Mad World: Radical Psychiatry and 1968


Fifty years after 1968, reflections on that moment are still often framed in psychological terms: as euphoric experiences of collectivity giving way to the disappoinments, disillusionments and depressions that accompany defeat. Psychology was also a central theoretical concern for many of those who underwent these shifts in subjectivity, but as Michael Staub declares in Madness is Civilization: When the Diagnosis was Social, 1948-1980:

Histories of the political upheavals and cultural (and countercultural) movements of the 1960s all too routinely do not discuss antipsychiatry at all and certainly do not integrate the ambiguous history of antipsychiatric thought into their accounts in any sustained or meaningful way.[1]

The ambiguity of this history makes it difficult to write. The presence of radical psychiatric[2] ideas and practices in these upheavals was pervasive yet nebulous, like the clouds of cigarette smoke that float through so many memoirs by 68ers. Though overlapping and in dialogue, the late sixties and early seventies saw various distinct radical psychiatric approaches in vogue in different parts of Western Europe and North America (and, indeed, beyond).[3] Radical psychiatry’s discursive influence far exceeded the scale of the physical sites in which alternative forms of psychiatric care were developed, and neither should it be identified merely with the famous people – almost exclusively white men, most of whom were already kind of old by 1968 and some of whom were never particularly politically radical[4] – whose names graced the covers of the period’s many best-selling books on radical psychiatric themes. But carefully tracing the specificities of different lineages, trajectories and approaches would be imprecise in its own way, failing to capture the chaotic and contradictory mix of ideas flying around together in the heat of the movements.

Sick Society

‘A man who prefers to be dead than Red is normal… A man who says that Negroes are an inferior race may be widely respected,’[5] R.D. Laing intoned in his 1964 preface to The Divided Self (originally published in 1959). Angela Carter described it as ‘one of the most influential books of the sixties’ claiming Laing ‘set the pace for that crazy hinge of the decade’.[6] Laing’s preface indicates how radical psychiatric vocabularies came to be used to challenge the norms of a world in which murdering children with napalm in Vietnam or shooting unarmed black men on the street in the USA could be defined as reasonable. In July 1967 the Dialectics of Liberation Congress was held at the Roundhouse in London organised by a group of antipsychiatrists (Laing, David Cooper, Joseph Berke and Leon Redler), drawing crowds of up to 5,000 people over its course. As Alexander Dunst discusses, references to madness peppered even those presentations at the Congress not directly concerned with challenging psychiatric institutions:

When [Allen] Ginsberg uses the phrase “madman in the nuthouse” as short-hand for police oppression at the Congress, when [Herbert] Marcuse coins the term “insane reasonableness” in his speech, when [Stokely] Carmichael responds by saying: “The black man is not the sick man, it is the white man who is sick”, they all imagine politics as psychology.[7]

Or at least they all transpose psychological categories onto the world and play with the relation between sanity and insanity. This was usually framed as an opposition between normative/powerful, on the one hand, and dissident/oppressed, on the other, but within this binary sane and insane could designate either side depending on the context: ‘sane’ could function as a moral category used to underline the violence and irrationality of existing categories and power structures, but ‘insane’ could equally function affirmatively, defined as a ‘half-compelled, half-chosen’ response to and rejection of the prevailing society.[8]

The only way out of the endless feedback loop between people categorised as mad and the bad mad world producing those categories is to change the world and abolish both madness and its antonyms in the process. Though he would later disavow any commitment to revolutionary politics Laing flirted heavily with the vocabularies of political militancy and decolonisation at this moment. Yet these examples from the Congress indicate the looseness with which these concepts were deployed and the difficulty of positively defining the ‘normal’ or ‘obvious’. The lives and experiences of actual people diagnosed with schizophrenia sometimes seem very remote from these discussions, despite the centrality of the figure of the schizophrenic to them. Just as the distinction between internal experience and external label was sometimes hazily defined, it was also often unclear where metaphors ended and reality began. Laing framed the question as a problem of scale: the enormity of social insanity necessitated working outwards from the individual whose medically diagnosed madness could be comprehended in relation to a social totality comprised of various enmeshed mediating layers. Carmichael’s polemical intervention challenged the Congress’s emphasis on individual psychology on political grounds and reads as metaphorical insofar as sick is defined as morally indefensible, but that doesn’t mean that the pathologisation and incarceration of politicised black men in American asylums at that moment was not also a real historical phenomenon.[9]

Taking Over the Asylum

An early scene in the Serge Bard film Destroy Yourselves, shot in Paris in March and April 1968, sees two young women walking beside a high wall running their hands along its surface. One woman recounts a conversation with an American who told her the ‘real place for a free man is behind prison walls’. The other woman agrees ‘because behind prison walls are those who transgress the laws that imprison society. Just as behind the walls of the asylum are people who transgress the laws of thought.’ As this exchange indicates, whilst radical psychiatrists targeted the asylum and practically in engaged in deinstitutionalisation movements, the asylum was also understood as just one repressive institution among many; the asylum became a metonym for society.

