Mental health

Interview: Marxism and Mental Distress

Issue section: 
Author: 

Author Iain Ferguson spoke to Socialist Review about his new book, Politics of the Mind

It feels like there’s an epidemic of depression and anxiety at the moment. It’s being talked about a lot more and is often discussed in terms of people missing work. Why do you think issues around mental health have come to the fore recently?

I think the single most important reason is because of the huge increase in the level of mental distress right across the board that affects, perhaps most obviously, people who are out of work and are pressured by the work capability assessment, and those on benefits who are being pressured into work at any cost.

Marxism and psychology

Issue section: 

Continuing a strand of debate, Canadian socialist Susan Rosenthal argues that we must look to social rather than individual solutions to mental ill health.

Marx and Engels described capital as a relationship and capitalism as a system of relationships. Did they mean that every aspect of our relations with ourselves, others, and society is shaped by capitalism, so that a socialist revolution would transform all of these relationships? Or were they being too general? Are some aspects of human experience unaffected by society, so that we need something other than Marxism to understand them and something more than socialism to transform them? This is the core of the conflict between Marxism and psychology.

Mind the trap of biological determinism

Issue section: 

John Parrington’s article (Nature, nurture: mind the trap, October SR) ignores the racist use of genetic research and reduces the social problem of mental illness to the micro-level where it cannot be solved.

The human brain is not a super-computer, as Parrington claims, but a super-connector that enables collective problem-solving. Blocking our ability to solve problems is a capitalist system that celebrates individualism and promotes biological solutions. Parrington falls into this reactionary trap.

A charter for social justice not for profit

Issue section: 

It has been encouraging to follow in Socialist Review the correspondence about how we, as Marxists, understand mental health and respond to the controversies around the relevance of Freudian, and other, ideas.

These have also been aired at the debates at the Marxism Festival where users of services and a range of practitioners have engaged with the theories but also reminded us of the immediate and urgent impact of austerity and growing inequalities on the mental well-being of both individuals and the wider society.

Solutions are social

Issue section: 

John Parrington’s article ignores the racist use of genetic research and reduces the social problem of mental illness to the micro-level where it cannot be solved.

The human brain is not a super-computer, as Parrington claims, but a super-connector that enables collective problem-solving. Blocking our ability to solve problems is a capitalist system that celebrates individualism and promotes biological solutions. Parrington falls into this reactionary trap.

Don't deny reality of mental illness

Issue section: 
Author: 

Lucretia Packham’s letter (October SR) replying to my article on Freud contains some rather obscure statements.

She agrees with me that it’s important to differentiate the baby from the bathwater in Freud’s work and claims that my attempt to do this is unsuccessful. But she does not offer her own view of the baby/bathwater separation in Freud.

My argument about the German and Russian revolutions was simply that psychoanalysis has a contribution to make in helping us to understand those events. I would never claim that psychoanalysis on its own can deal with this issue.

From the darkness on all sides

Issue section: 
Author: 

War trauma has been suffered by soldiers for centuries, but it took on a whole new scale during the industrialised slaughter of the First World War. Roddy Slorach exposes the callous treatment of sufferers at the hands of their "superiors".

The Great War represented industrial warfare on a previously unimaginable scale. When the fighting finally ended, 20 million soldiers and civilians were dead. More than half of the 3 million British troops who fought were deafened, blinded, lost limbs or were badly disfigured. It was “shell shock”, however, affecting much smaller numbers of troops, which became the signature injury of the war. How did this vague and inaccurate term for war trauma come to achieve such iconic status?

The Last Asylum

Issue section: 
Author: 

In a culture where mental illness still carries much stigma Barbara Taylor’s memoir is an important book about pain and treatment.

Taylor, a biographer of Mary Wollstonecraft, describes her agonising journey of mental collapse. In the 1980s she began psychoanalysis in order to seek help for her anxiety, depression, insomnia and drinking.

She was admitted to Friern mental asylum — the largest asylum in Europe which closed its doors in 1993, a year after Taylor was discharged.

The Selfish Capitalist

Issue section: 
Author: 

Oliver James, Vermilion, Oliver James
£14.99

Gordon Brown's drive to get people off benefits includes establishing a programme aimed at those with chronic depression. They will be given cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for six to 16 weeks, after which they are expected to be job ready. Former New Labour advisor Derek Draper described CBT with characteristic compassion: "It would make people more employable and better parents, thereby increasing productivity, cutting the benefits bill and reducing antisocial behaviour."

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Mental health