|Latest Articles and Papers|
| Home | Contents | Rationale | Search | Feedback | Interesting Links |
by David Ingleby
Current consciousness and the possibility of an ideological critique 
The contention of this paper can be expressed very briefly: that the ideological ends which psychologists (and other human scientists) unconsciously accept lead them to present a model of man which dehumanizes him in the same ways that their own society does; obscures rather than clarifies the way in which that society's goals are mediated by the individual; and attempts to reify its values under the disguise of a spurious objectivity.
My first task is to understand the situation in which the majority of human scientists who read these by now familiar charges will find it hard to recognize any connection between them and their own experience of science - if indeed they perceive any meaning in the words at all; for (they will say) what are 'ideological ends'? How can objective science be politically partisan? What does 'de-humanizing' mean? What concept of 'human' does it assume, and how can we posit a priori any such concept ? It must be admitted that the pivotal concepts in the above statements are quite inadequate to carry the burden of communication being imposed on them; and this is because we are groping in an area about which we are only just beginning to learn to speak. Until these concepts are more adequately clothed with meaning, therefore, an ideological critique will be doomed to incoherence.
Fortunately, there are moments when it becomes possible to say things which could not be said before.
Some of the influences which are now beginning to make a coherent critique possible are obvious. On the one hand, student consciousness of the underlying issues (which is largely experiential and inarticulate) has learned to express itself in ways which force even the most complacent to wonder what possible grounds for complaint there can be, and has encouraged the less confident to explore their suspicions further; at the same time, there have appeared a handful of works from which the language and the paradigm of new critiques can be extracted. Of the works I happen to have come across, apart from certain of Marcuse's writings, I would mention such attempts as the essays by Blackburn (1969), and Anderson (1969), and particularly the recently translated monograph of Lucien Goldmann (1969) - whose calm lucidity has given me as a psychologist the same gloomy satisfaction that asylum inmates derive from a reading of Goffman. But the influence of these obvious events itself needs explaining in terms of deeper factors: without attempting the no doubt primary historico-economic interpretation, I suggest that for the present purpose, the most important event to take note of is the profound shift in the nature of our conception of how social values are mediated by the individual, which has at last begun to do justice to the opacity of social institutions and the obliqueness of human action.
A good way to start understanding the nature of this shift is by examining the enlarged connotation of the word 'political'. The best illustration of its former usage, and perhaps the quaintest to us nowadays, is Harold Wilson's famous ascription of the 1966 Seamen's strike to 'a tightly-knit group of politically motivated men' (in Foot, 1968). 'Politics', here, is the conscious and organized action of an identifiable group of people, and it is concerned with a fairly circumscribed set of issues (those over which a government overtly governs). The contemporary usage of 'politics' not only calls that definition into question on every point: it even implies that the definition itself is 'political'. One reason for this expanded referent is that a greater awareness of the degrees of freedom in human action facilitates our perception of the value-choices it implies: we have also learned to identify the sorts of ideological schemata which might provide the key to the patterns relating a multitude of value choices. But as well as an extended content, the new concept of politics also embraces different styles of action: here, perhaps, we are applying to the behaviour of societies lessons acquired from our knowledge of individuals. We do not expect that political goals will operate with the conscious connivance of their individual mediators, any more than we expect a person to be aware of his own life-style or the games he plays. Moreover, we are used not only to unconscious motivation, but also to highly resistant forms of repression and mystification; people not only fail to recognize and acknowledge what they are up to, but often contrive quite strenuously to give the impression (to themselves as well as others) that they are doing the exact opposite. Freud spoke of 'reaction-formation' in the generosity that conceals meanness, or the type of philanthropy which disguises contempt for those it aids: the Orwellian devices of newspeak and doublethink are the most obvious social counterparts. It is no accident that Freud and Marx should both have encountered these defence mechanisms, since they are probably dictated by the logistics of the situation in which one conscious agent acts upon the interests of another. In other words, it may be quite convenient for the right hand that the left hand should not know what it is doing, if the two hands are in conflict about ultimate aims: for Freud the two agents are Unconscious and Ego, for Marx the ruling class and the proletariat. After all, the first rule of public relations is that if you want to get away with something that somebody else might not approve of, you shouldn't tell them what you are up to. Industrial firms find a 'free offer' the most effective form of robbery: likewise, the most successful religions label self-denial as fulfilment, subservience as freedom, death as life. If we want to understand why it is that the individual in society is taught to repress or deny his pursuit of certain political goals, we have only to reflect on the fact that as in war, many of them may be in simple conflict with his own interests or with rationality itself.
One could characterize this change in our concept of political action as being a shift away from the obvious; and it follows that any critique of science as political action will have to forgo the pleasures of pointing out the obvious. A 'conspiracy theory' of science will be no more viable than a conspiracy theory of history (though rather more so than a non conspiracy theory): to search for boardroom plots in the corridors of scientific power would be to credit the denizens of those corridors with an insight into their own activities which they all too plainly do not possess. The Private Eye approach to journalism has its uses, but we are not primarily interested in outrages - in scientists who tell lies, in rigged experiments, or in mental hospitals which institutionalize the sort of violence against patients about which you can set up a government inquiry. Generally, such behaviour turns out to be an act of deviance, a violation of accepted norms: more important, and more difficult, is the task of showing how these norms themselves serve or reflect political aims.
This addiction to what is morally and factually obvious weakens much contemporary polemic which would like to regard itself as political. To the extent that it is conducted within the framework of accepted criteria, such criticism abdicates the possibility of attacking those criteria. Perry Anderson (1969), for example, attacks Eysenck's psychology by showing, essentially, that Eysenck is a bad psychologist; the targets of Jules Henry (1966) appear much of the time to be bad parents, bad schools and bad geriatric institutions, while Cooper (1967, p. 24) actually adduces in support of his critique of psychiatry the fact that many psychiatrists are bad doctors. Indicative as these phenomena may be, they tend to divert attention from what must surely be the author's real targets - 'good' psychologists, parents, schools, and ' good ' geriatrics or psychiatry. The cry of 'put your house in order' must be resisted if it is going to be taken to mean that the house itself is structurally sound. Actually, the tactics of these authors are perfectly appropriate: dialogue proceeds from a recognition of common ground, and the exposure of internal contradictions may at least sow the seeds of doubt in one's opponent. Ultimately, however, dialogue and truth become irreconcilable goals, for to adopt moral outrage as the target of criticism only strengthens the moral norms being appealed to: one must not imagine for a moment that the News of the World, in attacking corrupt clergymen, teachers councillors and policemen is challenging established authority, or that the Sunday Times, in exposing shady businessmen and savage colonialists is mounting an onslaught on capitalism.
A similar trap for the unwary user lies in the concept of violence, as applied to the imposition of one group's interests on another. The lay connotation of this term specifically denies mystification: violence is not only done, but seen to be done, if by no one else then at least by the agent and recipient. In modern practice, this is increasingly not so - perhaps simply for the logistic reasons outlined earlier: to describe the exercise of political power in colonialism, industrialism, family life, education or psychiatry as 'violent' will therefore be misleading to the precise extent that its workings are successfully mystified in those areas. In the psychiatric methods of control to be described later, for example, the psychiatrist (and, slightly less often, the patient) may sincerely believe the familiar phrases 'it's all for your own good' ,'we're only trying to help you', and so on.
There is another reason, apart from the existence of mystification, why the term 'violence' may be unhelpful when describing methods of limiting freedom. This is that the means of control may be cognitive rather than physical. Just as Goffman ascribes social power to those who control 'the definition of the situation' (1959), so we have learned to think in terms of political power being vested in the 'managers of reality'. The term 'brain-washing' suffers from the same limitations as a name for this process as 'violence' did above: we have, in fact, no vocabulary to describe the ways in which by controlling information input, an individual's concept of himself and reality may be moulded in practically any direction - by non-verbal as much as verbal means, and by medium as much as message.
Thus, although this section has attempted to display some ways in which our unfolding consciousness of social action facilitates an ideological critique of science, it also reveals some pitfalls. The necessary condition of such a critique is the simultaneous ability to analyse and comment on a society's activities while eschewing many of its own concepts and norms: only to a limited degree will occupants of that society attain this condition, and then only in exceptional circumstances.
How can ideology penetrate the 'objective' activity of science?