Journalist Jean-Jacques Brochier remarked in a discussion with Félix Guattari who worked at the psychiatric clinic La Borde and was active in multiple political causes and group(uscule)s: ‘Anti-psychiatry can be connected with May '68, in the sense that May '68 was essentially an attack on institutions.’[10] The asylum, the prison, the university, the school, the court, the factory and the family were all under attack and these various institutions were in turn often compared to the concentration camp, understood as the violent extreme towards which all oppressive institutions tend. Especially in West Germany and parts of Europe that had been under Nazi occupation this was neither hyperbolic nor metaphorical: former Nazi Party members still held prominent roles in institutions including within the medical establishment and, of course, within families. How could subjects formed under these social conditions avoid reproducing them?

If the asylum could be treated as a microcosm of society at large, conversely, experiments in establishing alternative psychiatric institutions and practices could function as prefigurative spaces gesturing towards a non-hierarchical society to come. Though the scale of these experiments were relatively modest in comparison to the strikes, occupations and demonstrations of the era, concrete radical psychiatric practices preceded 1968 and went on to become sites embedded in broader political struggles as they unfolded. John Foot describes Gorizia, an asylum in Northern Italy where the Italian psychiatrist Franco Basaglia had instigated a series of reforms, as a ‘mecca for the 1968 generation’ and a magnet for journalists hoping to glimpse ‘the miracle-spectacle of the mad discussing how to manage their own hospital, the spectacle of a group of lunatics who really had taken over an asylum.’[11] Kingsley Hall in East London, where Laing was rumoured to keep the fridge stocked with LSD, drew countercultural celebrities and people curious about communal living, as well as those seeking an alternative to the mainstream mental health system.[12] Though the abolition of hierarchies, structures and specialisms in theory did not necessarily mean they were overcome in practice; dismantling routines, reorganising spaces, redefining roles and redistributing activities did not automatically entail the destruction of structural inequalities between people.[13] 

In France, where psychoanalysis remained central, theories of subjectivity expressed in fragmented forms appropriate to the decentred psychotic subjects they sought to identify with existed in fraught tension with radical psychiatric practices. Sherry Turkle’s Psychoanalytic Politics argues that political splits between gauchistes and Communist Party members were reflected in attitudes towards radical psychiatry post-68, which played out in debates over community mental health services. She broadly characterises this as a division between glamorous Parisian intellectuals enamoured with Jacques Lacan[14] and ‘working-class nurses organising in provincial psychiatric hospitals’ who accused the former group of romanticising psychosis and rejecting practical grassroots organising.[15] Turkle describes antagonisms at a 1973 meeting at Gourgas where celebrity ‘rock star’ theorists – not only Lacan but also Jean Oury and Guattari whose Anti-Oedipus co-written with Gilles Deleuze ‘became a cause célèbre in Paris in 1972-73’[16] – avoided discussing a recent scandal that had seen a group of radical student nurses fired from their hospital. Theorists may have provided powerful hermeneutic frameworks for understanding politics and psychosis, but as one of the slogans scrawled on the streets of Paris proclaimed: ‘structures do not walk on the streets!’

