replying to Lou was Re: mental illness and capitalist medicine

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Mon Jan 15 23:31:05 MST 2001

At 02:40  15/01/01 -0500, you wrote:
>Conclusion to chapter 7, "Schizophrenia and Civilization", of Stanley
>Diamond's "In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization"
>(Transaction Publishers, 1993; forward by Eric Wolf):

>Primitive cultures realize the major function of culture
>which is to make men human, and at the same time to keep them sane. That is
>what civilization, as we know it, is failing to do. Schizophrenia, then, is
>no less and no more than the subjective aspect of the socio-economic
>dynamic of alienation.
>Louis Proyect

Very interesting, Lou.  My own reading on the bi-cameral mind by Jeynes has
led me to think that there are cultures where hearing voices is tolerated
or can even get you some kind of status.

In the Book of Kings however there are some chilling recommendations from
God to put to death anyone who is so gifted. So historically within the
Judaic-Christian culture hearing voices leads to punishment ranging from
being stoned to death to being lobotomised.

Perhaps the difference in attitude towards schizophrenia in 'advanced' and
'primitive' cultures is that between monotheism and polytheism.  The God of
the Jews and the Christians is not a particularly nice person, and seems
deeply paranoid about any potential rivals.

These cultural differences of course will have an enormous bearing on the
outcome of any illness. That is plain dialectics. However I am not at all
convinced that it is correct to argue that the illness can be reduced to
the same cultural factors.  That to me is bad dialectics because it
eliminates the interaction between nature (genetic etc cause of
schizophrenia) and nurture (cultural reaction etc to the illness).

You say you turned to R. D. Laing all those years ago. I was told by one of
Laing's colleagues that towards the end of his career, Laing began to
prescribe medication.  He could not tolerate the suffering of his patients
it seems.

As a young arrogant man I used to lecture on him in the early 70s and took
great delight in excoriating the families of the mentally ill.

Ah well. What goes round comes round.



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