Just as the traditional concept of ' politics ' must be rejected before political realities can come into view with sharp focus, so a new understanding of the nature of science is required before its own politics can be discovered. The key question could be put thus: what is bias? Once again there is a range of ' direct ' and ' indirect ' forms of bias, 'strong' or 'weak', of which the so-called weakest turn out to be the most potent, because most effectively concealed. (Much of what follows is relevant to the understanding of ideological bias in other 'truth-media' - art, journalism, etc.)
The strongest sense of the word is that in which most allegations of 'political bias' are made: this involves neglecting or even falsifying the results of empirical observation. Stock examples of this are Lysenko's biological forgeries, or the reaction of scientists at the time to Galileo's observations, in both of which the ideological significance is self-evident: in the human sciences, numerous examples can no doubt be found of a reluctance to reach conclusions which might challenge a particular ideology's model of man. However, there are two reasons why this level of criticism will not get us very far. Firstly, of all areas, the human sciences seem to attract a fair sprinkling of ideological non-conformists and malcontents, so that in many topics the bias is away from, rather than towards, the politically 'safe' (most investigators of the social environment, for instance, are quite keen to believe in its effects); and secondly, criticism in terms of undue bias is made from within the particular framework of scientific principles accepted at a particular time or place, and reinforces rather than undermines those principles themselves. We need instead to become aware of the extent to which the prevailing ideology dominates even the apparently 'nonconformist' researcher, and (which turns out to be the same thing) the sense in which 'good' scientific practice, rather than 'bad', is prey to ideological influences.
We might refine the concept of 'bias' a little further by treating it as a process of selection rather than distortion, 'ideological bias' being the selection of 'safe' topics for research (i.e. those which are unlikely to yield politically disturbing results). This concept seems much more fruitful and the prevalence of ideologically acceptable conclusions about man, to be discussed below, can be largely accounted for in terms of the research which has not been done, rather than that which has. However, as the history of the subject shows, this tendency too is corrected by normal scientific pressures: what we are left having to explain is how the most controversial research work, scrupulously rigorous and totally fearless in its choice of issues, can still appear to be imprisoned inside a cage of ideologically determined pre-conceptions. As Goldmann puts it:
In the human sciences... it does not suffice, as Durkheim believed, to apply the artesian method, to call into question acquired truths and to open one's mind entirely to the facts, because the researcher generally approaches the facts with categories and implicit and unconscious preconceptions which close off to him in advance the way to an objective understanding (1969, p. 41).
Clearly then, we must talk about methodology, about the techniques and concepts of the science rather than any instance of their application: and much of what is relevant about methodology is summarized in Kuhn's (1962) concept of scientific 'paradigms'. The 'paradigm' of a science is the tradition which defines what sort of work shall be regarded as scientific or unscientific: as Kuhn points out, this is not always so much a matter of rigour and honesty as of the language used, the sources of evidence adduced, the criteria of debate accepted, and so on.
We must also consider, however, a dimension which is ignored in Kuhn's analysis - itself representative of a contemporary 'paradigm' of history and philosophy of science; namely, a recognition of the socio-political context of scientists and their enterprises. A new paradigm of paradigms, in other words, is demanded for understanding the human sciences: and the resulting study turns out to be a branch of nothing less than the fundamental relationship between consciousness and its socio-historical context. We need to understand the social psychology of the process whereby the institutions in which science is conducted, by embodying a certain culture, mortify any attempts to question that culture: undoubtedly the key to this lies in the ritualization of research, teaching and communication, by which each experiment, investigation, lecture, tutorial and conference becomes a tacit celebration of the ethic of normality.
Psychology as a vehicle of ideology
From the opening discussion of power in terms of 'management of reality' rather than (or as well as) coercion, it follows that we should look for the ideological significance of human sciences in terms of the model of man they put forward rather than in their direct application to the furtherance of such goals. Thus we are not primarily concerned with the way psychology is used in the service of ' the military-industrial complex' - an issue which bulks large in sociology - because opposition to these activities is a straightforward matter of opposing the ends that are being sought, and does not necessarily reflect on the validity of the scientific means being used. It is through its potency as myth that the psychological model of man can be seen as serving ideological interests: to the extent that the human sciences are taking over from religion the function of providing man with a self-image, they should be seen in the same light as religious myths.
The search for a central motif in psychology, in which its ideological significance may be found, is hindered first of all by the totally mystifying front under which psychologists work, which disguises by straightforwardly contradicting the true nature of their work. In the first place, we are led to suppose that the psychologist is the guardian of everything which must be understood in terms of the acting human subject: from this material he endeavours to build up a concept of what it is to be, specifically, a human being. In practice the psychologist appears to be more anxious to sell out to some other variety of science, and to reduce human realities to some other, non-human, reality. Secondly, we are led to think of the psychologist as an idealistic, even subversive kind of scientist, engaged in analysing our way of life with a view to suggesting the key to a better one: yet if one examines this idealism it turns out to be largely a matter of pursuing our existing way of life slightly more efficiently. Psychologists claim to be social engineers, but turn out to be really maintenance men: in this, perhaps, they are only sharing in the fond aspirations of all skilled mechanics.
Thus, we might sum up the whole of our theme by saying that psychology manages to lose sight of man, with the effect (politically) that having been lost sight of, he cannot assert the demands of his nature against the social system that encloses him. This conjuring trick is achieved by the process of reification, that is, the reduction of human realities to the order of things: in the rest of this paper we will attempt to observe the process at close quarters. First, however, it is clear that more needs to be said about the opposition implied between the human and the material, and it is equally clear that none of this will be found in the Anglo-American tradition of psychology, which mentions the opposition only to stigmatize it as meaningless, dualistic, pre-scientific, etc. This tradition, in fact, maintains a rigid fragmentation from such philosophical issues, being a classic instance of Goldmann's 'illiterate scholarship': we learn there that philosophy is 'sterile', 'speculative' (note the wickedness of speculators) and a lazy substitute for empirical work - not, as happens to be the case, a difficult and exacting prerequisite. Consequently it is to continental psychology and philosophy, which have never allowed themselves to be split in this way, that we must turn for any useful discussion of what it is that is lost sight of when psychology 'loses sight of man'.
One concept from the continental tradition (specifically, from Sartre - see Laing and Cooper, 1964) will be taken as the key to the present discussion: namely, the concept of praxis. While process describes the behaviour of inanimate objects, accounted for wholly by causes, praxis is the medium of the specifically human: it implies behaviour which is purposive and accountable for only in terms of its meaningfulness (what ever may be said about its 'causes'). Moreover, human behaviour is based on human experience, through which it is related to an external context: and such experience, as the phenomenologists have emphasized, is itself praxis rather than process, being an active selection and structuring of sensory information. Praxis is thus a composite notion, referring to the activities of perception as well as behaviour, and bringing together the ideas of purposive (goal-directed) activity as well as communication.
What constitutes a person is here defined as a collection of meaningful actions (or 'projects') and experiences: to depersonalize or dehumanize, therefore, is to reduce this praxis to process, in other words to reify it. To the extent that the logic of communication resembles that of purpose, we can generalize about the components of praxis and from this generalization anticipate the strategies of reification.
A piece of praxis is defined in terms of its intended end, the end being a project achieved or a message communicated: the means to this end (movements or symbols) are always determined by the context (a situation and/or a code), and cannot be seen as meaningful without reference to this context. As Sommerhof (1951) showed, it is possible to distinguish between goals of behaviour and mere consequences, without suggesting that causality works backwards: the effect of behaviour can be said to be its goal only to the extent that, had the context demanded different behaviour to achieve the same effect, the behaviour would have changed appropriately. Ascriptions of purpose thus become 'counterfactual conditional' statements: they state what would have happened, had a situation been different from what it was. (An analogous criterion may be defined to distinguish symbols from signs.)