Sexual Politics                                    

Theory was not consistently perceived as remote from practice, however. Some of the most widely read works of the movements of that moment were written by radical psychiatrists or foregrounded psychological questions; translations and pirate editions proliferated. In 1971 the American paperback of R.D. Laing’s Politics of Experience was reported to have sold 400,000 copies since its publication in 1966.[17] Franco Basaglia’s The Negated Institution, co-written with Franca Ongaro (though she is rarely credited), sold 12,500 copies in Italy in 1968 alone.[18] Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth with its closing section of case histories drawn from his clinical work during the Algerian War of Independence could also be considered, among many other things, as a contribution to radical psychiatry (judging by the reading lists included in their pamplets it was certainly read as such by various self-organised activist therapy groups that sprang up in the early seventies). And if activists were talking and reading about psychology, then those involved in radical psychiatric experiments were also talking and reading about activism. Despite constantly declaring practice more important than theory, the Socialist Patients’ Collective (SPK) in Heidelberg seem to have devoted a huge amount of their time to understanding Hegelian dialectics and critiquing works by revolutionaries of the past.[19] Although, of course, it’s not always easy to trace what the ubiquity of certain books on the bookcases of leftists in the late sixties and early seventies really meant in practice. Rainald Goetz sardonically suggests that the invocation of certain authors by young activists may have been superficial or ornamental: ‘We draped ourselves in phrases from Laing-Cooper-Basaglia as if with gleaming exotic amulets.’[20]

The standard roster of antipsychiatric thought would include works by Michel Foucault, Erving Goffman, Thomas Szasz alongside Laing and Cooper, but Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse were perhaps the two most influential figures engaged with psychological themes on the eclectic counter-bibliographies of ‘68.[21] Both during the euphoric heights of 1968 and in its despairing aftermath, Reich and Marcuse offered articulations of the mutual constitution of subjects and society. The participation of people in the perpetuation their own oppression was a central concern for both thinkers and the question of how to resist the psychic reproduction of the social order was intimately tied to questions of sexual reproduction and family structures. Indeed, in his introduction to a 1972 English translation of Reich’s early ‘Sex-Pol’ writings Bertell Ollman goes so far as to suggest that Reich’s ideas provided an initial impetus for the student movement in France. He recalls attending a rapturously received talk on Reich by the Trotskyist Boris Fankel in February 1967 at the Nanterre branch of the University of Paris. A week later copies of Reich’s pamphlet Sexual Struggle of Youth were sold in the university’s halls of residence leading to a Reich-inspired sex-education campaign and what Daniel Cohn-Bendit characterised as an ‘intensified attack on monastic university regulations and particularly on the prudish intervention in the personal affairs of students living in the universities.’[22] Women’s dorms were occupied by male and female students in protest at rules restricting students from receiving guests in their rooms. According to Ollman, ‘the consciousness which culminated in the events of May 1968 was first awakened in a great number of Nanterre students in the struggle against their sexual repression.’[23] ‘Psychoanalysis and Social Repression’ also featured as one of the topics on a counter-curriculum devised by students involved in the occupation of the Palazzo Campana in Turin in winter 1967,[24] while Klaus Theweleit a 68er and author of the chaotic and psychoanalytically engaged critique of proto-fascist masculinity Male Fantasties, reflected in 1990 that in the West German student movement a ‘special sort of sexual tension was the “driving force” of 1968’.[25]

Marcuse, who had addressed the audience at the Roundhouse in 1967 and who turned 70 in 1968, found an adulatory audience among young radicals. A French translation of One-Dimensional Man was published in May 1968; 350,000 copies had been sold by the end of June (with 500 copies a day reportedly sold just at the Drugstore Saint Germain).[26] An English edition published in 1968 proclaimed on its cover that the book had sold more copies than Mao’s Little Red Book in France.[27] Reich and Marcuse both departed from Freud on the question of instinctual repression, though their visions of how people in a society without repression would ideally behave were very different. In Eros and Civilization (1955) Marcuse argued that repression is socially enforced and historically produced, claiming that a form of non-repressive sublimation would be possible in a non-repressive society leading to the ‘eroticization of the entire personality’.[28] Marcuse was clear, however, that an unrepressed society would not be a society of ‘sex maniacs’, arguing that wild orgies only erupt when people’s libidinal energies are socially constrained and that such activities prove no threat to the dominant constraining society.[29] In Marcuse’s rather prim vision a non-repressive ‘eroticised’ society would allow for lasting pleasure to be obtained from multiple activities making sexual forms of gratification less urgent. For Reich, on the other hand, the unleashing of instinctual urges was explicitly tied to ‘genital gratification’ and would hence ideally lead to lot of actual unrestrained fucking.[30] Marcuse pictures a kind of gentle contentment quietly infused into every moment whereas Reich imagines something closer to a permanent ecstatic orgasmic delirium.

