Storming Bedlam: Madness, Utopia, and Revolt

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by Sasha Durakov Warren

Common Notions

3/19/2024, paperback

SKU: 9781942173892


Mental health care and its radical possibilities reimagined in the context of its global development under capitalism.

The contemporary world is oversaturated with psychiatric programs, methods, and reforms promising to address any number of "crises" in mental health care. When these fail, alternatives to the alternatives simply pile up and seem to lead nowhere.

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.

Storming Bedlam: Madness, Utopia, and Revolt subverts the divisions between social and biological approaches to mental health or between psychiatry and anti-psychiatry. By exploring the history of psychiatry in the context of revolution, war, and economic development, Warren outlines a minor history of approaches to mental health care grounded in common struggles against conditions of scarcity, poverty, isolation, and exploitation.

About the Author:

Sasha Durakov Warren is a writer based in Minneapolis. His experiences within the psychiatric system and commitment to radical politics led him to cofound the group Hearing Voices Twin Cities, which provides an alternative social space for individuals to discuss often stigmatized extreme experiences and network with one-another. Following the George Floyd Uprising in 2020, he founded the project Of Unsound Mind to trace the histories of psychiatry, social work, and public health's connections to policing, prisons, and various disciplinary and managerial technologies.