Articles

‘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 →]

David Cooper: Note on Mystification (1978)

[Please read as an insert to Howard Slater’s “‘Comrade Doctor’ – On David Cooper and ‘Anti-Psychiatry'”]

This term, mystification, itself mystified, entered the field of psychotechnology to specifically account for indirect communicative manoevres in families and other micro-groups.

Against the recuperating psychologism of such a reduction, the product of a boring familialisation of psychoanalytic discourse, we must define ‘mystification’ in a broader political sense – to sketch it out as a phenomenological politics.
We must re-read the five pages of Marx on ‘The Power of Money in Bourgeois Society’ (in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844) where he analyses texts by Goethe and Shakespeare on the subject.

This work done by Marx, expressing his hatred of money, is at the emotional heart of Marxism.

It does not reduce such hatred to the understanding of money’s ‘origins’ – hate, on the contrary, should be used to understand and change the world. Therein lies one of the essential meanings of a possible anti-psychoanalysis.

Money, says Marx, is “the alienated capacity of mankind.” So the divine power of money is that it brings together impossibilities.

What my human powers are incapable of achieving I can realize by means of money.

Money converts my powers into something they are not; it converts them into their opposites. For Marx this is all an illusion, an experiential distortion that occludes the condition of our being socially alienated.

Utilising terms such as ‘displacement’, ‘exteriorisation’, ‘interiorisation’, in a totally depsychologised sense, I suggest that we examine the most basic structure of mystification: the power structure / power as an illusion (Later we will understand it according to the analysis of the concept of alienation.) We live in anonymous relation with others; these others who are ultimately ‘the state’. Certainly, leaders exist as concrete individuals; they give us the spectacle of obscene morsels [… ] But “they” are not “them”. We live power (puissance), but it is experienced as something mysterious: our power is exteriorised in “them”, where our non-power (not powerlessness but nothing) is converted into power (pouvoir) by externalising itself.

But in this magical system, externalisation is at the same time internalisation (although for topographical reasons I drew two separate lines), which turns power (pouvoir) back against us, to leave an “impotence” in us – or at least, what we feel, as impotence vis-à-vis the “power” “of the system”; a power “elsewhere” in “them.”

Displacement is one single act. Something doesn’t come, doesn’t pass.

Nothing is passive: it is a praxis conditioned by a social alienation1 that is our historical condition. This alienation is susceptible to being transformed by another praxis , or an ensembles of praxes – other ways to insert ourselves into the world with the intention to destroy alienated social conditions.

Demystification means nothing other than the choice that is this praxis. As to those in power, we can now see their desperate powerlessness: they do not have the power, they are bound by power. The mystificators are also mystified by mystifications that they wield upon the mystified masses that they mystify!

At a quite different level of mystification there are those who accuse writers such as Ionesco and Pirandello of being reactionary. Such writers who deeply understand the madness of the bourgeois family are, like it or not, on the side of the revolution. Let us remember the disquieting harangue in Ionesco’s ‘The Killer’:

“X: People, you are mystified. You will be mystified …
Voice from the Crowd: Down with mystification! … I brought you a whole troupe of demystifiers. They will demystify you. But to demystify you they must begin by mystifying. They need a new mystification …
Voice from the Crowd: Long live the mystification of the demystifiers! … Long live the new mystification! …
X: I promise to change everything … The old mystification could not resist psychological and sociological analysis. The new mystifications will be invulnerable!”

No, there are no techniques of demystification. There is no human technology.

Illusion (latin, in-ludere) means playing in a joyless game, playing the game of the system – the system, to the extent that we have created it, that cannot stand without us.

Demystification means nothing – nothing but regaining our senses, senses it’s true to say, we have never lost.

Translated and embellished by HS/Google from: Qui Sont Les Dissidents, Editions Galilee, 1978.
Footnote
[1] Social alienation is only one chapter in the long history of alienation. I try to say more in The Language of Madness.