In a 1971 pamphlet which inserted Reich into a theory of the spectacle, French Situationist Jean-Pierre Voyer reflected that 1968 provided ‘abundant and most diversified data’ attesting to the possibility for the abolition of a division between quotidian experience and social totality; the uprising figures as a kind of collective orgasm.[31] Dagmar Herzog says that though Reich – whose works mostly circulated as bootlegs[32] –  had an ‘unparalleled’[33] influence among West German ‘68ers his ideas regarding sexual liberation were eventually rejected in favour of Marcuse by leftists keen to distance themselves from the more widespread sexual liberalisation taking place in mainstream bourgeois society.[34] She cites a 1970 pamphlet that pointed out that ‘even if people humped around ten times more than ever before, it would not add up to real sexual liberation’.[35] Sure, sex is great but fucking isn’t going to overthrow capitalism. In Sexuality and Class Struggle (1968) New Left activist Reimut Reiche was similarly explicit that ‘genital sexuality cannot be regarded as the decisive social and sexual revolutionary moment that Reich thought it to be.’[36] The alternative to ‘genital primacy’ would instead involve intervening in the upbringing of children and hence in the structure of society so as to encourage a trajectory of development distinct from that mapped out by Freud (which, as in Marcuse’s understanding of instinctual repression, is defined as historically specific to bourgeois culture rather than biological or universal): ‘No sexual reformation is possible without social revolution.’[37] But as in therapeutic communities, experiments in communal child-rearing, non-monogamy and unrestrained sexual expression sometimes failed to overcome hierarchies and in some cases even enabled sexual violence and abuse.[38]

Depoliticisation and Depression

Many of the most prominent figures that rode on the coat-tails of a younger generation’s radicality were quick to abandon it. The New Left was proximate to the New Age. The libertarian streak in sixties counterculture played out in some radical psychiatric trajectories; an emphasis placed on spiritual over social revolution which easily segued into profitable industries helping people to succeed within capitalist society rather than encouraging them to turn on, tune in or drop out from it, let alone fight to abolish it.[39] But though Laing and many of his disciples, peers and protégées turned inwards to contemplate the psyche’s luxurious depths or blasted out to explore the ineffable mysteries of the cosmos – away from the mundane world with its inconvenient and intractable-seeming social ills – others influenced by the more politically-charged aspects of their work ‘carried on without them’ anyway.[40]

The path taken by some members of the SPK stands in stark contrast to the overwhelmingly depoliticised ‘growth movement’. Many former members of the SPK became active in the Red Army Faction (RAF). Yvonne Rainer’s film Journeys from Berlin/1971 ends with a reading of a letter by Ulrike Meinhof to the former SPK member Hanna Krabbe when both women were in prison. Meinhof, who was found hanged in her cell weeks after writing the letter, attacked the role of psychiatrists in the criminal justice system and the use of psychiatric diagnosis for political ends: ‘Psychiatrification, as a device of psychological warfare, aims to persuade the destroyed fighter of the pointlessness of revolutionary politics, to destroy the fighter's credibility.’[41] Those with the power to determine what or who was reasonable or sane remained in power and attempts to expose the illegitimacy of legitimate state violence by violent means only compounded the violence meted out.   

Though relatively few people became active in armed struggle and other suicides were less public than Meinhof’s, a deep psychological malaise accompanied the aftermath of ’68. Kristin Ross attempts to undercut official commemorations of 1968 in France and decentre its self-appointed spokespeople who ‘expropriated’ its history by attempting to bring into focus ‘the anonymous militants of May and those lost in May’s aftermath: the suicides, depressions, and despairs of those who became derailed, horrorstruck or dumbfounded by the reversals and recuperations that transpired.’[42] Though Guattari later reflected that despite crushing defeats the ‘events of May’ produced a positive and lasting psychological transformation in those who had participated in them:

A certain type of group initiation has its own special imprint: real militant activity in a reified social context creates a radical break with the sense of passivity that comes with participation in the usual institutions… I believe noone who had the experience of being a militant in one of those youth organizations or mass movements... will ever again be just the same as everyone else.[43]

And this transformation didn’t only play out on an individual level. Radical psychiatric ideas continued to inform collective social movements into the seventies; the afterlives of ’68 took multiple courses.