From this analysis the nature of reification follows clearly. If the components of praxis are regarded atomistically, ignoring their relation to a context, then the project or message they constitute will be lost sight of. The example of a wink illustrates several aspects of praxis: the particular muscular contraction constituting this gesture is determined by a context which involves both the presence of another person and the existence of a code. If we can see only the muscles involved, their contraction will never be intelligible. Reification, i.e., the misrepresentation of praxis as process, will thus be the inevitable consequence of the failure to study contexts; even when justice is done to the context, the intelligibility of praxis may still escape the observer who fails to look for the right meanings in the right places. The aim of this essay is to show how many different fallacies in psychology and psychiatry can be subsumed under the concept of 'reification' as outlined above: the same process is involved in 'the methodological denial of any historical dimension to social facts' which Goldmann attacked in his contemporaries. The denial is methodological, because it occurs in the concepts and observational methods used, rather than in their application: and Goldmann's 'historical dimension' is not just a time factor, but that larger perspective in which alone the patterns to which social facts belong can be perceived. The recognition of these patterns necessarily involves awareness of praxis: thus Lenin writes of Marx's work, 'Where the bourgeois economists saw a relation between things (the exchange of one commodity for another), Marx revealed a relation between people' (quoted in Blackburn, 1969).
At the same time as examining how the reduction of praxis to process occurs, I am also trying to explore the question of why it occurs; in other words, what is the psychological or historical meaning of reification? It is possible, in fact, to argue that reification was an inescapable result of the ' influences' lying behind the human sciences - indeed, the argument that a science of persons built out of a science of things will inevitably tend to reduce persons to things is an attractive one: but we shall attempt to show that this argument fails in the same way as most appeals to ' influences', i.e., that it does not explain why some ideas of natural science were accepted and others fairly strenuously rejected; and it does not even begin to ask in what frame of mind thing-sciences were applied to man in the first place. Thus we are left with the question: what sense does it make to deny sense in human behaviour and experience? Three initial possibilities suggest themselves.
Firstly, a reifying model of human nature, by definition, presents men as less than they really are (or could be): to the extent that a society requires men (or a certain proportion of them) to be thing-like in their work, orientation, thinking and experiencing, such a model will constitute both a reflection and a reinforcement of that society (reinforcing because men tend to become what they are told they are). If labour is mechanical, it is convenient that those who have to do it, should think of themselves as a species of machine: if freedom of choice, imagination, the pursuit of untried goals and experiences, are seen as threats to a sacrosanct 'social structure', then man should learn he is a species of simple computer, a 'limited capacity information channel', incapable by definition of creating such goals and meanings.
This model of alienated man, in which science reifies aspects of humanity which have already become reified by society, has a certain ironical truth value: but the political process is aided as much by the omissions of this model as by its inclusions. Inasmuch as alienation is achieved by praxis, the methodological denial of praxis in the scientific model will guarantee our continued blindness to the intricate and subtly mystified means by which in education, mass-media and the family, as well as in psychology and psychiatry, the elimination of human possibilities is carried out.
For there are also elements of reality essential to the existence of a class which it is not in the interests of that class to have subjected to public, or even scientific, scrutiny. Anyone seeking to study such elements will encounter powerful internal and external resistances (Goldmann, 1969, p. 43).
So far, we have identified two of what might be termed the mythic functions of the positivistic view of man- regarding it as a picture whose subtle emphases and omissions each serve to reinforce the sponsoring political system. There is a third, and perhaps more obvious, way in which such a science can prop up the system, and that is by introducing value judgements under the guise of objective descriptions ('persuasive definitions'). Once we have taken the step of applying one of these labels (e.g., sickness-health) to a human phenomenon, we will have - implicitly and unsuspectingly - adopted an attitude to the phenomenon which cannot then be abandoned without self-contradiction. In such concepts there is always an attempt to replace the logic of 'good' and 'bad' by the logic of 'correct' and 'incorrect'; this confounding of imperative and indicative, however subtly achieved, is always fallacious and, one might add, always ideologically determined.
The occurrence of 'persuasive definitions' in psychology and psychiatry is so common as to call for more detailed analysis; philosophy, however, to which we might turn for this analysis, has long been aware of the fallacy (Hume, Poincaré, Moore), but seldom of the ideological motive. Moore, for example, in his monumental attack on ethical naturalism (1903), accepted all along the now conventional definition of analytical philosophy: recognizing, quite correctly, that the motivation of a statement has no logical bearing on its truth or falsity, this philosophy proceeds to fragment questions of validity so disastrously from questions of motive that the refutation of ethical naturalism becomes no more than a logical pastime (the Sunday afternoon brain-twister: what is wrong with this statement?). Thus, when Moore (somewhat unprofessionally) paused to ask himself how any intelligent being could possibly accept the crudest interpretation of Mill's belief - that moral principles can be deduced from human preferences - he confessed himself at a total loss: but once the ideological uses of utilitarianism are perceived (as, for instance, in the contemporary politics of 'pragmatism'), the reasons for its acceptance become obvious. (The belief that accepted goals define what is right, is after all, the simplest form of conservatism.) To show up the sterility of the purely analytic approach to naturalism we need only turn to Sartre's treatment of the same phenomenon under the name of 'bad faith': through novels as well as theoretical works, Sartre shows in detail how the premiss 'I must act according to my (socially defined) nature' is the very foundation of the bourgeois ethic, which since it serves interests other than its own is obliged to be, in Sartre's own words (1967), 'sham from beginning to end'.
As in sociology, naturalism in psychology resides in hypostasized concepts of the ideal, natural, healthy state of man, from which deviations are, as we have already noted, not merely wrong but 'incorrect'. These concepts involve something slightly more than merely reducing praxis to process, which I would call 'normative reification': they assimilate human choices and actions to a special realm of material processes where the concepts of correctness-incorrectness, maturation-retardation, naturalness-unnaturalness apply. The place where these concepts are most at home, of course, is in biology: hence 'normative reification' in psychology can usually be spotted wherever biological or medical concepts are applied to behaviour. Obvious usages are sickness-health, adaptation, efficient 'functioning', integration, adjustment-maladjustment, maturity, development, etc., all of which imply an ideal state from which deviations are 'incorrect': even the term 'socialization', which might be thought a fairly neutral description of what must happen for a human being to 'become really human, always begs the question of which society the child should socialize into. The concepts of 'illness' and 'symptom' are even more heavily loaded (see below): they not only imply that behaviour is 'incorrect', but also provide a highly theoretical interpretation of its causes and properties. This interpretation is deeply concealed: it takes a long time to see, for example, that the report of 'an epidemic of drug taking' is a moral pronouncement, not a statistical one.
We should recognize that the infiltration of value judgements into 'objective' terminology is not just loose talk, a psychological weakness of scientists; to classify actions which are seen as a threat to society as malignant process is a means of repression more final and devastating in its effects than any overt condemnation. Consider the power of the two norms which such a classification invokes. Firstly, action characterized as 'process' immediately forfeits the degree of respect and indemnity enjoyed by actions credited to human personalities - even 'bad 'ones; it becomes subject to the absolute right of control we exercise over the world of things (a value judgement which is universally embodied in the natural sciences - so universally, in fact, that as Goldmann points out, we sometimes imagine that since all natural sciences occupy the same point on the value dimension, the dimension of value is not present in them at all). Secondly, the classification as process having invoked an absolute right of control over deviating praxis, the classification as 'malignant' process establishes that control must take the form of correction; thus, from the effects of being classified as 'sick', 'immature', 'degenerate', etc., there can be no appeal.
Ideology and the history of behaviour theory
I must now consider how one might support the claim that the science of behaviour has been biased towards the presentation of ideologically acceptable models of man, specifically via the reduction of human qualities to the order of things. It is not as inappropriate as it seems that much of the time I shall be dealing with theories originally put forward to account for animal behaviour: for firstly, the implicit justification for this research has always been that it will somehow serve as a basis for understanding man, and secondly, the fact that behavioural science has attempted to lose sight even of the limited degree of mind that animals possess, reveals the underlying motivation even more sharply. Nor is it entirely misleading that I speak of the many conflicting schools of thought on behaviour as one theory: it makes little difference that many of the defects I shall describe have been pointed out by people calling themselves behaviour theorists, because however much the dominant model of stimulus response psychology has been bent or adapted to accommodate these criticisms, their full implications have never been acted on - nor could they be, in fact, since they are so central to the whole approach - and the mainstream has gone on flowing in the same direction.
