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Kupers, T.A. (1986). Schizophrenia and history. Free Associations, 1(5):79-89.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(5):79-89

Schizophrenia and history

Terry A. Kupers

Schizophrenia and Human Value, by Peter Barnham. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984, 220 pages + Index, £19.50

The Minds of the Chinese People: Mental Health in New China, by Martha Livingston and Paul Lowinger. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982, 235 pages, £18.15

Visionaries who talk about mental health encounter an inevitable dilemma: if it is our current social arrangements that cause emotional disorders, and if we can envisage a socialist society that is less alienating, then why have the actually existing socialist societies failed so miserably to ameliorate emotional distress? In other words, it is all too easy to construct a beautiful theory that blames the existence of schizophrenia on reified capitalist relations, but if these are the relations we are stuck with for the time being, how are we to test the beautiful theory? And why does the condition not disappear when the relations are changed? Peter Barham provides us with useful concepts to think through this problem, and Martha Livingston and Paul Lowinger provide us with a glimpse of the actual experience of a socialist system trying to ameliorate it.

Barham's approach is refreshing. Most critical theorists adopt what I will call a broken-mirror theory of schizophrenia — i.e. the schizophrenic is one whose bizarre utterances mirror the real truth of our social existence, the truth hidden behind everyday false consciousness, the truth that most normal citizens are successfully socialized to ignore.

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