Beyond the Barricades

Following on the heels of 1968 and inspired by the civil rights movement and other liberation struggles, people diagnosed with mental illnesses began to organise collectively, conceptualising themselves as a distinct oppressed social group. Judi Chamberlin, one of the ‘survivor’ movement’s leaders in the US and author of the manifesto-like On Our Own (1978), later reflected: ‘Our history is as important as the black civil rights movement, the women’s movement, all liberation struggles.’[44] Madness Network News, a newsletter compiled by mental health workers and ex-patients in the San Francisco Bay Area, was first published in 1972 protesting against psychiatric oppression and giving a platform to people diagnosed with mental illnesses to share their experiences. In the UK in 1969 an informal network of professionalism-shunning activists People Not Psychiatry emerged, followed by various other ex-patient/service user and mental health worker led organisations.[45] PNP’s founder Michael Barnett first placed a call for members in the underground newspaper International Times, while the group’s first squat (an experiment in communal living and mutual aid inspired by Kingsley Hall) was provided by the acting secretary of the Situationist Housing Association.[46] As these details indicate, if ‘mad liberation’ was understood as ‘a freedom movement on a par with women’s liberation, gay liberation and black power’ it also intersected with and inspired other contemporaneous social movements.[47]

A glance through the pages of the US journal Radical Therapist indicates the extent to which their concerns were enmeshed with other political struggles. The journal included articles on Fanon and anti-imperialism, the Vietnam War, Chicano activism, and prison revolts. While these functioned as gestures of solidarity, other connections were practical and material. One RT contributor worked as a physician for a Black Panther Party free health clinic in LA and wrote a piece arguing against ‘practicing analysis in a ghetto’ in favour of challenging the theoretical bases of existing therapeutic models altogether.[48] Indeed, RT contributor Claude Steiner claimed that militant political struggle in groups like the BPP could be therapeutic in their own right: from survival pending revolution to revolutionary praxis as strategy of survival.[49] Although a note in the journal calling for ‘articles about black, brown and Third World people’s struggle’ indicates the editors’ anxiety about their own whiteness: ‘without hearing from these brothers and sisters our journal is racist, and we don’t want it to be’.[50]

Reiche and Guattari both published controversy-stirring works on homosexuality post-‘68. The centrality of radical psychiatry to the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in the UK and the USA was tied to the pathologisation of homosexuality and the brutal medical procedures used to ‘cure’ it. In the USA activists campaigned to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Associations (APA)’s list of mental diseases. In October 1970 a group of GLF protestors stormed the stage at a psychiatric conference on Behavioural Modification in downtown LA disrupting a speech on an ‘aversion therapy cure for homosexuality’, shouting into the mic in a formulation reminiscent of those used at the Dialectics of Liberation Congress: “We’re sick all right  - sick of having ourselves defined by sexist straight psychiatrists.”[51] A dialogue ensued during which some of the mental health professionals in the audience expressed sympathy with the protestors, a discussion credited with having contributed to the removal of homosexuality from the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1973.

Although homosexuality had been decriminalised in Britain since 1967, it was still generally treated as a sickness if not as a crime. The British GLF’s 1971 manifesto included a section on psychiatry railing against mainstream psychiatry’s participation in violently upholding social convention.[52] The GLF in London included a Counter-Psychiatry Group with members who had first-hand experience of psychiatric institutions as both patients and staff. They not only demanded the depathologisation of homosexuality but insisted that homosexuality could be enjoyable, fulfilling and full of ‘love, joy and creativity.’[53] Various interventions or ‘zaps’ at conferences and TV debates were staged and medical establishments spray-painted with slogans (including ‘People not Psychiatry’). The Counter-Psychiatry Group’s also campaigned against David Reuben’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex – but were afraid to ask, which propagated homophobic myths; leaflets were shoved into copies of the book in branches of the newsagent WH Smith, book display-cases destroyed and a twelve foot long cucumber prop delivered to Reuben’s publisher in reference to his claim that ‘gay men performed obscene acts with vegetables’.[54]

Despite the dominance of men within radical psychiatry, the Women’s Liberation Movement also engaged with, extended and critiqued radical psychiatric ideas and practices.[55] Two members of the group Red Therapy, which emerged from left-wing activist scenes in East London in the early seventies and eventually split along gender lines, went on to write a book aimed at women setting up their own self-help groups, which also responded to the pervasive sexism of group therapy leaders in the growth movement who made derisive comments about women’s appearance, ‘assumed that non-conformity to feminine norms was neurotic’ and interpreted angry reactions to harasssment or assault as manifestations of insecurity.[56] Women from the group were also involved with the Women’s Therapy Centre in North London; the irony of former Red Therapy participants eventually training to become professional psychotherapists and psychoanalysts was not lost on them.[57] Marge Piercy’s feminist science fiction novel Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), which sees its protagonist Connie shuttle between the cell of a mental hospital and a distant utopian society, thanks people involved with the Radical Therapy journal and the Mental Patients Liberation Front in its acknowledgements. A special issue of Radical Therapist from 1970 on ‘Women’ includes articles on the relationship between therapy and consciousness-raising, the psychology of motherhood, marriage counselling, lesbianism and critiques of existing psychological and psychoanalytic understandings of femininity. The issue’s editorial rails against ‘male chauvenist psychology’ calling for psychologists to stop ‘quelling rebellious acts and urges in women’.[58] Rather than diagnosing women’s behaviour as symptoms of individual conditions they should be understood as reactions to shared forms of patriarchal oppression: ‘we women are not messed up, we are messed over.’[59] Again, madness was understood as the product of an unjust world.