Our guide is the notion that wherever the distinctive properties of mind have called for recognition in the study of behaviour, behaviourists have been biased (in all of the senses of 'bias' defined earlier) against acknowledging them. They have attempted to produce a theory in which the areas where praxis operates - perception, understanding, reasoning, thinking, purpose and communication of meaning - have either been left out altogether, or treated in such a way that praxis is denied; we shall argue later that much of this antagonism to mind could be explained as the result of a philosophical misunderstanding, i.e., that the nature of these mental concepts was misunderstood at the time when the behaviourist project was launched, but it will also be seen that this explanation by itself cannot account for the zeal with which mind has been eliminated from theoretical psychology. Hence, it will emerge that nearly all the crucial weaknesses of behaviour theory arise in cases where mentalistic concepts have demanded to be instantiated but have been rejected. Most of the credit for exposing these weaknesses goes to two schools of thought: the continental tradition of phenomenology (e.g., Merleau Ponty, 1962, 1965, or Gurwitsch, 1966), and American psychologists drawing from cybernetics and linguistics (e.g., Miller, Galanter and Pribram, 1960, or Chomsky, 1957, 1959, 1968).
The first and most obvious instances of reification in behaviour theory are the two fundamental concepts of ' stimulus' and ' response'. Moreover, the falsifying nature of this reification emerges in the discovery that no stable predictions can be made about behaviour as long as stimulus and response are defined in terms denying praxis. To start with the concept of a stimulus: initially, following Pavlov, behaviourists sought to define stimuli entirely in terms of particular receptor excitations, and thereby to abolish the perceptual process altogether. This could not work, however, as the response of an animal appeared to be more invariant in terms of the object presented than in terms of the physiological impression it left (the phenomenon of Constancy); behaviourism thus found itself at a choice point, obliged either to adopt externalized definitions of the stimulus (tables, chairs, etc.), as Skinner has tended to do (1938), or to work on a theory of how the many-to-one mapping of impressions on to perceptions is accomplished (see, e.g., Hebb, 1949). In fact, open commitment to either point of view is rare: more commonly we find stimuli spoken of in behaviour theory as if they were atomistic physiological events (so that perceptual mechanisms can be ignored), but actually defined in terms of external realities. Methodologically, this blurring is encouraged by the behaviourist's preference for stimuli (lights or sounds) which make a fairly constant physiological impression, and can thus be described equally accurately as external objects or physiological events.
But even if the animal's response to an external object is more invariant than its response to a physiological event, there is still some variability which it seems more satisfactory to accommodate by changing our notion of what a stimulus is than by saying that the mapping of stimuli onto responses has altered (i.e., that learning has occurred). Firstly, there is the simple problem of whether the impinging excitation is registered by the animal: Broadbent (1958) clearly showed that in humans at least, a concept of 'attention' is required, which involves speaking about incoming information passing or not passing through a perceptual mechanism: so as well as the praxis involved in achieving constancy, there is praxis in what the organism chooses to pay attention to. (Even Pavlov's dogs would not salivate to order if they were distracted by irrelevant events.) Secondly, there is another sort of attention, concerning the particular dimensions along which the subject classifies the object displayed, or the particular interpretations he puts on it; in discrimination learning experiments it has been shown (Sutherland, 1964; Broadbent, 1961) that we must talk about the way an animal learns to analyse the input, as well as what he learns to do about it. Thus, the 'stimulus' of a square object may be totally ineffectual to a rat trained to make choices according to the colour of things: so either stimuli are something other than square objects, or else learning does not consist in a connection between stimuli and responses.
The problem of defining the stimulus becomes even more acute when we consider language behaviour, but even from these animal studies it is clear that a behaviour theory which ignores the praxis involved in perception, and tries to substitute a fixed mapping of connections from receptors to whatever actuates a response, cannot be regarded as scientifically respectable. It seems, in fact, that a return to concepts such as experience, awareness or consciousness is dictated if we are to find what it is that humans - or animals - base their actions on. At the same time, a great deal of philosophical clarification of these concepts is required in order that we should not fall again into old Cartesian pseudo-questions about the unverifiability and non-material 'substance' of experience: no analysis as indifferent to psychological fact as Ryle's (1949) will do, though nothing less rigorous will I do either.
When we return to the question of 'what is a response?' or 'what is learned?' - still ignoring the issue of how learning occurs - the same diagnosis is inescapable. The phenomena of 'place learning', and the flexibility of behavioural strategies (Watson, 1961), do not exist only in a few contrived experiments (still less are they peculiar to language behaviour), but are central to the nature of responses: as Hinde points out (1966), what remains invariant in a learned response is usually an achievement, rather than a particular set of movements. As we noted with stimuli, behaviourist methodology helps to sweep this problem under the carpet, by singling out for observation responses like the pressing or pecking of levers, which can be defined more or less equally well in terms of movements or achievements. If 'response' itself is a teleological concept, we are clearly taking for granted a conscious, goal-directed system in the production of responses: and how can we isolate this system from the very mechanism which behaviour theory sets out to discover? It will not do to assume a repertoire of 'tropisms' or 'subroutines', programmed to organize an appropriate set of movements given a certain intention: for how are we to draw the line between this faculty and the learning mechanism itself? If it is given in the definition of the response acquired that an animal that can walk from A to B can also run from A to B, on what grounds do we decide that (say) building a helicopter and flying from A to B is a 'new response', representing learning which must be explained ? It is obvious that criteria can be set up, but before we bother to do so it is worth asking whether there is any practicable concept of 'response' on which a connectionist theory could legitimately be based: only by pretending that the observed praxis could be reduced to muscular process have behaviourists managed to sustain the project for so long.
Thus, moving on to consider the question of how learning takes place, we see that so far from being the only question of psychology - as S-R theory implies - it is already overshadowed by complex questions concerning the way in which incoming information is processed and responses are organized, and ought perhaps never to have been separated from these issues. But even if we put on one side the problem of defining stimulus and response, and discuss the circumstances under which S-R connections are formed, we find in behaviour theory the same stultifying resistance to acknowledging and analysing the distinctively 'mindful' features of human and animal learning. In large areas of behaviour, we may concede that the acquisition of 'sensible', adaptive responses can be accounted for by the psychological equivalent of natural selection trial-and-error followed by reinforcement; and, in fact, many criticisms of the 'law of effect' (e.g., much of Watson's (1961), penetrating analysis) would be removed if appropriate adjustments could be made to the concepts of stimulus and response, and to the definition of reinforcers. In contrast to the evolution of species, however, the development of behaviour frequently shows forward leaps which cannot be accounted for as the preservation of successful mutations. This, of course, is the problem of reasoning and insight, and at this choice-point, behaviourists who attempted to cling to the law of effect as the sole explanatory principle left themselves with only two equally futile options: either deny the phenomena altogether, as Skinnerians have done, or (starting with Hull) to construct an elaborate mythology of internal 'stimuli and responses', which, unless it adopts totally ad hoc assumptions, never succeeds in predicting the behaviour it sets out to explain (Deutsch, 1956; Triesman, 1960). Thus, we see that by adopting the superficial attributes of established sciences, behaviourists succeeded in constructing a theory which violated practically all the deeper canons of science, and in almost every case this can be traced to their insistence on reducing praxis to process, i.e., their reification of mental processes. It still remains to be considered, however, to what extent this failure was inevitable, and to what extent over-determined by the motive, fundamentally political in origin, to present man as a thing. We must not deny the many factors which made this conclusion an almost (but not quite) inevitable result of the climate of ideas in which behaviourism was conceived; and in this climate three strong pressures towards reification can be discerned. Firstly, as we have noted, the predominantly dualistic philosophy of mind had loaded all mental concepts with connotations that truly made mind an 'impossible object': with each of the crucial concepts of experience, reasoning, intention and purpose were associated dilemmas which, if not pseudo-problems in the first place, became such through the terms in which they were discussed (non-material substance, will, final causes, and so on). The fault in these concepts, however, lay in the fact that they suggested certain models and theories about the mind which simply did not work (if they had worked, psychology would not have been necessary): the psychologists were right to reject the implicit theories, but instead of throwing away along with these concepts of mind all the phenomena they embraced, they should have retained the phenomena and accepted as their unique task the provision of an appropriate descriptive and explanatory framework for them. (Even today, Skinnerians use the word 'mentalistic' as a term of abuse, showing their inability to progress beyond a nineteenth century concept of mind.)
