About Paul Goodman

Born in New York City in 1911, Paul Goodman labored in obscurity as a writer and free-lance intellectual until 1960 when the publication of Growing Up Absurd made him famous and a significant moral force in the Sixties.

Social Critic & Philosopher of Education

Grace Paley says in her interview that Paul Goodman "was not ahead of his time but in his time." A brilliant and imaginative social thinker, Goodman’s "utopian essays and practical proposals" inspired the leaders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Berkeley Free Speech Movement — as they inspired him. His Compulsory Mis-education and Community of Scholars were important texts for educational reform efforts in the 1960s and beyond.

Rethinking Cities

Communitas, co-written with his architect brother Percival Goodman and published in 1947, became a classic in community planning that is still in print and widely used in architecture and community planning courses.

Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy (1951), co-authored with Fritz Perls, launched a new school of psychotherapy that now flourishes world-wide, far from the Esalen Institute in California where it first attracted media attention.

Gay Liberation Pioneer

Paul Goodman’s unabashed frankness about his bisexuality was costly to his career and reputation: he was never in a closet that he had to come out of—but it won him the admiration of some of the activists who created the modern gay rights movement.


Goodman’s outspoken support for young Vietnam War draft resisters, along with Grace Paley, Noam Chomsky, Marc Raskin, Mitchell Goodman, and Dr. Benjamin Spock, earned him the FBI classification of "subversive homosexual" — and made him a beacon for young men facing conscription, including his own son.


Some of America’s best-known poets and critics admired Paul Goodman’s poetry: John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, Hayden Carruth, Susan Sontag, and composer Ned Rorem set many of his poems to music.

Yet despite the remarkable achievements and unusual life of this 20th century man of letters, Paul Goodman has almost completely disappeared since his death at age 60 in 1972. Most of his books are out-of-print and people under fifty know nothing about this man "whose influence, if not name, is all around us," according to Noam Chomsky.

Our film will introduce the life and work of this exemplary citizen-poet and free spirit as seen through the eyes of some of those who have said, "Paul Goodman changed my life." Perhaps he will change your life too!