Ruminations on 1968 tend to conclude in one of two ways: despairing narratives of recuperation (with a suspicion of spontaneity and emphasis on individualistic life-stylism, libertarian pleasure-seeking and hedonistic soul-searching fully compatible with neoliberalism) or hopeful narratives of prefiguration (things changed once, briefly, and they might do so again) but definitively siding with either as a signal of things to come can feel a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure approach to history. In 1974 Juliet Mitchell remarked upon the ‘stunning contemporaneity’ of the work Reich had published four decades earlier.[60] Disturbingly, another four decades later, the questions emerging from the encounters between radical psychiatry and political militancy that strike me as being of renewed urgency today are not those pertaining to madness, sex or institutions but those posed by Reich concerning the social and psychic conditions that allowed for the rise of the far-right. Unlike in so much contemporary discussion, in the aftermath of 1968 this question was (re)posed not to some vaguely imagined distant demographic but to everyone and was understood as a question that the Left also needed to pose to itself. As Foucault asked in a Preface to Anti-Oedipus:

How does one keep from being fascist, even (especially) when one believes oneself to be a revolutionary militant? How do we rid our speech and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out the fascism that is ingrained in our behaviour?[61]  

There is no question that society as it is currently structured is psychologically corrosive, but the damage inflicted creates both victims and perpetrators of violence. Paths to class consciousness and solidarity are always at risk of being blocked by the rubble of the unconscious. This is the conundrum posed by Marcuse: ‘how can the people who have been the object of effective and productive domination by themselves create the conditions of freedom?’[62] If subjects are formed by society then society is also formed by subjects whose social formation can obstruct the transformation of society; there’s no easy way out but the violence won’t stop if it’s only imagined as being located elsewhere.

[1] Michael Staub, Madness is Civilization: When the Diagnosis was Social, 1948-1980 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), p. 6.

[2] I generally use the term ‘radical psychiatry’ rather than ‘antipsychiatry’; it is not only broader but also seems less controversial given that many of those associated with the latter term came to reject the implication of a tout court abandonment of psychiatric methods and treatments. When I do use the term ‘antipsychiatry’ it is in a narrow sense, applying to specific (primarily British) movements that were designated as such at the time.

[3] I am being far more geographically mypoic here than the people I’m discussing thought of themselves as being. References to China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Palestine and Vietnam and to decolonising struggles in Africa appear in much of the literature I’m considering (though rarely with any sense that psychiatric ideas and practices also existed in those places). The influence of Western antipsychiatric literature (which circulated in samizdat or tamizdat form) in the USSR and its role in the scandals surrounding the pathologisation of dissidents is discussed in Rebecca Reich, State of Madness: Psychiatry, Literature, and Dissent After Stalin (DeKalb, IL: NIU Press, 2018), pp. 64-65. Japan and Yugoslavia should certainly feature in this story too, as should Latin America where (unlike in most of Western Europe aside from France) psychoanalytic communities were engaged in leftist politics (and leftists were interested in Freud).

[4] The incongruity of the antipsychiatrists among the radicals is captured by Oisín Wall, who asks how David Cooper, a ‘well-dressed, portly, sweating, balding psychiatrist’ came to occupy the same stage as ‘heroes of the international counterculture’, The British Anti-Psychiatrists: From Institutional Psychotherapy to the Counterculture, 1960-1971 (London: Routledge, 2018), p. 1.

[5] RD Laing, The Divided Self (London: Penguin, 1965), p. 12.

[6] Angela Carter, ‘Truly it Felt Like Year One’ in Very Heaven: Looking Back at the 1960s, ed. by Sara Maitland (London: Virago, 1988), p. 215.


[8] David Cooper, ‘Beyond Words’ in The Dialectics of Liberation, ed. by Cooper (London: Verso, 2015), pp. 193-202, p. 201.