London Anarchist Bookfair 2017

Datacide has a stall again at this year’s Anarchist Bookfair in London.

This year’s London Anarchist Bookfair will be on Saturday 28th October from 10am to 7pm.

Venue: Park View School
West Green Road, London, N15 3QR
The Bookfair is open to the public and free to attend. There are no tickets and no need to book, just come along. Progammes will be available at the door, suggested donation £1.

ARMED COMPETITIVENESS – The Working Class gets Called up to Fight Itself: Notes on a Recruitment Crisis

Who can afford to live inside the law?

War among the poor (or ‘war of the poor against the poor’, ‘civil/internecine war of the poor’, etc.) is:

– An exaggerated and reductive name (too bloody and too simple) for a real phenomenon. Intra-class competition is often violent, sometimes lethal, endlessly rhetorical and always managed from above. The proprietors’ 500-year Plan.

– An oxymoron, if opposing bodies of ‘the poor’ are supposed to be autonomous belligerent subjects rather than someone else’s cannon fodder. An essential feature of ‘war’ is ignored. Has any group of ‘the poor’ ever fought an organized campaign of destruction exclusively against other poor people except under the influence of generals or senior managers?1 Of course the poor have fought autonomously many times, but the enemy was always an army sent out by some department of ‘the rich’.

For anyone trying to show that violent competition between proletarians amounts to ‘war among the poor’, few social situations could offer less useful evidence than the urban riots2 in the US (2014-15), the UK (2011) or France (2005)3. No one disputes that some working-class people were badly hurt and a few killed by non-police violence during some of those events, or, for example, that most of the homes accidentally burned in London were rented by the poor, or that ‘working-class’ cars built the Paris barricades, etc. etc. The stories of Muslim ‘identity’ groups ‘taking over’ the fighting in France by force, ‘pushing out’ left activists and unaffiliated local proletarians, are also well known and much disputed. And there’s no more reason to disbelieve the many reports of ugly individual beatings/stabbings/robberies than there is to forget that these things happen every night in the cities concerned, or to pretend that they could serve any conceivable collective purpose of a riot. [Read more →]

Poisoned Fruit in the Walled Garden – The Alt Right: A Growing Problem, But Not a New One

Rotten to the Grassroots

Twenty-sixteen was probably the worst year for online hate speech to date: a year when a loose network of neo-fascist trolls known as the Alt Right finally managed to overwhelm many online discussion platforms in the West, after years of trying.

Posing as members of an outraged, but otherwise ordinary public, these trolls flooded Facebook, Twitter, and many major news websites with hateful posts.

It seemed clear that they were striving to mould a new popular consensus of contempt for minorities everywhere… and by extension, a consensus of contempt for any social  justice movement that stood in their way.  And, to a degree, they succeeded in altering the public’s perceptions about everything from the new Star Wars movie, to the Brexit, to Hilary Clinton’s state of health, not to mention the election campaign of President Trump.

Maybe it would be more correct to call theirs an ‘unpopular consensus’ though, because no matter what the Alt Right would like us to believe, its extremist hate is still in a minority across the Western world. However, it is easy to forget this fact when its virtual foot soldiers are seizing an ever-increasing range of territory online.

How big of a range exactly? One study undertaken by the Anti-Defamation League found that 2.6 million anti-Semitic tweets had been posted to Twitter by just 1,600 individuals in 2016. Together, these anti-Semitic tweets were seen around 10 billion times.

The study’s authors noted that, ‘Waves of anti-Semitic tweets tend to emerge from closely connected online “communities.”  These aggressors are disproportionately likely to self-identify as Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, or part of the “alt-right.”‘

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an NGO that monitors American hate groups, the Alt Right is a group bound together by, ‘a loose set of far-right ideals centered on “white identity” and the preservation of “Western civilization.” Alt-Right adherents stridently reject egalitarianism and universalism.’ [Read more →]

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