R.D. Laing and the Paths of Anti-Psychiatry

R.D. Laing and the Paths of Anti-Psychiatry

R.D. Laing and the Paths of Anti-Psychiatry

R.D. Laing and the Paths of Anti-Psychiatry


In the 1960s and 1970s, the radical and visionary ideas of R. D. Laing revolutionized thinking about psychiatric practice and the meaning of madness. His work, from The Divided Self to Knots , and his therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall, made him a household name. But after little more than a decade he faded from prominence as quickly as he had attained it.R.D.Laing and the Paths of Anti-Psychiatry re-examines Laing's work in the context of the anti-psychiatry movement. Concentrating on his most productive decade, the author provides a reasoned critique of Laing's theoretical writings, investigates the influences on his thinking such as phenomenology, existentialism and American family interaction research, and considers the experimental Kingsley Hall therapeutic community in comparison with anti-psychiatry experiments in Germany and Italy. The book provides a much needed reassessment and re-evaluation of Laing's work and its significance for psychotherapy and psychiatry today.


Thus it was necessary that every hour in the wards should increase, together with his esteem for the patients, his loathing of the textbook attitude towards them, the complacent scientific conceptualism that made contact with outer reality the index of mental well-being. Every hour did.

The nature of outer reality remained obscure. The men, women and children of science would seem to have as many ways of kneeling to their facts as any other body of illuminati. The definition of outer reality, or of reality short and simple, varied according to the sensibility of the definer. But all seemed agreed that contact with it, even the layman's muzzy contact, was a rare privilege.

On this basis the patients were described as 'cut off' from reality, from the rudimentary blessings of the layman's reality, if not altogether as in severer cases, then in certain fundamental respects. The function of treatment was to bridge the gulf, translate the sufferer from his own pernicious little private dungheap to the glorious world of discreet particles, where it would be his inestimable prerogative once again to wonder, love, hate, desire, rejoice and howl in a reasonable manner, and comfort himself with the society of others in the same predicament.

Samuel Beckett, Murphy . . .

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