[9] Although the specific details of the history traced in Jonathan Metzl’s The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2009) may have been unknown to Carmichael the example serves to demonstrate that the connection between political transgression and pathology was not only rhetorical.

[10] Félix Guattari, Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, trans. by Rosemary Sheed (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984) p. 46.

[11] Foot, p. 169.

[12] Wall, pp. 60-89. For a first-hand account of life at Kingsley Hall by a former resident see: Morton Schatzman, ‘Madness and Morals’, The Radical Therapist, ed. by The Radical Therapist Collective (London: Penguin, 1974), pp. 203-230.

[13] For a reflection on the uneven power dynamics within a leaderless self-help therapy group in London initiated by a group of left-wing activists in 1973 (though in this case not a live-in community), see, ‘History/Herstory’, Red Therapy, 1978, pp. 24-29 (May Day Rooms Archive, East London Big Flame collection).

[14] Lacan described ‘68ers as hysterics in search of a new master. He interrupted a seminar in 1968 in observation of a strike order declaring ‘paving stones and tear gas were fulfilling the role of object ‘a’’. Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan & Co.: A History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985, trans. by Jeffrey Mehlman (London: Free Association Books, 1990), p. 455.

[15] Sherry Turkle, Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud’s French Revolution (London: Free Association Books, 1992) p. 144.

[16] Turkle, p. 148. Although both Dagmar Herzog and Camille Robcis offer more sympathetic accounts of Guattari’s work as successfully and committedly combining the political, the clinical and the theoretical.

[17] Alexander Dunst, Madness in Cold War America (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017), p. 57. By the time of Laing’s death in 1989 the book had sold six million copies in the US and been translated into thirty languages (Wall, p. 8).

[18] John Foot, The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care (London: Verso, 2015), p. 169.

[19] ‘We read and discussed and rejected Bakunin and Nechajew, Malatest and Blanqui.’ SPK Indeed: What the SPK really did and said (Mannheim, KKRIM, 2007), p. 47. One of the collective’s former members also reflects wryly on their lengthly discussions of Hegel in the recent documentary (dir. Gerd Kroske, SPK Komplex, 2018).

[20] Rainald Goetz, Insane, trans. by Adrian Nathan West (London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017), p. 84.

[21] Reich died in ignomany in jail in America in 1956, discredited for his pseudo-scientific ‘discovery’ of a mysterious cosmic substance called orgone. However, his later work seems to have been less influential among sixties radicals than his earlier Communist ‘Sex-Pol’ writings and work on the libidinal appeal of fascism written before he left Europe for America in 1939. His Anglophone readers were aware that the translations available to them had been subsequently edited by Reich who cut much of the explicitly Marxist terminology. See, Red Rat, 4, Spring 1972 (MayDay Rooms archive, pamphlet collection). On Reich’s significance to the ‘new political movements of the sixites and seventies’ see Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism (London: Allen Lane, 1974), p. 197.

[22] Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism and the Left Wing Alternative, trans. by A. Pomerans (New York, NY: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1968), p. 29.

[23] Bertell Ollman, ‘Introduction’ to Wilhelm Reich, Sex-Pol: Essays, 1929-1934 (London: Verso, 2012) pp. xi-xxviii, p. xxvi. This translated collection and introduction were first published in 1972.

[24] Luisa Passerini, Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968, trans by Lisa Erdberg (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1996), p. 65.

[25] Klaus Theweleit, ‘. . . ein Aspirin von der Gro¨sse der Sonne’ (Freiburg i.B.: Jos Fritz, 1990), p. 49 cited in Dagmar Herzog, Sex After Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth Century Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 154.

[26] Patrick Combes, La Littérature et le mouvement de Mai 68. Écriture, mythes, critique, écrivains, 1968-1981 (Paris: Seghers, 1984) cited in Kristin Ross, May ’68 and its Afterlives (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002) p. 193. Ross is keen to stress, however, that despite the enthusiastic take-up of Marcuse’s work during May ’68, his ideas were not circulating in France in the preceding period. She cautions against retroactively imagining any single thinker as an ‘invisible hand’ guiding the collecive movement from above.

[27] Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (Boston, MA: Beacon Books, 1968).

[28] Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (Boston, MA: Beacon Books, 1955), p. 201.

[29] Marcuse, p. 202. See also, Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (London: Routledge, 1991), pp. 80-81.

