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Lomas, P. (1965). Sanity, Madness and the Family: Vol. 1. Families of Schizophrenics. By R. D. Laing and A. Esterson. (London: Tavistock, 1964. Pp. 272. 30s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:390-392.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:390-392

Sanity, Madness and the Family: Vol. 1. Families of Schizophrenics. By R. D. Laing and A. Esterson. (London: Tavistock, 1964. Pp. 272. 30s.)

Review by:
Peter Lomas

In spite of the fact that one of the co-authors of this book (R. D. Laing) is a psycho-analyst its theoretical orientation is Existentialist; but this need not be a deterrent to any potential reader for the book is remarkably free from jargon of any kind, is illustrated by detailed clinical observation, and is lucidly written. There is an introduction followed by a description of eleven families.

In the introduction the authors state the theoretical framework of their study. It is unjustifiable, they believe, to regard schizophrenia as a disease process. The most that can safely be said is that the schizophrenic is

someone who has queer experiences and/or is acting in a queer way, from the point of view usually of his relatives and ourselves. Whether these queer experiences and actions are constantly associated with changes in his body is still uncertain, although it is highly likely that relatively enduring biochemical changes may be the consequence of relatively enduring interpersonal stuations of particular kinds.

A more fruitful approach is to study the 'schizophrenic' in his life-situation, that is, in his family, without preconceptions as to who is ill or what is the nature of the illness: to watch the way in which family members behave towards each other and to try to understand thereby why it is that one of them has come to be thought of as queer. The emphasis on what people are doing, as opposed to happenings which have no author, gives rise—and this is one of the very few occasions when Existential terms are used in the book—to a conceptual distinction, fundamental to the authors' thinking, between 'praxis' and 'process'.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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