Depressions, mental and economic

Chris Burford cburford at
Mon Jul 3 07:52:10 MDT 1995

Depression, mental and economic.

I am glad Carrol saw my misunderstanding as a compliment, as it was.
To discuss one's own mental illness among strangers,
shows a readiness to live with vulnerability in public that is not
commonly an ability of men. [This issue is related also to the thread about
the extent that a marxist party can afford in public to have made mistakes
and be vulnerable. ]

But in your case Carrol, thanks for the patient explanation of
spelling. I think I would have recognised "Carel". You and I will just
have to live with the fact that I saw you as a mirage!

I am still puzzled however by the purpose of your original post .
I assume that there is a typo and you mean "INefficiency" not "efficiency"
>>>For decades I tried to understand why during long periods of
time I could work and think with minimal efficiency, and over other periods
 of time I sank into a "slump."<<<

I have not printed your post out [I was interested in Jerry's comments
about reading posts] but I have re-read your post several times.
 As I suspected from your location in a department of English, you have
a fluent frame of reference about the relevance of the social dimension.
I am interested in your formula that Mind is an area of overlap between
brain and society.

We agree too about the unreality of the "abstract individual". This would
intersect with other threads on this list, noting that the concept of
human nature is shaped by the society, and the model of abstract
individuals who may suddenly malfunction with mental illness is
a capitalist conception. Your post illustrates all too clearly
that you have to consider whether you will be giving value
for your wages, or whether you will have to retire early.
So you have been glad to find a commodity that brings
relief, (as I believe anti-depressants can be expected to
do in 70% of depressive illnesses as defined by psychiatrists),

That still does not make it a uniquely neurological phenomenon,
any more that the period of mental health and efficient working
was *not* neurological. There should be no Cartesian split in
discussing this.

I feel that your further post gives additional clues that are
compatible with a psycho-socio-biological interpretation of
your experience. 'when you are not constantly pounding out
more work, your are not functioning socially very well, so you
say. Your wife is annoyed because you are not pulling
your weight and in talking it over you give a sick role
explanation: when I am better I will be able to do better.
>From what little I can go on, [and I have already jumped to
one false assumption!] I would say you have not had a full
professional assessment yet and that your condition,
even if it qualifies as an illness is neither best thought
of as you going "crazy" nor as quintesessentially needing
your chemicals adjusting. But it is your life, and you are
the expert in interpreting it the best way that makes sense
to you.


Thanks for appreciating the word play, and to Jerry as well for
picking up on that it might be more than word play.

However I am not sure of your statement that
>>>>Up to 1930 or so the generic term for serious
economic slumps was "slump."

I thought that the period of decreased economic activity that covered
most of the third quarter of the nineteenth century
was called the Great Depression. Perhaps not in the
USA, because you were growing rich with cheaper
production of food commodities. I am pretty sure it was called
the Great Depression in Britain. It lasted much longer than
what we now call the great depression.

I appreciate how Jerry accepted the content of my
proposition seriously that the periodic times of decreased
economic activity on a global scale, might plausibly
be considered alongside periods of decreased functioning
of the individual as either

a) the expected fluctuations of a dynamical system

b) periods of dysfunction, arguably seen as periods
of sickness in some sense.

Both viewpoints may have some validity.

Clearly I am leaping scales dangerously but
not I think totally irresponsibly. I am not
arguing that the patterrns are identical but there
is a self-similarity in some respects.

And one connection is about the concept of
being valued if you can no longer sell your
labour power in a society, where that is
your only value. Certainly most unemployed
people do not commit suicide but the suicide
rate for young men has definitely gone up in England
in the last ten years during the time of the
Thatcherite depression, or restructuring as they
would probably like to call it.

I do indeed think that although we are not talking
about a closed system except on a global basis
we could reasonably expect a model with key variables in
it to reproduce the cycles of the economy on a
probabilistic basis. I do not see why fuzzy logic
should not be part of the maths. And of course
I shall continue to shock Justin at my superstitious
nature in thinking that the law of value might have
something to do with the dynamics, since Marx gave
such vivid descriptions of the trade cycle.

As to Jerry's point about the difficulties now of
looking at individual countries on their own, I agree. It
almost seems that since the neo-classical onslaught of the
1980's it is impossible for any country to try to build
social democracy, let alone socialism, in one country.

We need global solutions fast for the world-side shortage of
capital and the situation where 30% of the planet's
workforce is either unemployed or underemployed.

a) we may be stuck in a phase of underactivity for years
or decades.

b) the environment cannot stand a solution based on the
greater exploitation of existing resources and markets,
in an unfettered way.

We should be making alliances with Keynesians for massive
reform of the IMF, World Bank, ITO, and for control of
the transnationals.

The best solution for depression is accepting what you cannot do,
deciding what you can do, AND getting on with it.

Chris Burford, London.

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