What happens when loneliness engulfs us? How do we manage life when the absence of adequate connections becomes an excruciating hunger?

During his extraordinary decades-long career as an attorney, J. W. Freiberg consulted on hundreds of cases involving clients affected by chronic and debilitating loneliness. Here, in four adapted stories from his practice, he reveals how loneliness can impact us in every season of our lives. A fascinating cast of characters emerges: the traumatized teenager forever branded as a sexual predator; the man who spends the prime of his life in solitary confinement in Mao-era China; the truck driver whose self-education isolates him from his community; and the professor at the end of his life who has vast knowledge about the history of love but none to call his own.

Told through Freiberg’s unique lens of a social psychologist turned lawyer, Four Seasons of Loneliness explores the fallout of losing the connections so fundamental to our survival and the ways in which we seek to find again the bonds that sustain us.


Throughout the 1970s, whether in Paris at Alain Touraine’s Centre d’étude des movements sociaux or at the Boston University Sociology Department, J. W. Freiberg came to know the era’s most prominent and innovative European social theoreticians and social psychologists.

Over five consecutive summers, Freiberg invited ten of these highly respected academics to present intensive one-month-long graduate seminars at Boston University. The seminars were attended by graduate students and young professors from throughout the United States. Alain Touraine and Italy’s Franco Ferrarotti visited during the first summer; England’s Anthony Giddens and Germany’s Claus Offe during the second; Spain’s Manuel Castells and Greece’s Nicos Poulantzas during the third; England’s Ralph Miliband and Germany’s Hans Peter Dreitzel during the fourth; and Sweden’s Göran Therborn and England’s Robin Blackburn during the fifth year. During the regular academic years, Freiberg welcomed Germany’s Hans Peter Dreitzel, England’s Michael Mann, Canada’s John O’Neill, Spain’s Vincente Navarro, Germany’s Urs Jaeggi, Egypt’s Anouar Abdel-Malek, and notably France’s Henri Lefebvre, who kept his listeners spellbound with a week of splendid lectures.

In Critical Sociology: European Perspectives, Freiberg translates into English and compiles papers from these academic giants. The book is a treasure trove of insightful thought in social theory and social psychology from a collection of social theorists who between them have published well over a hundred books. Freiberg introduces the collection with a powerful chapter, entitled “Critical Social Theory in the American Conjuncture,” in which he analyzes the strictures and limits to American theoretical work on social psychology and critical social theory.


J. W. Freiberg brings to us one of the most detailed studies ever done on the relationship between mass media and the social consciousness of those who consume it. Freiberg interviewed every imaginable party administering and animating the French press to bring us the story of how the written press of postwar France devolved from hundreds of independent publications in 1945 to the few that survive today. We are taken in depth into the inner workings of Le Monde, one of the world’s great informational newspapers. The research pays equal attention to the printers’ strike of the mid-1970s—one of the longest strikes in French labor history and certainly one of the most colorful. The strategies and counterstrategies of the paper’s owner and the printers’ union read like theater.

Freiberg documents and discusses the monopolization of the press since the liberation of Paris by large corporate interests and looks at how this change has led to increased editorial control by an ever-smaller group of ever-wealthier people. But he also presents data that suggests the voting patterns of readers are not so directly or easily manipulated as one might imagine.

As the eminent Belgian professor Ernest Mandel writes in his preface to the book, “I know of no other book that has done such a thorough and painstakingly researched and documented inquiry on the state of the press in a given capitalist country.”