A second reason for avoiding accounts in terms of praxis stems from the strict criteria of inference which were brought into psychology from the physical sciences. Ockham's razor found a place early on in psychology, as 'Lloyd Morgan's Canon' - the principle that one should not attribute to organisms faculties more complex than were strictly needed to explain their behaviour. Since one could get away without praxis in describing fairly large areas of behaviour - particularly if one adhered to the orthodox styles of experimental observation - the pressure to ignore or falsify those areas where one could not was always strong. Moreover, ascriptions of purpose and meaning, although not unverifiable, are always difficult to be certain of: this is obvious when one considers that validating a counterfactual condition proposition (cf. above) involves making a practically infinite array of hypothetical statements, most of which can only be known inductively. Similar concern is also beginning to be expressed about the validation of linguistic structures such as Chomsky's (1957), even by those who accept their necessity.
But the third, and most crucial, reason for the dismissal of mental phenomena was the sheer dearth of hard, intelligible concepts with which to theorize about them. Hull saw his attempts to explain insight in terms of 'the modern theory of conditioning' as 'the only alternative to an explanation in terms of a non-physical, psychic agent called mind or consciousness' (1935), and when we consider the vapidity of early cognitive and Gestalt theory (Miller, Galanter and Pribram, 1960), which Hull called 'a mere tautological gesture', this conclusion is understandable. Only now can we appreciate the enormity of the task psychology had undertaken: in the end it was the theoretical work that underlay the second industrial revolution - the creation of machines in the image of man - that made it possible to understand man himself, and we now see that to produce an authentic science of mind on its own, psychology would have had to anticipate the enormous theoretical achievements in the field of artificial intelligence, perception and language associated with Wiener, von Neumann and Chomsky.
Given these three factors, it seems almost gratuitous to see any particular motive in the exclusion of mental phenomena from behaviour theory: but certain facts of history call for further explanation. Why, for example, was the behaviourist project not abandoned sooner? How is it that its totally discredited and outdated conceptual framework not only survives, but flourishes as the basis of new 'revolutions' in education and psychiatry? We may of course say that Skinner's work, for example, can be accounted for on his own principles, as the untiring emission of responses which continue to be rewarded with a succession of honours and salary increments (as the graph of his Cumulative Record (1959) ironically implies): but why do the reinforcements still keep on arriving for Skinner and the rest of his persuasion? More to the point (for we know that Skinnerian principles can only be applied to Skinnerians in jest) how can we explain the rise of this mindless intelligentsia? Here it is hard to resist a political interpretation, for the Skinnerian model of man provides an almost comical parody of the ideology of 'organized capitalism': in the lever pressing rat we may see a rodent parable of the profit motive and the incentive principle, or Jules Henry's 'virtuoso consumer' epitomized.
To rest one's interpretation on this one case, however, would be to fall into the trap mentioned earlier - for Skinner is, by present-day standards, a bad psychologist. The strategies of reification in contemporary psychology are harder to see. Miller (Galanter and Miller, 1960) has pointed out, however, how the fallacies of the connectionist model are incorporated in the new systems of mathematical learning theory and psychophysics: and through all contemporary experimental work runs the same pattern of losing sight of those aspects of behaviour that are distinctively human. Cybernetic models are used which credit the human mind with mechanisms of a crudity which would be an insult to the cheapest computers on the market: this might be defended on heuristic grounds - for while the computer engineer can give his imagination full rein, the psychologist working in the opposite direction can only choose between small numbers of simple alternative designs. However, it is significant that the methodology of experimental psychology seems almost designed to perpetuate these oversimplifications; in few laboratory experiments nowadays does the subject perform a task which could not be better done by an extension of the apparatus. (Indeed, the joke is frequently made that human subjects will soon disappear completely from the laboratory, having been made redundant by the arrival of the small computer.) By this method it is easy to confirm that man is adequately described as a 'limited capacity information-processing channel' - and the benefits to industrial society of such a conclusion are obvious: but the costs to science and humanity may not be so easily reckoned.
The politics of psychiatry
In the theory and practice of psychiatry we encounter forms of reification not only more highly-developed than any of the cases considered so far but also more straightforwardly related to social values. Almost within the last ten years, a mere handful of thinkers (in conjunction of course with other changes in our consciousness) have so transformed our awareness of the social meaning of psychiatry as to seal off, virtually, the historical era they describe; after being spoken of in such terms, psychiatry ceases to be, politically speaking, an invisible agency.
All forms of psychiatry have this hallmark: that they transform the conceptual elimination of human praxis into a practical achievement. At the mythic level we are describing, the diverse procedures of psychiatry reduce to a single technique, which we shall call 'amputation by reification'. Thus, behaviour therapy, medical psychiatry and psychoanalysis all display the following schema: firstly, they take those portions of an individual's praxis which it is desired to eliminate, and present them as malignant process, i.e., as manifestations of aberrations in the physical and psychological mechanisms which form the inert basis of personality. This could be called denial of praxis, the result being that undesirable behaviour which is systematically ignored and kept 'out of mind' will become impossible for the agent to sustain; but by actively misrepresenting the behaviour as 'illness', it achieves more than outright denial ever could. The psychiatrist never says 'You do not hate': instead, he says 'Your aggression is a symptom'. This response offers the patient a kind of recognition of which he is probably in great need: by appearing to account for his behaviour and experience, it holds out for him a kind of identity. Thus eagerly accepted, this identity soon reveals itself as non-identity; the patient finds himself with a self-concept in which his deviance is portrayed as non-human, malignant process, so that unless he abandons his former self - literally, loses his mind - he will be assigned (in Goffman's word) to perpetual mortification. It is wrong to imagine that the doctor or psychiatric institution initiates this process, for psychiatry is properly seen as a straightforward extension of the reifying procedures already laid down deeply in our consciousness: indeed, the tendency to alienate unwanted praxis, to dissociate it from one's 'self' or cease to identify with it, is embedded in everyday language itself (witness the fact that we describe the praxis of ourselves and others as objects which are owned, e.g., a violent temper, a dirty mind or a loving nature). Moreover, the strategy of denial by reification is not only used by psychiatrists: to dismiss the other person's unwelcome praxis by ascribing it to a 'cause' is a familiar interpersonal ploy. The doctor, however, is a figure whose responses are already vested with a near-magical authority, and his perception of the patient's deviant praxis as 'illness' imposes almost inescapably a reifying self-concept on the latter; Foucault (1967) captures this process in a single phrase, when he speaks of the patient as 'alienated in the doctor'.
In medical psychiatry, treatment is conducted within the same ironical 'service relationship' (cf. garages and repair shops, Goffman, 1962) as physical medicine; it would be unfair to claim that the malignant process being put right is always represented as a physical one however, for (to do it justice) psychiatry recognizes the category of 'functional' illnesses as well as 'organic' ones. Just as bodies may fall ill, so minds can become diseased: minds, in this system, have a predetermined healthy form. The fact that culture as well as genotype is taken into account in defining the well-adjusted, efficiently functioning mind makes the definition no less magical than any of the other normative reifications we described above. It is in the psychiatrist's concept of a 'healthy mind' that we may recognize his ideology.
Thus, there is less difference than is usually assumed between medical psychiatry and psychoanalysis: this must be recognized as inevitable once we see that it is in the language and philosophy from which Freud started that this characteristic ethical confusion and mechanistic dualism is embedded. The peculiar ambivalence of psychoanalysis - for far from reifying everything it encounters, the Freudian touch also delivers large areas of praxis from mystification and repression - suggests that we should see it as a project perpetually trying to break loose from the language it is written in (e.g., drives which flow, are dammed up or diverted in quasi-hydraulic fashion). To concentrate on its relfying aspects would be to miss much of the ideological significance of psychoanalysis: for often its social values are expressed by the reduction of one form of praxis to another, as in the characterization of the rebel as 'father-fixated', or its indifference to the social context of family behaviour. However, this theme is outside the scope of this paper: what is central to our present theme is the use of psychoanalysis to alienate the patient from his deviant behaviour, and to impose a system of values and concepts in which political realities are obscured.
The third main branch of psychiatry, therapies based on learning theory, is easy to relate to our theme as most of its political content has already been analysed in the theoretical context. To apply the methodology of psychology to psychological problems, in place of that of physical medicine, would be an ideal worthy of the revolutionary fervour with which it is pursued, but for the fact that psychology has for political convenience already lost sight of man: all it therefore achieves is the replacement of a blunt instrument for correcting deviance by a sharper one. The technique of 'amputation by reification' is still central in behaviour therapy. Firstly, any meaning in the symptoms' is ignored, as before, by the methodological denial of their social or personal context: the patient is then encouraged to look upon them as products of a disordered mechanism, and invited to participate in an experiment which will set the mechanism to rights. Thus, with luck, the patient ends up with a piece of apparatus that works - which may be better than one which doesn't, but is still nevertheless to him a piece of apparatus, not a part of the person he lives. (This is the real reason why the conditioning or deconditioning of penile erections is obscene.) The ethical theory which behaviour therapy embodies is likewise equivalent to that of psychiatry - that is, there is no ethical theory since human action is reduced to the level of process, where only the spurious norms of 'correctness' or 'normality' apply.
