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Kovel, J. (1986). Why Freud or Reich?. Free Associations, 1(4):80-99.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(4):80-99

Why Freud or Reich?

Joel Kovel

Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel and Béla Grunberger's Freud or Reich? demands that anyone who comments upon it declare himself in relation to the subject matter.1 Let me say then that I first encountered Reich by reading of his ignominious death in the New York Times. Although my initial reaction was little more than a vague curiosity, a number of personal matters led me soon after to seek therapy with a well-known Reichian, Simeon Tropp. Tropp, who had been one of Reich's principal lieutenants in the last phase of his life, made a powerful impression on me, so much so that I eventually undertook clandestine Reichian training. I was then a medical student and in those days Reich's works, with the exception of Character Analysis, were banned in the US and had to be smuggled in by friends returning from Europe — a feature that undoubtedly enhanced their appeal. Indeed, I was for a while rather inclined to accept the whole package.

After a few years of Reichianism, I began to sour on the idea, for reasons to be discussed presently, and turned to Freud and classical psychoanalytic training. Although I am still deeply involved with psychoanalysis, I have not remained within the psychoanalytic movement. Instead I complicated things further by adding a figure ‘gone through’ by Reich, namely Marx, not to mention that of a contemporary of Reich's cordially disliked by Chasseguet-Smirgel and Grunberger: Marcuse (and a few others besides). Worse yet, I have even made some efforts to do what the authors claim cannot be done — to try and encounter Freud and Marx with something of the spirit of a Reich and something of the spirit of a Marcuse.

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