Prophet of the 'Anti-Culture'

After a 30-year silence, the gloomy social theorist Philip Rieff is back — with four books

At the age of 82, after two decades of failing health, Philip Rieff leads a monastic life. He rarely ventures from the second floor of the cavernous 1865 townhouse where he and his wife have lived for nearly 40 years.

The best-known photographs of Mr. Rieff show a severe, thin, clean-shaven man, but now he is appealingly bearded and potbellied. "My God, how I've gained weight,"