Charles Reich, the author responsible for the first “Greening of America” is dead at age 91. From AP:

Reich was a popular Yale University professor whose students included both Bill and Hillary Clinton and a respected legal scholar when a 39,000-word excerpt from “The Greening of America” ran in The New Yorker in September 1970, generating a massive volume of letters. The book was published a few weeks later and sold more than 2 million copies, making Reich a middle-aged hero for a rebellious generation despite scorn from both conservatives and liberals.

“The Greening of America” expanded upon such critiques of conformity and consumerism as David Riesman’s “The Lonely Crowd” and Vance Packard’s “The Status Seekers” and presented American history as an evolution of consciousness, a three-part story with a surprise ending. Consciousness I, dating back to the country’s beginnings, reflected a Jeffersonian society of individualism, virtue and suspicion of government. Consciousness II, which matured in the 20th century, believed in the “organization,” in technology and government and big business. “Insanity, artificiality and untruth are the commonplace stuff of the Corporate State,” Reich wrote.

Reich, who was gay, went from Ivy League to beaded hippy and, by all accounts, lived life on his own terms. His enery and activism will be missed.

“Whether you’re complaining about spiritual emptiness or material emptiness,” Reich wrote, “you’re ultimately complaining about the same system that’s creating both kinds of emptiness. That’s the link between ‘The Greening of America’ and the way young people feel today.”

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