Peter Sedgwick: Psycho Politics – Laing, Foucault, Goffman, Szasz and the Future of Mass Psychiatry (Book Review)

Peter Sedgwick
Psycho Politics – Laing, Foucault, Goffman, Szasz and the Future of Mass Psychiatry
Foreword by Helen Spandler, Robert Dellar, Alastair Kemp
Unkant Publishers, London 2015
ISBN 978-0-86104-352-9

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Peter Sedgwick was born in 1934, joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1954, left it in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution two years later, then joined the Socialist Review Group. This small organization, headed by Tony Cliff, later became the International Socialists (IS). Sedgwick became a frequent contributor to their journal, International Socialism. When the organisation took a turn towards Leninist party-building and renamed itself Socialist Workers Party in 1977, Sedgwick left the group. He fiercely opposed this step, calling it a ‘propaganda-act’, a ‘silly fling’ and a fraud.

Sedgwick worked as a psychologist and school teacher before lecturing on politics at the universities of York and Leeds for the last 15 years of his life. He was the eminent translator of the works of communist dissident Victor Serge.

Besides dozens of articles in the press of the IS, Sedgwick’s main work is Psycho Politics – Laing, Foucault, Goffman, Szasz and the Future of Mass Psychiatry. This book was originally published by Pluto Press in 1982 and was an assault on the ideology of the anti-psychiatry movement of the 60s and 70s and its relative hegemony concerning positions towards mental health issues in the radical left at the time.

He sets out to show how these ideas, originally devised in the interest of the ‘mentally ill’, provided ammunition to those on the right with the agenda of dismantling the welfare state, giving them arguments to withhold adequate funding from the mental health institutions and ultimately shifting the responsibility of taking care of the mentally ill back to ‘the community’ or the family. [Read more →]

Psychiatry – Social Hygiene and Mind Control

This article is written with its practical use value in mind. It is about Psychiatry, and that means about psychiatric institutions and how people get there and are kept there, the ideology of ‘health’ and the class of its administrators, the doctors; it is also about economic interests: a repair institution for defective labour power, and the advantages of drug dependency for the pharmaceutical companies; but given the available space, it is not pretending to be comprehensive, its purpose is to give some (hopefully) valuable help in dealing practically with situations where a friend or comrade, or yourself are confronted with psychiatric treatment or confinement, it is attempting to give some background information about the system, and helping to break the silence about the topic, a silence that is astonishing given the fact that every year millions of people are exposed to breakdowns, diagnosis, medication and confinement… Added is a short list of links and bibliography for further reading and research, even though some of the books are unfortunately out of print, having been released at a time (from the mid 60’s to the late 70’s) when many facets of capitalist society and the mangement of power in it were under scrutiny, and the public eye was turned on psychiatry and exposed its often shocking face. Most people are under the assumption that in the wake of ‘Anti-Psychiatry’ the system has been reformed sufficiently to meet the needs of the ‘patient’. Sadly this is hardly the case, and the interest of the labour market and meeting the demands of ‘normality’ and ‘health’ is prioritised over the solutions of the patients problems. Illness is a result of the conflict of interest of the patient exactly with these concepts (health, normalcy), and in its present manifestations a product of Capitalism, but illness, and understanding it, can be used as a weapon, as the SPK put it. So this is not about denying madness or romanticising it – it’s about politicising it, i.e. making clear that it is a social and collective phenomenon, without robbing each patient of their individual dimension and dignity. [Read more →]

Peter R. Breggin / David Cohen: Your Drug May Be Your Problem – How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications

(Perseus Publishing, 1999, paperback edition 2000)

A review of a currently up-to-date and very useful handbook about the dangers of psychiatric medication and how to escape them, including practical tips,
plus an introduction and some thoughts about racketeering and revolution.

1.
It is the dogma of contemporary psychiatry that ‚mental illnesses’ are easily diagnosed and then ‚cured’ with chemical substances manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry; substances that all have side effects, in many cases severe ones that can be irreversible and mentally or physically disfiguring. In the last 20 years the biologistical view on these matters has become the mainstream in psychiatry, to a degree not seen since the time of Nazi Germany. Instead of killing the ‚mentally ill’ the modern biologists however aim at turning them into long-term or life-long consumers of psychiatric drugs under a pseudo-scientific gloss. [Read more →]

Study on “a-typical” Anti-psychotic Drugs Shows Risks

In issue number 8 of datacide we published an article on “Psychiatry – Social Hygiene and Mind Control”.
One topic was the widespread prescription of neuroleptic drugs, and a central claim was that the rampant use of “a-typical” neuroleptics (such as Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel) was barely a progress compared to the old “typical” neuroleptics such as Haldol or Clopixol, except for the fact that these have less obvious adverse effects in the region of motoric disturbances.
A major new study is now confirming this.
Although this is hardly news, it seems to be only slowly seeping into the mainstream, all the while the pharmaceutical companies marketing such drugs are making massive profits.
Ely Lilly, the manufacturer of Zyprexa was selling this medication to the tune of $4 billion in one year alone.
While it is to be welcomed that knowledge about the dangers of these drugs is becoming more wide-spread, unfortunately it isn’t going hand in hand with a more critical approach to the ideology that leads to the rampant over-use of mind-dimming medication. As evident from the N.Y. TImes piece, some doctors merely go back to old school “typical” neuroleptics to avoid the adverse effect of a-typicals, knowingly exposing patients to the risks of Tardive Dyskenesia and other debilitating adverse effects.

Not only are these medications prescribed for all kinds of ailments they were never supposed to treat, they are also being increasingly prescribed to children.
What ultimately needs to be challenged is the diagnosis of schizophrenia itself on the one hand, schizophrenia being – rather than a recognizable illness – more like a collection of symptoms.
On the other hand, and going with it, it has to be recognized that the widespread use of neuroleptics and other psychiatric drugs is putting the brains of millions in chemical straitjackets, in what amounts to social control on a huge scale.

some further infos:
http://breggin.com (site of the consistent critic of biologist psychiatry, Peter Breggin)
http://www.zyprexaclassaction.com/ (now defunct, but still contains interesting information)
http://www.monheit.com/risperdal/news.asp (another legal case site, with up to date links)