to plead for my right to investigate natural phenomena without having guns pointed at me. I also ask for the right to be wrong without being hanged for it ... I am angry because smearing can do anything and truth can do so little to prevail, as it seems at the moment." Sharaf writes that Reich came to believe that Brady was a Stalinist acting under orders from the Communist Party, a "communist sniper," as Reich called her.
Over the years, the FDA interviewed physicians, Reich's students, and his patients, asking about Reich's use of orgone accumulators. On July 29, 1952, an unannounced inspection was conducted at Orgonon. One inspector was a regular FDA inspector, another an FDA medical expert, and a third an FDA device expert. Reich was known to abhor unannounced visitors; he had once chased some people away with a gun just for looking at an adjacent property. He shouted at the FDA men, told them they had to read his writings before he would interact with them, and ordered them to leave.
The visit began a period of investigation by the FDA, triggering belligerent responses from Reich, who called them "higs," hoodlums in government, and the tools of red fascists. He developed a delusion that he had powerful friends in government, including President Eisenhower, who he believed would protect him, and that the U.S. Airforce was flying over Orgonon to make sure that he was all right.
On February 10, 1954, the U.S. Attorney for Maine filed a complaint seeking a permanent injunction under Sections 301 and 302 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, to prevent interstate shipment of orgone accumulators and to ban some of Reich's writing promoting and advertising the devices. Reich refused to appear in court, arguing that no court was in a position to evaluate his work. In a long letter to Judge Clifford, he wrote:
My factual position in the case as well as in the world of science of today does not permit me to enter the case against the Food and Drug Administration, since such action would, in my mind, imply admission of the authority of this special branch of the government to pass judgment on primordial, pre-atomic cosmic orgone energy. I, therefore, rest the case in full confidence in your hands.
Maine was granted the injunction by default on March 19, 1954. His ruling was more extensive that the original complaint. He ordered that all accumulators and their parts were to be destroyed. All written material of promotional information and instructions for use (labeling) on the accumulators was also to be destroyed. This included ten of Reich's books that mentioned orgone energy, until such time as references to orgone were deleted; the list included Character Analysis and The Mass Psychology of Fascism.
In May 1956, Reich traveled to Arizona to experiment with the cloudbuster. In his absence, and without his knowledge, one of his students, Dr. Michael Silvert, moved some accumulators and books from Rangeley, Maine to New York, in violation of the injunction. Reich and Silvert were both charged with contempt of court. Once again, he refused to arrange a legal defense. He was brought in chains to the courthouse in Portland, Maine. Representing himself, he admitted to the violation and, in his defense, arranged for the judge to be sent copies of his books. He was found guilty of contempt of court on May 7, 1956, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Silvert was sentenced to a year and a day. The Wilhelm Reich Foundation, which Reich's students and friends had set up in 1949, was fined $10,000.
Dr. Morton Herskowitz, a fellow psychiatrist and friend of Reich's, wrote of the trial: "Because he viewed himself as a historical figure, he was making a historical point, and to make that point he had conducted the trial that way. If I had been in his shoes, I would have wanted to escape jail, I would have wanted to be free, etc. I would have conducted the trial on a strictly legal basis because the lawyers had said, 'We can win this case for you. Their case is so weak, so when you let us do our thing we can get you off.' But he wouldn't do it." Reich appealed in October 1956, but the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision on December 11. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided on February 25, 1957 not to review the lower courts' decisions. Reich and Silvert then asked for a suspension or reduction of their sentences; a hearing was set for March 11, to be followed by jail if the request did not succeed. The judge later wrote to the U.S. Board of Parole that he had been inclined to suspend or reduce the sentence, but the government established that Reich would not discontinue promoting orgone accumulator. Reich then appealed to the President, to no avail.
On June 5, 1956, as Reich was arranging his first appeal, two FDA officials traveled to Orgonon to supervise the destruction of Reich's accumulators. Most of them had been sold at that point, and another 50 were with Silvert in New York. Only three were at Orgonon. The FDA agents were not allowed to destroy them, only to supervise the destruction, so Reich's friends, and his son Peter, chopped them up with axes as the agents watched. On June 26, the agents returned to supervise the destruction of the promotional material, including some of his books. On July 9, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a press release criticizing the book burning, although coverage of the release was poor, and Reich ended up asking them not to help him because he was annoyed that they failed to criticize the destruction of the accumulators. In England, a letter of protest signed by A.S. Neill and Herbert Read also failed to find a publisher. On July 23, the remaining accumulators in New York were destroyed by S.A. Collins and Sons, who had built them.
On August 23, six tons of his books, journals, and papers were burned in the 25th Street public incinerator in New York's lower east side, the Gansevoort incinerator. Among the material destroyed were titles that were supposed only to be banned, including 12,189 copies of the Orgone Energy Bulletin, 6,261 copies of the International Journal of Sex Economy and Orgone Research, 2,900 copies of Emotional Plague Versus Orgone Biophysics, 2,976 copies of Annals of the Orgone Institute, and hardcover copies of several of his books, including The Sexual Revolution, Character Analysis, and The Mass Psychology of Fascism. It is regarded as one of the worst examples of censorship in U.S. history.
As with the accumulators, the FDA was supposed only to observe the destruction, while his colleagues carried it out. One of them, Victor Sobey, wrote: "All the expenses and labor had to be provided by the [Orgone Institute] Press. A huge truck with three to help was hired. I felt like people who, when they are to be executed, are made to dig their own graves first and are then shot and thrown in. We carried box after box of the literature."