It is important to point out at this stage that, contrary to the belief of most attackers and defenders of psychiatry, a critique such as this does not need to depend on any assumptions about the true nature of 'psychiatric disorders', or to make any value judgements about their desirability. I do not imagine that all, or even most, such conditions are totally a matter of individual praxis, free from any physical causes, or that they are pleasant for those who live with them and for the rest of society. What is being claimed is firstly, that psychiatry forces a reifying interpretation on all behaviour, since its methodology dispenses with the concepts and the information (viz. the knowledge of personal and social goals and contexts) which would enable it to recognize praxis when it saw it; and secondly, that the implicit justification for the actions taken about such conditions is ethically quite spurious.
In addition, of course, I am claiming that both these phenomena are intelligible if we regard psychiatry as a mystified technique for regulating behaviour which challenges the existing social structure and ideology: such a judgement can of course only be reached from an understanding of the historical context of psychiatry and the value system to which it belongs. In this connection, Foucault's Madness and Civilization (1967) stands out as a unique analysis. By focusing only on the antecedents of the nineteenth-century medical approach, Foucault dismantles the myth whose moral force provides the main source of resistance to any critique of psychiatry, that of a 'humane revolution' occurring in the nineteenth century in which psychiatry' comes to the rescue' of the insane. Foucault postulates, via the art of the middle ages, a pre-classical consciousness of madness similar to that which anthropologists report in some 'primitive' societies: madness seen as a region on the continuum of existence, a comment on the rest of life from which certain lessons may be read. Gradually, however, European society develops an allergy to the 'immorality of the unreasonable', and strives to put it first out of sight, then out of mind. In this era, the vices of the insane are closely linked to those of the unemployed - 'wantonness, sloth, profanity and debauchery': so that in the great confinements of the seventeenth century, the two are imprisoned together.
Until the Renaissance, the sensibility to madness was linked to the presence of imaginary transcendences. In the classical age, for the first time, madness was perceived through a condemnation of idleness and in a social immanence guaranteed by the community of labour. This community acquired an ethical power of segregation, which permitted it to eject, as into another world, all forms of social uselessness (Foucault, 1967, p. 58).
In the classical age, then, madness is seen primarily as an affront to the three pillars of authority - the family, the Church and the established powers: its control is therefore a police matter, 'police', Foucault adds, 'in the precise sense that the classical epoch gave to it - that is, the totality of measures which make work possible and necessary for all those who could not live without it'. That men's minds should be policed in this way Foucault regards as one aspect of 'the great bourgeois, and soon republican, idea that virtue too, is an affair of state, that decrees can be published to make it flourish, that an authority can be established to make sure it is respected'. Thus, 'an astonishing synthesis of moral obligation and civil law is effected. The law of nations will no longer countenance the disorder of hearts.' Perhaps Foucault should have drawn more attention to the converse of this assimilation: especially today, the important thing is not that deviance in personal matters is regarded as an offence against the state (though this is still as true as ever) but that a challenge to the political system is 'defused' by being reduced to 'weakness of character'. Thus, in the conceptual universe we inhabit today - in which the bourgeois synthesis of virtue and loyalty has been fully perfected - the only stereotypes available for those who rebel against the family order, the work ethic, the class system, or any other social institutions are the deformed character-types of schizophrenic, mixed-up adolescent, drop-out, layabout, misfit, vandal, thug, delinquent, criminal militant, anarchist, and so on - all of them (poor things) 'immature' 'unbalanced', 'disturbed', people, i.e., defective as individuals. Hence the much-vaunted philanthropy of psychiatry, which treats all transgressions against society as products of 'sick minds', is on a par with psychological approaches to delinquency and crime: though it appears to be on the side of the deviant, it adopts this pose chiefly in order to eliminate the social significance of his actions.
The next stage in the exposition of Foucault's historical interpretation of psychiatry is the demonstration that if, and only if, we return the work of Pinel and Tuke to the context of their age's experience of madness, it becomes not the opening of a new humanitarian era but the logical working out of the classical perspective. Having recognized that madness required different forms of correction from idleness, the age now 'saw' (in Tuke and Pinel) that the madman had to be treated as a kind of infant, since his folly proceeded from weakness of character. Thus, Tuke founded The Retreat on the model of the family: a family in which psychological coercion replaced physical restraint, whose children were constantly watched over, reprimanded and blackmailed into submission by the threat of withdrawing love.
There were social occasions in the English manner, where everyone was obliged to imitate all the formal requirements of social existence; nothing else circulated except the observation that would spy out any incongruity, any disorder, any awkwardness where madness might betray itself. The directors and staff of The Retreat thus regularly invited several patients to 'tea-parties'; the guests 'dress in their best clothes, and vie with each other in politeness and propriety. The best fare is provided, and the visitors are treated with all the attention of strangers. [My italics] The evening generally passes with the greatest harmony and enjoyment. It rarely happens that any unpleasant circumstance occurs; the patients control, to a wonderful degree, their different propensities; and the scene is at once curious and affectingly gratifying' (Foucault, 1967, p. 249).
Although the madman is thus given an identity and a part to play, we recognize in this part the archetype of psychiatry's concept of the patient - the identity of a non-person: 'The city of reason welcomes him only with this qualification, and at the price of this surrender to anonymity' (Foucault, 1967, p. 250).
Foucault evidently regards this account of the work of Tuke and Pinel as so paradigmatic for the next century-and-a-half of psychiatry that he is content to end his history there. 'What we call psychiatric practice,' he writes, 'is a certain moral tactic contemporary with the end of the eighteenth century, preserved in the rites of asylum life, and overlaid by the myths of positivism.' The 'rites of asylum life' to which Foucault here refers have been no where more amply documented, for our own age, than by Goffman (1962). The process of 'mortification', i.e., reducing the inmate to the status of non-person, is seen by Goffman as a common property of many total institutions (concentration camps, prisons, nunneries, workhouses): it involves reflecting back to the individual a view in which he has no status or autonomy and in which his actions do not make sense - unless, that is, he accepts the forms of status and significance the institution has reserved for him. Scheff (1963) was essentially documenting the ways in which the same process occurs outside the psychiatric hospital - indeed, in the social consciousness of the individual himself: he points out that children acquire a remarkably complete concept of what it is to be mad, crazy, nuts, etc., in the first few years of life.
'The myths of positivism' also referred to are the subject of this paper. They involve, firstly, the methodologically reinforced conviction that whatever the patient does is a reflection of malignant process, and secondly, the normative component of this reification, the corollary that what is 'diseased' must be 'cured'. Szasz (1961) was among the first to point out the questions begged by descriptions in terms of 'symptoms': the moment a piece of behaviour or experience is described as a symptom it becomes by definition process and not praxis. This is because a symptom is fixed, and not permitted to vary according to the context in the way required of purposive or communicative behaviour: to the extent that it is correlated with an internal, antecedent 'illness', it cannot have 'directive correlation' (Sommerhof, 1951) with an external, subsequent 'end' (The possibility has seldom been explored that it might be partly correlated with both.) Furthermore, as we have noted, psychiatry becomes methodologically blind to praxis by dispensing with the concepts and the information necessary to identify the meaning in its context (Laing, 1960). Laing and Esterson (1964) set out to show how 'psychotic' behaviour could be regarded as intelligible once these were restored: the paradigm of observational and descriptive techniques they set out is perhaps a more fundamental challenge to psychiatric orthodoxy than the particular interpretations they suggest, for though the interpretations may be overtaken the data remain.
The other positivist myth, in which social ideals are metamorphosed into biological concepts of 'health', 'balance', etc., does rather more than 'overlay' the moral tactic Foucault speaks of: with its introduction the moral or political dimension in psychiatry goes underground, and is not seen again for a hundred and fifty years. Thus, there is a qualitative difference between Tuke's interpretation of madness as individual perversity, and its reification into malignant process, symbolized in the fact that Tuke's goal was overtly religious - the restoration of virtue - whereas that of modern psychiatry is overtly medical - the restoration of health. Both goals are, on the present view political ones, but the medical disguise is even more invulnerable than the religious one - for who can condone the perpetuation of illness?
