Madness is Civilization: When the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948-1980

In the 1960s and '70s, the popular diagnosis for America's problems was that society was becoming a madhouse. In this intellectual and cultural history, Michael E. Staub examines a time when many believed insanity was a sane reaction to absurd social conditions, psychiatrists were agents of repression, asylums were labor camps for society's undesirables, and mental illness was a concept with no medical basis. Staub explores the general consensus that societal ills - from family dynamics and childrearing to the Vietnam War and racism - were the roots of mental illness. He chronicles the surge in influence of psychodynamic theories advanced by Theodor Adorno, R. D. Laing, Thomas Szasz, and others, along with the rise of radical therapy and psychiatric survivors movements. He shows how these theories of anti-psychiatry held unprecedented sway over an enormous range of medical, social, and political debates until a bruising backlash against these theories effectively distorted them into caricatures. The first study to explain how social diagnostic thinking emerged, Madness Is Civilization casts new light on the politics of the postwar era.