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Oakley, C. (1989). Asylum to Anarchy, by Claire Baron, Free Association Books, 1987, xii + 288 pages, hb £27.50, pb £9.95. Free Associations, 1P(15):108-125.

(1989). Free Associations, 1P(15):108-125

Asylum to Anarchy, by Claire Baron, Free Association Books, 1987, xii + 288 pages, hb £27.50, pb £9.95

Review by:
Chris Oakley

Claire Baron's account of a therapeutic community, and its ultimate downfall, is related against the backdrop of the post-Goffman era, for it was Goffman who had done so much to draw attention to the dehumanizing and authoritarian nature of psychiatric hospitals. Amidst the sociocultural upheaval of the 1960s, there was an irresistible momentum towards deinstitutionalization within the psychiatric field. Set in the context of a vein of anti-establishment attitudes was a widening concern for oppressed minorities. These included people of differing ethnic origins, gays, women and, last but not least, the so-called mentally ill.

In particular, there was a stimulation of the therapeutic-community movement as an attempt to minimize the effects of institutionalization. One of the basic premises of this movement was that through participation in a therapeutic community one could discover where one had ‘gone wrong’ (in-sight affects out-look) and become increasingly aware of how unconscious problems manifest themselves in one's interaction with others. Baron quite explicitly wishes to take up where Goffman left off, and her book should therefore be assessed accordingly, for history has thrown up from the antithesis of the asylum another form of power, which bears lessons just as did Goffman's [work] (p. 7).

Firmly lodged in the same context were the concerns of anti-psychiatry.

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