One might expect that the discipline called 'social psychiatry' might concern itself with some of the phenomena Foucault speaks of: instead, by failing to stand back from its parent culture, it simply becomes another of these phenomena. This is because (to borrow again from Goldmann) it achieves not a synthesis of sociology and psychiatry, but merely a sum - a result of the fragmented, hierarchical view of the sciences according to which statements about individual behaviour are logically independent of, and therefore academically isolated from, statements about its social context.
In this section we attempted to describe the ways in which psychiatry itself, from the moment that 'illnesses' are defined, can be seen as a sociological phenomenon: any research which tries to discover the sociology of 'mental illness' by starting from data collected and described according to psychiatric methodology can never in all eternity discover the sort of realities Foucault and Laing describe. Likewise the modern psychiatrist's willingness to accept 'multiple causation' (Hays, 1964) is empty talk as long as it fails to comprehend that the sociological interpretation calls into question the very nature of what is being 'caused'. Most attempts at 'social psychiatry', in fact, take the psychiatric data for granted, and merely correlate them with environmental variables like social class, 'stress' or family processes defined in the most simplistic terms. Brown (Brown and Rutter, 1966) seems to consider the differing perceptions of family situations by differing members of the family at different times merely as a kind of 'noise', or experimental error introduced between him and 'what is really going on': committed, for 'scientific' reasons, to a methodology belonging to the study of inert, physico-chemical realities, he is unable to see that these modulations of perspective are what is really going on in the family. By this criterion of 'reliability', the patient's own perspective of his family is totally useless, hence not even worth collecting: after all, it is a psychiatric datum that he has 'lost contact with reality'.
We might turn to the social psychologist for an analysis of abnormal behaviour which could reveal any praxis within it: but turning to Argyle, we find that, since the psychiatric data are accepted at their face value, the only problem for the social psychologist is to find a cure.
In appearance schizophrenics look odd and untidy, and they do not wear their clothes well. Their mood is flat and apathetic, their speech rambling and incoherent, while some are mute. Their movements are jerky and uncoordinated, and include gestures and postures which may symbolise various private fantasies... They simply cannot communicate properly, or take part in ordinary social encounters (1967, p.134) [My italics.]
Schizophrenics 'fail to communicate' in much the same sense, for Argyle, as unruly children 'fail to behave'- that is, they fail to communicate the right things. (Alternatively, this failure is like 'loss of contact .with reality' - 'reality' always being as defined by the psychiatrist.) One also wonders what 'ordinary social encounters' Argyle imagines to be open to a diagnosed schizophrenic. Thus, Argyle will come to the aid of the schizophrenic and teach him to 'communicate' but his price is the same one Tuke demanded - the patient has to accept that, as a madman, he must remain ' the perfect stranger'.
The simple fault in all such work is the failure to recognize that psychiatric diagnosis and psychiatric classification is an act of social praxis: this failure ensures a complicity between the social psychiatrist and the agents of this praxis, so that the former never disentangles himself from his own ideological framework. The titles alone of much contemporary work (The Burden on the Community,
Hill, 1962, Prevention of Disordered Behaviour, Weinberg, 1968) betray this complicity.
If we are going to try and interpret the whole edifice of modern psychiatry, with all these attendant myths and rituals, in political terms, it is quite clear that a very sophisticated concept of 'politics' is required. Specifically, phrases like 'the politics of psychiatry' will only become fully credible when we understand the subtle complicity that obtains between concepts of personal integrity and political stability. Such phrases do not refer to the certification of individuals for their 'political views'; Tarsis (1966) is right to say that this is not the way Western psychiatry works, but quite misses the point that the very issues of personal stability, adjustment, maturity, balance, integration, etc., which do concern Western psychiatry are themselves subtly metamorphosed political issues.
Scheff (1966) presents a subtle variation on this theme, in introducing the idea that once a person becomes labelled as 'mentally ill', he is type cast in a role which gradually becomes indistinguishable from his 'real' self. Scheff describes the type of transgression that invokes this categorization as 'residual deviance', i.e., violation of unwritten and personal norms by behaviour which is bafflingly odd, eccentric, peculiar or irrational. However, this terminology (borrowed from Lemert, 1951) may be obscuring rather than clarifying the social meaning of madness: it begs the question of whether 'residual deviance' really is made up of personal foibles, or whether it is social praxis artfully misrepresented by psychiatry as personal foibles, or social praxis on to which personal foibles have been grafted through the rebel's acceptance of a stereotyped role in which they are integral parts of the 'rebellious' character. (To the bourgeois mentality, the rebel is in every sense an 'impossible person'.) Scheff's analysis, which does not itself penetrate very far along the political dimension, is valuable because it makes available this last interpretation of deviance: it suggests that a person who sets out simply to challenge social or familial norms may himself fall into accepting a stereotype in which such rebellion is inextricably allied with personal degeneracy - thus unwittingly providing another confirmation of the stereotype. Thus, the rebellious student today is regarded as a bourgeois who has not grown up, not as a person with different ideals; for this reason public attention focuses on his violation of the sacred bourgeois canons of personal maturity - regular washing, neat appearance, civil deportment and methodical organization of work, entertainment, sex and sleep: and those who cannot resist the stereotype offered do indeed begin to act and think in terms of these issues alone. In this context, perhaps the most instructive example of residual deviance is bad spelling the conventional response (cf. Ricks, 1969) is to interpret misspelling in student writing as proof that either the students have never read the words in print, or that they lack the mental capacity to remember how they are spelt - whereas for the most part this indifference reflects an attitude (originally spread by the underground press) that spelling too well is as suspicious as washing too often.
This example shows that in some types of residual deviance, a subtle dialectic may arise between praxis and process, making it exceedingly difficult to reach a true interpretation: thus, the 'sick mind' role which Scheff postulates may be a form of praxis which actually disguises itself, ironically, as process - rather as bad spelling does in our example. This possibility is important because it cannot be guaranteed in advance that all psychotic behaviour will turn out to be meaningful, if we only apply Laing's approach sufficiently thoroughly: and one may not wish to ascribe the residue of apparently impenetrable obscurity to 'scrambling' in the input-output mechanisms. The problem of formulating a criterion for 'meaningfulness' is a very vexed one; this becomes obvious in the context of art, for whether a person regards Joyce, Jackson Pollock or Cage as nonsense seems to reduce ultimately to the question of whether he accepts or rejects the realm of experience being offered - which is a kind of political choice. Thus, it may be impossible ever to prove or disprove objectively that madness does or does not 'make sense'. It is seldom appreciated how little the question of causation has to do with this issue: though we might understand Mozart's productivity by examining his frontal lobes, we would get no nearer to his music in this way; and the answer to whether Finnegan's Wake is meaningful or not certainly does not lie in James Joyce's urine. But if any meaninglessness remains in madness, we must consider not just the hypothesis that it is due to faulty mechanisms, or that it is part of a role (Scheff), but the possibility that it is that phenomenon whose spectacle, Foucault claims, our civilization cannot tolerate: namely a realm of praxis that defies rationality and completely cuts off its agent from the human world of mutuality and communication. To Foucault, the madness of Nietzsche, Van Gogh and Artaud is the point at which their art finally breaks down, for 'where there is a work of art, there is no madness': there is a fundamental incompatibility between this remark and the view that tries to find intelligible praxis in all psychosis. Perhaps all that has been discovered in the last ten years is how inaccessible anything like the realities of 'mental illness' must remain from inside our present conceptual universe.
The uses of an ideological critique
The whole of this paper has been an exercise in setting scientific thought in its social-historical-political context; it has attempted to return particular thoughts to the minds in which they occurred, for the purpose of showing how beliefs and values common to the civilization to which the scientist belongs have shaped (and necessarily distorted) his science. One may reasonably ask, however, what difference such a 'meta-scientific' analysis makes at the level of science itself.
