Adaptation of the mechanisms of social control to the needs of industrialized society affected human minds as much as human bodies. Chapter 2 discussed the developments in medical knowledge which produced more standardized conceptions of what body states would count as health and illness and the search for ways of enforcing those new definitions throughout the society. Modern conceptions of mental disorder and mental handicap were produced out of the same process. A new form of society called for a reconstruction of the way people thought about their relationships to nature and to each other.
Mental disorder had to be thought into existence as a way of describing certain sorts of behaviour and the states of mind that could be inferred from them. Under the particular influence of the writing of Michel Foucault (1965), Whig accounts of medical progress gave way to a critical examination of the ways in which people had written about the human mind and the assumptions which were embedded into those accounts. It was argued that the industrial and political revolutions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries had led to a thoroughgoing redefinition of what constituted orderly behaviour. The reconstruction outlined in Chapter 2 was as much mental as it was moral. But, by treating the causes of disorder as defects of biology rather than as intentional or wilful, the implied rejection of the new ways of ordering perception and behaviour lost any legitimacy. It could be seen as a quirk of nature over which the individual had no control rather than as a deliberate challenge to the social order. Thus, according to Foucault the problem was assigned to the medical profession rather than to the justice system.
The contests over the interpretation of the history of mental disorder have largely been fought around the issues of psychiatric knowledge and of the rise of psychiatry as a medical specialty. The