[Marxism] interesting but long article on R. D. Laing

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at gmail.com
Sun Apr 19 15:22:48 MDT 2009

Gary MacLennan wrote:
> Hi Barry,
> I have found over the years that it is pointless and near fatal to broach
> the question of sanity, madness, medication etc on the Internet.  The truth
> is that libertarians and Nietzscheans are everywhere even on a Marxism
> list.
> At the first opportunity out they come foaming etc and it all becomes too
> painful for words.  But I do admit that debunking Laing is a temptation -
> possibly one too far.;  It is just that my experience is that faced with a
> psychosis that the anti-psychiatry stuff is not worth a bucket of spit.
> There I have said it but will add no more on the topic.
> comradely regards
> Gary

No, actually Laing is the easiest possible target; everyone has known 
for years that he was a creep -- his fame in this regard almost 
certainly exceeds his initial impact ("ad hominem debunking" is an 
industrious little division of Intellectual Conservative Enterprises). 
What can be said in his defense? He was a psychological eccentric, but 
so were Kraepelin (who is esteemed, although his theory of "dementia 
praecox" fails to fit the clinical facts) and Bleuler (who is not, 
although his theory fits the "clinical facts" all too well -- he found 
it profound that a "schizophrenic" patient wanted to learn Latin, 
although he had no previous experience with the language). It's probably 
just as well that he does not round out a holy trinity, contributing the 
rider that the sort of stuff that most of humanity doesn't go in for 
Might Be Real; in a manner of speaking, or Because They're Really After 
You. But what are we left with as a story about what mental illness 
really amounts to, in both psychological and sociological terms? The 
positive account of "cognitive neuroscience", which is D-U-M, and the 
"negative" (commonsensical) story about the mentally ill, which is 
S-M-E-R-T -- lots of preening and *Bildungsbuergertum*, precious little 
consideration of even the basic fact that mentally ill people are not 
living out the *Robinsonades* Marxists usually get a kick out of kicking 
in the pants.

Jeff Rubard

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