Critical Psychiatry in The UK: A Personal View: Philip Thomas

Critical Psychiatry in The UK: A Personal View

“Of all tyrranies, a tyrrany sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.  C. S. Lewis,

God in the Dock

This is the English version of a paper originally translated into French by Patrick Landman, to be published in the journal Espace Analytique.

The revolution of the 1960s, aborted almost immediately it was conceived, nevertheless left its traces on the later years of the twentieth century. These are the movements of liberation and emancipation – of women from the authority of patriarchy, of Black people from the oppression of racism, of former colonial subjects from the ravishment of colonialism, of gay people from the tyranny of heterosexuality, and most significant of all for psychiatry, of mad people from subjugation and incarceration imposed by rationality.

Madness found a place in the ferment of the time, through the Dialectics of Liberation conference organised by a group of antipsychiatrists, which took place in London (Cooper, 1968). Themes of revolution and liberation featured prominently at the event, but there was no contribution from radical or critical survivors. In those days there was no survivor movement.

In this paper I will outline the origins of contemporary critical psychiatry in the UK. There is a sense in which critical psychiatry can be seen as a legacy of the 1960s, but there is much more to it than that, and to equate critical psychiatry with antipsychiatry is to commit serious historical and conceptual errors. For this reason I will set out my personal view of the main points of agreement and disagreement between antipsychiatry and critical psychiatry. Then I will describe the main areas of work of the Critical Psychiatry Network (CPN) in the UK, before dealing with what has come to be known as postpsychiatry. I will end with a personal view of the future challenges that face critical psychiatry. …”

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