| Ronnie D. LAING |


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"The specifically human feature of human groupings can be exploited to turn them into the semblance of non-human systems. ....All those people who seek to control the behaviour of large numbers of other people work on the experiences of those other people. Once people can be induced to experience a situation in a similar way, they can be expected to behave in similar ways. Induce people all to want the same thing, hate the same things, feel the same threat, then their behaviour is already captive - you have acquired your consumers or your cannon-fodder. Induce a common perception of Negroes as subhuman, or the Whites as vicious and effete, and behaviour can be concerted accordingly.....

The inertia of human groups, however, which appear as the very negation of praxis, is in fact the product of praxis and nothing else. This group inertia can only be an instrument of mystification if it is taken to be part of the ‘natural order of things’. The ideological abuse of such an idea is obvious. It so clearly serves the interests of those whose interest it is to have people believe that the status quo is of the ‘natural order’, ordained Divinely or by ‘natural’ laws. ...The group becomes a machine - and it is forgotten that it is a man-made machine in which the machine is the very men who make it. It is quite unlike a machine made by men, which can have an existence of its own. The group is men themselves arranging themselves in patterns, strata, assuming and assigning different powers, functions, roles, rights, obligations and so on."

Ronnie Laing - pp80-1 / Ch.4 - The Politics of Experience. [1967] 



Ronnie Laing [1927 - 1989] - Was Scottish and a Psychiatrist - Probably the best known radical psychiatrist of our times, he worked as a therapist, mainly in England, in the area of human madness, about which he wrote so decisively. He applied the notions of existential philosophy to the actual experiencing of so-called ‘schizophrenia’, dedicating his life’s work to attempting to unravel the human experiences of psychosis within a humanistic understanding in such a way as to try to re-introduce the experience of madness back into the everyday awareness and acceptance of society by opposing the incarceration of people elected to become the family psychotics. He formulated the view that madness was an attempt by the person to spontaneously cure themselves of the maddening situations in which they had to live, and that as such it was a natural healing process which ought to be facilitated to run its course rather than be arrested, blocked and forever suspended by forcibly feeding psycho-pharmacological concoctions to such people and locking them up in ‘mental hospitals’ in a process of degradation. Well known for his contributions to the ‘anti-psychiatry’ movement.


Played a great jazz piano even when asked to desist; Creatively used some of his own childhood experiences disguised as ‘case-histories’ in some of his books


Related Articles

The Need for Positive Alternatives to Psychiatry's Brain-Damaging Approaches: Why ElectroConvulsive 'therapy' is bad for your brain - as if the term itself didn't tell you.

The Future of Mental Health: Radical changes ahead - 3/1/97 USA Today Magazine - by Fred Baughman Jr.


Philadelphia Association 
Therapeutical Community Households

The PA has run therapeutic communities sine 1965, the first being Kingsley Hall in Londonís East End. This was set up in a context where psychiatric treatment was relatively crude and often enforced with little thought for the rights and dignity of the patient. The social debate around psychiatric treatment that was sparked by the critique put forward by R D Laing, a founding figure of PA, and others, has wrought many changes and psychiatric practice has changed considerably.





R.D. Laing - Creative Destroyer [ed] Bob Mullan [1997]. Published by
Cassell. London.

Roberta Russell and R.D. Laing [1992]. R.D. Laing & Me: Lessons in Love.
Hillgarth Press: New York.

Mary Barnes & Joe Berke [1982]. Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness.
Free Association Books, London.

R. D. Laing [1959 / 1965]. The Divided Self - An Existential Study in Sanity & Madness. Pelican Books.

R. D. Laing [1961]. Self and Others. Pelican Books.

R. D. Laing [1967]. The Politics of Experience & The Bird of Paradise. Penguin Books.

R. D. Laing [1969]. The Politics of the Family [and other essays]. Pelican Books.

R. D. Laing [1970]. Knots. Penguin Books.

R. D. Laing [1976]. The Facts of Life. Penguin Books.

R. D. Laing [1982]. The Voice of Experience - Experience, Science and Psychiatry. Penguin Books.

R. D. Laing & David Cooper [1964]. Reason & Violence - A Decade of Sartreís Philosophy 1950-1960. Tavistock Publications.

R. D. Laing & A. Esterson [1964 / 1970]. Sanity, Madness and the Family - Families of schizophrenics. Penguin Books.

David Cooper [1971]. The Death of the Family. Pelican Books.

David Cooper [1974]. The Grammar of Living: An Examination of Political Acts. Pelican Books.



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