REALITY POLICE: The Experience of Insanity in America by Anthony Brandt

REALITY POLICE: The Experience of Insanity in America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

True, for openers, Brandt starts out quietly enough: ""the possibility of insanity exists in us all""; there's no real definition of who is or isn't ""crazy""--a term he thinks is no worse than ""mental illness""; reality is only an ""inference from further data""--certain givens which are imposed within a social/cultural context. But from then on his attacking book goes altogether amok--i.e., there have been few changes from the early asylums to today's facilities (he covers many of them in many states); they are a conduit, or rather a dump, which permits the psychiatrist to become an ""agent of social control,"" the psychiatrist who feeds on power (no one except Laing, here and there, escapes opprobrium), the psychiatrist who chooses his patients carefully--""moneyed enough to pay their bills on time."" Brandt in the interests of his book signed himself into New York's Hudson Valley State Hospital where within ten days he found that he was no longer stable. The life is antitherapeutic (shades of Szasz--Brandt doesn't like him either) and ""the mental patient is a Jew in Nazi Germany."" He sees some signs of hope in a few of the various protest movements or community control or the few small centers based on Laing's Kingsley Hall. But the damage has already been done--and even if most people, psychiatrists included, would admit that their discipline is a play-it-by-listening-ear approach only halfway between an art and a science, is it not the only hope for ""thee and me"" when reality encroaches beyond endurable limits?

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1975
Publisher: Morrow