On February 10, 1957, Reich signed his last will, naming his daughter, Eva, as his executrix On March 12, he was sent to Danbury Federal Prison, where Richard C. Hubbard, a psychiatrist who admired Reich, examined him, recording paranoia manifested by delusions of grandiosity, persecution, and ideas of reference:
The patient feels that he has made outstanding discoveries. Gradually over a period of many years he has explained the failure of his ideas in becoming universally accepted by the elaboration of psychotic thinking. "The Rockerfellows (sic) are against me." (Delusion of grandiosity.) "The airplanes flying over prison are sent by the Air Force to encourage me." (Ideas of reference and grandiosity.)
On March 22, he was transferred to the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where there were better psychiatric facilities, and was examined again. This time, it was decided that he was mentally competent, and that his personality appeared intact, though he might become psychotic under stress. Two days later, on his 60th birthday, he wrote to his son, Peter, then 13:
I am in Lewisburg. I am calm, certain in my thoughts, and doing mathematics most of the time. I am kind of "above things," fully aware of what is up. Do not worry too much about me, though anything might happen. I know, Pete, that you are strong and decent. At first I thought that you should not visit me here. I do not know. With the world in turmoil I now feel that a boy your age should experience what is coming his way—fully digest it without getting a "belly ache," so to speak, nor getting off the right track of truth, fact, honesty, fair play, and being above board—never a sneak. ...
Peter did visit him at Lewisburg several times. Reich told him that he cried a lot, and wanted Peter to let himself cry too, believing that tears are the "great softener." His last letter to his son was on October 22, when he said he was in good spirits, and looking forward to being released on November 10, when he would have served one third of his sentence; a parole hearing had been scheduled for just a few days before. He wrote that he and Peter had a date for a meal at the Howard Johnson restaurant near Peter's school.
Reich failed to appear for morning roll call on November 3, and was found dead in his bed at 7 a.m., fully clothed but for his shoes. The prison physician said he had died during the night of "myocardial insufficiency with sudden heart failure." He was buried in a plot of land he had chosen in the woods at Orgonon, in a coffin he had bought a year earlier from a Maine craftsman. He had left instructions that there was to be no religious ceremony, but that a record should be played of Schubert's "Ave Maria" sung by Marian Anderson, and that his granite headstone should read simply: "Wilhelm Reich, Born March 24, 1897, Died ..." Dr. Elsworth F. Baker, a physician friend, said at his funeral, "Once in a thousand years, nay once in two thousand years, such a man comes upon this earth to change the destiny of the human race. As with all great men, distortion, falsehood, and persecution followed him. He met them all, until organized conspiracy sent him to prison and then killed him." A replica of a cloudbuster stands next to his grave, and the building that housed his laboratory is now the Wilhelm Reich Museum.
Not one psychiatric or established scientific journal carried an obituary. Time Magazine wrote on November 18:
Died. Wilhelm Reich, 60, once-famed psychoanalyst, associate and follower of Sigmund Freud, founder of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation, lately better known for unorthodox sex and energy theories; of a heart attack; in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary, Pa; where he was serving a two-year term for distributing his invention, the "orgone energy accumulator" (in violation of the Food and Drug Act), a telephone-booth-size device which supposedly gathered energy from the atmosphere, and could cure, while the patient sat inside, common colds, cancer and impotence.
The study of Reich's work has been hampered by the instruction he left that his unpublished papers were to be stored for 50 years after his death, "to secure their safety from destruction and falsification ...," which has meant that researchers, even scholars, were not able to access them until 2007.
New research journals devoted to his work began to appear in the 1960s. Physicians and natural scientists with an interest in Reich organized small study groups and institutes, and new research efforts were undertaken, though the mainstream scientific community remains largely uninterested in his ideas. William Steig, Robert Anton Wilson, Norman Mailer, William S. Burroughs, Jerome D. Salinger and Orson Bean have all undergone Reich's orgone therapy and there is some use of orgone accumulators by psychotherapists in Europe, particularly in Germany. A double-blind, controlled study of the effects of the orgone accumulator was carried out by Stefan Müschenich and Rainer Gebauer at the University of Marburg and appeared to validate some of Reich's claims. The study was later reproduced by Günter Hebenstreit at the University of Vienna.
Reich's influence is felt in modern psychotherapy. He was a pioneer of body psychotherapy and several emotions-based psychotherapies, influencing Fritz Perls's Gestalt therapy and Arthur Janov's primal therapy. His pupil Alexander Lowen, the founder of bioenergetic analysis, and Charles Kelley, the founder of Radix therapy, ensure that his research receives widespread attention. Many practising psychoanalysts give credence to his theory of character, as outlined in Character Analysis (1933, enlarged 1949). The American College of Orgonomy, founded by Dr. Elsworth Baker, and the Institute for Orgonomic Science, led by Dr. Morton Herskowitz, still use Reich's original therapeutic methods.
Nearly all his publications have been reprinted, apart from his research journals which are available as photocopies from the Wilhelm Reich Museum. The first editions are not available: Reich continuously amended his books throughout his life, and the owners of Reich's copyright will only allow the latest revised versions to be reprinted. In the late 1960s, Farrar, Straus & Giroux republished all his major works.
Reich continues to influence popular culture, with references to orgone and cloudbusting found in songs by Clutch, Hawkwind, Pop Will Eat Itself, Turbonegro, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith ("Birdland" on Horses).