Storming Bedlam reimagines mental health care and its radical possibilities in the context of its global development under capitalism.
The contemporary world is oversaturated with new psychiatric programs, methods, and reforms promising to address any number of "crises" in mental health care. When they fail, alternatives to the alternatives simply pile up and seem to lead nowhere. In Storming Bedlam: Madness, Utopia, and Revolt, Sasha Warren suggests that the intense contradictions that animate psychiatric care can only be conceptualized by situating its technical composition in its actual social, political, and economic conditions.
In a radical rereading of the history, theory, and practice of psychiatry, Storming Bedlam emphasizes the utopian origins of the psychiatric revolution and its roots in the political and economic revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Warren traces a double movement in the global development of mental health services from its origins through the 20th century: a radical current pushing totalizing and idealistic visions of care to their practical limits and a reactionary one content with managing or eliminating chronically idle surplus populations. In an original and compelling account of radical experimentation in psychiatry, moral treatment is read in the light of the utopian socialist movement; the theory of communication in the French Institutional Psychotherapy of Félix Guattari is put into conversation with the Brazilian art therapy of Nise da Silveira; the Mexican anti-psychiatry movement’s reflections on violence are thought together with theories of violence developed in Argentinian psychoanalysis and Frantz Fanon’s anticolonial therapeutic practice; while the social form of the Italian Democratic Psychiatry and Brazilian anti-institutional movements are contrasted with the anti-psychiatry factions of the 1960s–70s North American counterculture.
Chronicling and comparing these movements, Storming Bedlam argues that long standing divisions between social and biological approaches or between psychiatry and anti-psychiatry as discrete positions are tenuous and circular. Instead of avoiding these binaries, Warren travels through them, using their own internal logics to expose their hidden presuppositions in search of an approach to mental health care grounded in common struggles against conditions of scarcity, poverty, isolation, and exploitation.
Chapter 1. The White Rat
Chapter 2. Barefoot Therapeutics
Chapter 3. Demolition Psychiatry
Chapter 4. Dreams of Escape
Chapter 5. Violence and the Ward
Conclusion. Illness and Economy