In the English intellectual tradition, as we have already noted, the motivation or the context of thoughts is considered an irrelevant issue, since the intention behind a statement does not affect its truth or falsity: one cannot reject a proposition just because one disagrees with the speaker's values (the ad hominem argument). This principle is fundamental to academic life, indeed to rationality itself, since to accept propositions solely on the grounds of their congruence with one's own political beliefs is to eschew reality altogether. Therefore, this approach concludes, to take an interest in the mind in which a proposition occurred is to replace logic by psychology, and to founder in a mire of relativity: so the only true questions the psychologists should ask are, Is the law of effect true? How much of intelligence is innate? Are psychoses endogenously determined? and so on. Although the premises in this argument are undoubtedly correct, the conclusion drawn from them is demonstrably false. These are not the l only questions the psychologist should ask: there are also questions that should be asked about these questions, to seek out the assumptions and l biases embodied in the underlying concepts and techniques: and this methodological study, as I have tried to show, must be informed by an understanding of the scientist's framework of beliefs and values, which, at this level, is synonymous with his ideology. In other words, a genuinely objective science of man must always become aware of its own ideology if it is to take any action against the biases that ideology imposes.
Nothing like objectivity will ever be reached without a recognition of one's own subjectivity. In saying this, however, I am not taking sides with those who claim that such a science must be, or can ever be, apolitical. What I am saying is that it must be apolitical in so far as it is ever possible to eradicate one's own biases: but in at least two senses, not usually recognized by those who cultivate the ideal of an academic world divorced from politics, it will remain quite inescapably a political activity.
In the first place, all societies require their members to live in a state of at least partial unconsciousness. As long as it is true that social systems are kept in existence by the suppression or mystification of some aspects of themselves - which, for the logistic reasons we have mentioned, means effectively for ever - the exposure of those aspects will be a political activity. Therefore, that brand of academic reactionaries who would cut back the social sciences because of their 'subversive effects' may not be so mistaken after all: there must come, at a very early stage in the human sciences, an abrupt confrontation between the interests of political stability and those of truth. Consequently, those who have avoided this confrontation can usually be assumed to have done so at the expense of the latter.
Secondly, there is a certain type of political relativity which the human scientist can never escape: even for the purpose of criticizing ideological assumptions, one is forced to adopt (as I have conspicuously done) certain working assumptions about the nature of man - and definitions of human nature are precisely what ideologies are made of. Hence, my own political commitment resides in the belief that human beings might, to an important extent, display the properties of minds - have experiences, intentions, thoughts, imagination, creativity, autonomy and so on: and someone with different politics might feel perfectly justified in abandoning this kind of talk altogether. What makes the issue uncontestable is the self-fulfilling nature of human self-concepts: just as the Freudian analysis creates a Freudian patient, so the mechanistic psychologist can not only live his own theories, but also devise a system in which others live them too. Therein lie the positive dangers of allowing him too much of a hand in society's construction.
1. This article is an abridged and revised version of one which originally appeared in the Human Context, vol. 2 no. 2, July 1970, in English and in French.
2. The terms 'ideological and 'political' critique are used throughout this paper, although 'cultural analysis' is perhaps a more familiar label for the activity referred to. None of these adjectives are satisfactory, but 'cultural' is least so, for the same reason that 'cultural revolution' is a somewhat bizarre rendering of the original Maoist concept.
ANDERSON, P. (1969), 'Components of the national culture', in A. Cockburn, and R. Blackburn (eds.), Student Power, Penguin.
ARGYLE, M. (1967), The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour, Penguin.
BLACKBURN, R. (1969), 'A brief guide to bourgeois ideology', in A. Cockburn and R. Blackburn (eds.), Student Power, Penguin.
BROADBENT, D. E. (1958), Perception and Communication, Pergamon.
BROADBENT, D. E. (1961), 'Human perception and animal learning', in W. H. Thorpe and 0. L. Zangwill (eds.), Current Problems in Animal Behaviour, Cambridge University Press.
BROWN, G. W., and RUTTER, M. (1966), 'The measurement of family activities and relationship: a methodological study', Human Relations, vol. 19, p. 241.
CHOMSKY, N. (1957), Syntactic Structures, Mouton.
CHOMSKY, N. (1959), 'Review of Skinner's Verbal Behaviour', Language, vol. 35, pp. 26-58.
CHOMSKY, N. (1968), Language and Mind, Harcourt, Brace & World.
COOPER, D. (1967), Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry, Tavistock.
DEUTSCH, J. A. (1956), 'The inadequacy of the Hullian derivations of reasoning and latent learning, Psychological Review, vol. 63, pp. 389-99.
FOOT, P. (1968), The Politics of Harold Wilson, Penguin.
FOUCAULT, M. (1967), Madness and Civilization, trans. R. Howard, Tavistock.
GALANTER, E., and MILLER, G. A. (1960), Some comments on stochastic models and psychological theories', in K. J. Arrow, S. Kovin and P. Suppes (eds.), Proceedings of the First Stanford Symposium on Mathematical Methods in Social Sciences, Stanford University Press.
GOFFMAN, E. (1959), The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Penguin.
GOFFMAN, E. (1962), Asylums, Penguin.
GOLDMANN, L. (1969), The Human Sciences and Philosophy, trans. H. V. White and R. Anchor, Cape.
GURWITSCH, A. (1966), Studies in Phenomenology and Psychology, Northwestern University Press.
HAYS, P. (1964), New Horizons in Psychiatry, Penguin.
HEBB, D. O. (1949), The Organization of Behaviour, Wiley.
HENRY, J. (1966), Culture Against Man, Tavistock.
HINDE, R. A. (1966), Animal Behaviour, McGraw-Hill.
HILL, D. (1962), The Burden on the Community, Oxford University Press.
HULL, C. L. (1935), 'The mechanism of the assembly of behaviour segments in novel combinations suitable for problem solutions', Psychological Review, vol. 42, pp. 1 -45.
HULL, C. L. (1952), A Behaviour System, Yale University Press
KUHN, T. (1962), The Structure of Scientific Revolution, Chicago University Press.
LAING, R. D. (1960), The Divided Self, Tavistock; Penguin.
LAING, R. D., and COOPER, D. (1964), Reason and Violence: A Decade of Sartre's Philosophy 1950-1960, Tavistock.
LAING, R. D., and ESTERSON, A. (1964), Families of Schizophrenics, Tavistock.
LEMERT, E. M. (1951), Social Pathology, McGraw-Hill.
MERLEAU-PONTY, M. (1962), The Phenomenology of Perception. trans. Colin Smith, Routledge & Kegan Paul.
MERLEAU-PONTY, M. (1965), The Structure of Behaviour, trans. A. L. Fisher, Methuen.
MILLER, G. A., GALANTER, E., and PRIBRAM, K. (1960), Plans and the Structure of Behaviour, Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
MOORE, G. E. (1903), Principia Ethica, Cambridge University Press.
RICKS, C. (1969), 'Student thought', Listener, no. 81, p. 2085.
ROSENTHAL, R, and JACOBSON, L. (1968)., Pygmalion in the Classroom, Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
RYLE, G. (1949), The Concept of Mind, Hutchinson- Penguin.
SARTRE, J. P. (1967), Preface to F. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
SCHEFF, T. (1963), 'The role of the mentally ill and the dynamics of mental disorder: a research framework', Sociometry, vol. 26, pp. 436-53.
SCHEFF, T. (1966), Being Mentally Ill, Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
SKINNER, B. F. (1938), The Behaviour of Organisms, Appleton-Century-Crofts
SKINNER, B. F. (1959), Cumulative Record, Methuen.
SOMMERHOF, G. (1951), Analytical Biology, Oxford University Press.
SUTHERLAND, N. S. (1964), 'Visual discrimination in animals', British Medical Bulletin, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 54-9.
SZASZ, T. S. (1961), The Myth of Mental Illness, Harper & Row.
TARSIS, V. (1966), Ward 7, Collins.
TREISMAN, M. (1960), 'Stimulus-response theory and expectancy', British J. of Psychol., vol. 51, p. 49.
WATSON, A. J. (1961), 'The place of reinforcement in the explanation of behaviour' in W. H. Thorpe and O. L. Zangwill (eds.), Current Problems in Animal Behaviour, Cambridge University Press.
WEINBERG, S. K. (1968), The Sociology of Mental Disorders, Pt VIII, Staples Press.
Reprinted from Pateman, Trevor, ed., Counter Course: A Handbook for Course Criticism. Harmondsworth: Penguin Education, 1972, pp. 51-81.
The Human Nature Review © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM