‘Comrade Doctor’ – On David Cooper and ‘Anti-Psychiatry’

“Madness haunts the working and sleeping hours of even the most ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ as society loses even the appearance of rationality.”

– Russell Jacoby 1

Picking up on Christoph Fringeli’s review of a reissue of Peter Sedgwick’s Psycho-Politics in Datacide 15, it struck me as to why my experience of reading Sedgwick’s book had been both curiously deflating and – in the chapters covering R.D. Laing – unsettling in the way it often has the tone of a personalised vendetta. Only on reading the review did this become a little clearer. Perhaps it was Sedgwick’s position as a lecturer in politics proper, as an upholder, when pushed by some of Laing’s poetic and mystical flights, of the “scientific-rationalist tradition of the Enlightenment”. Piqued by the memory of these little digs, I consulted a long essay by Sedgwick entitled ‘R.D. Laing: Self, Symptom and Society’ which was published ten years before Psycho-Politics 2. Here, from the opening line, it is announced that Sedgwick is going to survey Laing’s ‘intellectual history’ and whilst pointing to the difficulty in this (e.g. Laing collaborated with others so, it is maybe implied, a ‘pure’ Laing may be hard to isolate), he still maintains, with a kind of individuating moralism, that Laing must “bear responsibility” for his writings. Throughout this essay, which seems like a pre-run for Psycho-Politics, this kind of judgment, a judgment based on a readerly reading of written texts and in only very minimally exploring the responsibilities of Laing’s therapeutic praxis, seems above all to be about bringing a counter-cultural ‘guru’ down a peg or too, writing-off existential psychotherapy and uncritically defending the NHS. So, in his review of Ken Loach’s film Family Life which is loosely based on ‘anti-psychiatric’ themes as these effect a distressed young woman, we are subject to a kind of pawky sarcasm from Sedgwick: “At first the poor girl gets some sympathetic psychiatric help in a ward run by a Laingian doctor, who is called Mike by his subordinates and conducts therapy-sessions through earnest discussion about relationships.”3 [Read more →]

Demented Idioms – Schizo-Culture: The Event (1975) & The Book (1978)

“The problem is not really defining a political position […] but
to imagine and to bring about new schemas of politicization.”

– Michel Foucault

Back in the late 1980s, a series of pocket books appeared introducing English speakers to several writers who would become lumped together as post-modernist or post-structuralist philosophers. At the time, though, the names of Baudrillard, Lyotard, Virilio and Deleuze & Guattari were a lot less well known and these pocket books (dubbed the Foreign Agent Series) had the aura of underground publications. More aptly, perhaps, they seemed extra-academic; they didn’t seem to be coming from an institution and least of all from a British institution. The origins of these books, however, lay in a series of Journals and Conferences organized and edited under the name of Semiotext(e) and which came out of a specific department of Columbia University (an institutional vacuole?). One such Conference and accompanying Journal was the Schizo Culture gathering of November 1975, which brought (mainly untranslated) French theorists into collision and collaboration with elements of the SoHo Art Scene and with anti-psychiatry and prison activists like Howie Harp (Insane Liberation Front) and Judy Clark (Midnight Special). Ever mobile and shape-shifting and apposite to Semiotext(e)’s birth in a critique of linguistics1 we would find that William Burroughs (he of the ‘word virus’) was present, as was his fleetingly one-time Project Sigma collaborant, Ronald Laing. [Read more →]

Sincere Genesis – On Félix Guattari & Groups

guattariquebec1991_72

“Sooner or later the Situationist International must
define itself as a therapy: we are ready to defend the
poetry made by all against the false poetry
rigged up by power”
– Raoul Vaneigem

As a psychoanalyst and militant, Félix Guattari seems to have engaged with the problem of groups for all his life. Across his writing we see him putting forth, as part of a collaborative process, various conceptualisations of group life which are to a larger or lesser degree operational concepts which he had experienced and worked with. These are: institutional analysis, the subject and subjugated group and the collective assemblage of enunciation. Several themes, gathering points for his later more pronounced interest in the production of subjectivity, appear to flow through all of these concepts: transversalism, a mixed semiotic and the subject as ‘supra-personal’. [Read more →]

LAST SURVIVORS OR FIRST MUTANTS? – Notes on Surplus Population

refugee_camp

LAST SURVIVORS OR FIRST MUTANTS? [1]
Notes on Surplus Population

“For all I was the thing
in history –
the barbaric; the semi-barbaric; the savage
that was me”

– John La Rose

Writing in April 1975 the Race Today Collective reiterated to a bemused leftist, who accused them of touting the same views on unemployment as the then home secretary Keith Joseph, that they, on the contrary, were of the view that “capital seeks to create a reserve army of mobile labour in the whole world, and that the young black wageless are part of such a reserve army.”[2] This theme of the ‘black wageless’ had also been taken up by publisher and activist John la Rose who, in an earlier issue of Race Today, offered that the “wageless black youth, by withholding their labor, are challenging the rule of capital in a fundamentally revolutionary way”[3]. They were, La Rose contends, withdrawing from the work ethic and crucially, refusing to compete with their fellows and making a break with “mundane social conceptions”. The Race Today Collective may well have offered that amongst such ‘mundane’ social ideas were those often voiced by the mainstream left whom it contended was treacherous to the ‘wageless black youth’ demoting them from working class to lumpen status and unsuccessfully tempting them into ‘Right To Work’ marches. [Read more →]

Incorrect Classification Possible

Untitled

Maybe we could
be lithe with the music
be in its
unknowable tones
as substrate
For ever
diasporic
as valve
skin tip & shank bone
Be instruments
instinctmeants
of agitant life
from whose
corner cones
breath would push
to inadvent a practicum
with vegal nerves

Untitled

Glance off the flow blocks
Reconvene on inner edges
Consider that ideals
come through to us from
our strategic denials
Decide again to chip away
at the authority babies
of distilled popularity
Recombine our selves anew
as kindly vulnerable rejects
Sip at water iron and flame
[Read more →]

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