[30] Wilhelm Reich, The Invasion of Compulsory Sex-Morality (London: Penguin, 1975), p. 18 (from the Preface to the first edition, 1931).


[32] Anthony D. Kauders claims that pirated editions of Reich far out-numbered those by any other author at this moment. Anthony D. Kauders, ‘Drives in Dispute: The West German Student Movement, Psychoanalysis, and the Search for a New Emotional Order, 1967–1971’, Central European History, 44, 4 (2011), pp. 711-731, p. 719.

[33] Herzog, Sex After Fascism, p. 159.

[34] Herzog, Cold War Freud: Psychoanalysis in an Age of Catastrophes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), p. 164.

[35] Berliner Kinderläden: Antiautoritäre Erziehung und sozialistischer Kampf (Cologne: Kiepenheuer und Witsch, 1970), pp. 108–9 cited in Herzog, Sex After Fascism, p. 155.

[36] Reimut Reiche, Sexuality and Class Struggle, trans. by Susan Bennett (London: New Left Books, 1970), p. 159.

[37] Reiche, p. 44.

[38] This is obviously a vast and complicated topic to gloss over in one sentence and many examples and counter-examples could be given. Otto Muehl’s Reichian Friedrichshoff Commune in Austria, which inspired other groups across Europe, is one extreme case and saw Muehl eventually arrested on charges of rape and sexual abuse (thanks to Rose-Anne Gush for discussing the Austrian reception of Reich with me – she would be in a much better place to discuss the nuances of this history than I am). Herzog discusses the West German Kinderladen movement in Sex After Fascism, pp. 162-174.

[39] On the apolitical tendency of the various strands of (mostly American) humanistic psychotherapy that emerged from the counter-culture, see Nick Totten, Psychotherapy and Politics (London: Sage, 2000), p. 27. See also, Martin Halliwell, Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945-1970, pp. 260-288. I discuss Peter Sedgwick’s political critiques of Laing in Hannah Proctor, ‘Lost Minds: Sedgwick, Laing and the Politics of Mental Illness’, Radial Philosophy, 197 (2016)

[40] Lucy Robinson, Gay men and the Left in post-war Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), p. 59.

[41] The sceenplay was published in 1979: Yvonne Rainer, ‘Working Title: Journeys from Berlin/1971’, October, 9 (1979), pp. 80-106, p. 105.

[42] Ross, p. 198.

[43] Guattari, 'The Group and the Person', Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, p. 29

[44] Judi Chamerlin, Alternative Conference, Nashville, 1999 cited in Linda J Morrison, Talking Back to Psychiatry: The Psychiatric Consumer/Survivor/Ex-Patient Movement (London: Routledge, 2005), p. 57.

[45] See, Nick Crossley, Contesting Psychiatry: Social Movements in Mental Health (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006).

[46] Crossley, pp. 126-133.

[47] Morrison, p. 68.

[48] Terry Kupers ‘Radical Therapy Needs Revolutionary Therapy’, Radical Therapist, vol ?, p. 16. Thanks to Alexander Dunst for sharing some of these pamphlets with me.

[49] See, Staub, pp. 131-132.

[50] Radical Therapist, p. 15.

[51] Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics and Lipstick Lesbians (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2006), p. 177.

[52] The Manifesto is reproduced in Lisa Power, No Bath but Plenty of Bubbles: An Oral History of the Gay Liberation Front 1970-73 (New York, NY: Cassell, 1995), pp. 316-330, p. 320.

[53] Power, p. 95. See also, Rebecca Jennings, "The Most Uninhibited Party They'd Ever Been to": The Postwar Encounter between Psychiatry and the British Lesbian, 1945-1971, Journal of British Studies, 47, 4 (2008), pp. 883-904

[54] Lucy Robinson, Gay men and the Left in post-war Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), p. 74. See also, Power, pp. 57-58.

[55] Mitchell (who was involved in the Anti-University with David Cooper) engages critically with Laing in Psychoanalysis and Feminism, pp. 227-294.

[56] Sheila Ernst and Lucy Goodison, In Our Own Hands: A Book of Self-Help Therapy (London: Women’s Press, 1981), p. 312.

[57] Red Therapy, p. 28.

[58] Editorial, Radical Therapist, 1, 3, 1970, p. 2.

[59] Editorial, Radical Therapist, 1, 3, 1970, p. 2.

[60] Mitchell, p. 197.

[61] Michel Foucault, ‘Preface’ to Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), pp. xi-xiv, p. xiii.

[62] Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, p. 9