Lunatics Liberation Front

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Fri Jan 12 18:59:02 MST 2001

On Sat, 13 Jan 2001 08:25:33 +1000 Gary MacLennan
<g.maclennan at> writes:

> I think though that it is vital that we understand that the
> anti-psychiatry
> movement has its roots in libertarianism and of course romanticism.

Which is certainly the case in the US where one of its leading
figures, Thomas Szasz, is very much a right-wing libertarian.
That is not to deny that there is much of value in Szasz's writings,
although of course most of what is useful in them was borrowed
wholesale from Foucault.

> Its
> fundamental impulse is the rights of the individual and that is its
> most
> valuable contribution IMHO. However because it taps into romanticism
> it
> also contains an anti-modern and anti-rational component.

The anti-psychiatry movement in the US has been long allied
with the labelling theory view of deviance in sociology.  The thesis
that the label of mental illness is a social construct is certainly
a useful perspective but the anti-psychiatry movement has always
tended to push this thesis to the extreme of arguing that mental
illness is really nothing more than a social construct.  Hence,
Szasz's contention that mental illness is a myth.

>This can
> tend to
> regard the mentally ill as somehow privileged or creative and this
> creativity is destroyed by medication.  See Johhny Depp's Don Juan
> de Marco
> for a recent re-run of this thematic.

Ronald Laing as I recall did much to popularize this view in the
'60s in his book *The Politics of Experience*.


>Such an impulse would point
> out that
> the anti-psychiatry movement of the 60s was co-opted by neo-liberals
> who
> were anxious to cut costs in the provision of care for the mentally
> ill.  Just a few runs of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and hey
> presto you
> had thousands of the mentally ill dumped onto the streets.  All in
> the name
> of liberation, too. What else?

That was certainly the case in the US where an unholy alliance
between the anti-psychiatry movement and fiscal conservatives
led to the closure of most public mental hospitals and
asylums.  At the time this happened, it was promised
that these institutions would be replace with community
based mental health care.  Those promises of course were
largely unkept.  Meanwhile, there is in the US also the issue
of health insurance and care for the mentally ill in private
institutions.  It seems that patients typically experience
miraculous recoveries from even the most severe
disturbances just when their insurance coverage is about
to run out.  Amazing!!

Jim F.

> regards
> Gary

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