Wilhelm Reich life and biography

Wilhelm Reich picture, image, poster

Wilhelm Reich biography

Date of birth : 1897-03-24
Date of death : 1957-11-03
Birthplace : Dobzau, Galicia, Austria-Hungary
Nationality : Austrian
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-12-16
Credited as : psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Character Analysis

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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 books, 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, 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 S. Burroughs, Paul Edwards, Norman Mailer, A.S. Neill, and Robert Anton Wilson, 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, e.g. developing body psychotherapy, thus using touch during sessions. After some years of microbiological research ("bions") he said he had discovered a primordial cosmic energy, 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 Adolf Hitler came to power in January 1933. On March 2 that year 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 U.S. 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 requesting the judge to read all his books 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 - a notable example 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.

Author of books:
-The Function of the Orgasm (1927)
-Character Analysis (1933)
-Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933, banned by Nazis)
-The Sexual Revolution (1936)
-The Bion (1938)
-Bion Experiments and the Cancer Problem (1939)
-The Murder of Christ (1946)
-The Cancer Biopathy (1948)
-Listen, Little Man! (1948)
-Ether, God and Devil (1951)
-Cosmic SuperImposition (1951)
-People in Trouble (1953)
-Contact with Space (1957)
-Creation (1957, written in prison, lost manuscript)

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