That mental illness is, in large part, a political issue is a shared premise of these cogent essays. U.S. readers may find...



That mental illness is, in large part, a political issue is a shared premise of these cogent essays. U.S. readers may find most revelatory Joel Kovel's early chapter which sees ""The American Mental Health Industry"" in relation to growing contradictions in advanced capitalist society. Kovel surveys political aspects of the hegemony of medical psychiatry, and he recognizes ""the unexamined class position of the analysts"" as a significant factor in the process. All of the contributors (sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists) essentially agree with his observation that ""the rise of the purely psychological view of human difficulties is a handy way of mystifying social reality,"" but each writes from a different angle, usually with an eye on a different country. Thus, Andy Treacher and Geoff Baruch explore psychiatric dominance of Britain's mental health industry; Sherry Turkle (excerpted from her 1977 book) comments on developments in France--the radical doctrine of Lacan and the less chic but still successful community movement; Franco Basaglia reports on the systematic dismantling of Trieste's Ospedal Psichiatrico and its replacement by unrepressive alternate services; and Svein Haugsgjerd discusses a recent case of timely intervention in Norwegian national labor policy on behalf of family stability. These several perspectives are supported by shared beliefs concerning conceptual flaws in psychiatry and attitudes arising from the medical model of illness and the medicalization of deviance. Editor Ingleby skillfully scrutinizes psychiatry's positivistic assumptions, its ""value-free"" stance, conservative role, and ignorance of connections between culture and psychopathology; and Peter Conrad, noting the unwarranted expansion of psychiatry's jurisdiction, considers consequences of medical diagnosis on attitudes (of patients, professionals, the public) and implications of ""the therapeutic state."" These charges are deeper and more sophisticated than anti-psychiatry criticism of the late 1960s: the writers know Marx and Freud better, they understand strategic failings of the earlier dissenters, and they have a firmer grasp of contemporary networks of influence. Their statements are responsible, perceptive, and circumspect.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980