Charles Reich, Who Saw ‘The Greening of America,’ Dies at 91


Mr. Reich reasoned that if a statutory entitlement, like welfare benefits, was considered property, it was entitled to greater legal protection, Justice Kline said, thereby advancing “an unconventional idea in a legally conventional and persuasive way.”

As a result, the Supreme Court ruled in Goldberg v. Kelly in 1970 that welfare recipients suspected of fraud in New York were entitled to an evidentiary hearing before they could be deprived of benefits.

“The Greening of America” was inspired in part by Mr. Reich’s personal encounters in San Francisco during the so-called Summer of Love in 1967. The book, Roger D. Citron wrote in the New York Law School Law Review in 2007, combined “the rigor of an intellectual and the enthusiasm of a teenager.”

It might not have appeared in print if Mr. Reich’s mother, who ran the Horace Mann School for Nursery Years in New York, had not mentioned to a parent at the school that her son’s manuscript was languishing at a publisher. The parent was Lillian Ross, a writer for The New Yorker and paramour of the magazine’s editor, William Shawn.

The book became a best seller in 1970 despite mixed notices. Reviewing it in The Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt proclaimed that in Mr. Reich “youth culture has gotten its very own Norman Vincent Peale,” referring to the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking.” In Mr. Reich’s utopia, he wrote, “we’ll just stop consuming what we don’t need, stop doing meaningless work, stop playing war and ego games.”

In retrospect, the cultural critic Thomas Hine wrote in 2007, “Reich’s mistake was to interpret minor, transient phenomena as bellwethers of permanent, positive change.”

He added: “Bell-bottoms were, he said, a way of expressing personal freedom, the delight and beauty of movement, and a rather comic attitude toward life. He wasn’t wrong about that, but he seemed to think that people would be wearing bell-bottoms forever.”

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