Capitalism, Socialism, and Mental Illness


I've been a bit out of commission today so haven't had a chance to write much. A longer post will have to wait until Thursday. But I don't want to leave you emptyhanded. Here is a piece I enjoyed very much called "Capitalism, Socialism, and Mental Illness" by Dana L. Cloud that I'd like to share with you all. 

The Cloud lecture provides excellent background information and history, which I am largely ignorant of, about the history of capitalism and its effects on the human psyche. (I've tried to dive into the subject but knowledge was lacking a bit). Here is one tidbit I particularly enjoyed: 

"Although the ideas surrounding of mental illness are socially constructed, it is the case that capitalism makes us literally sick with diseases caused by environmental toxins, the stress of overwork, difficulties in supporting a family, hunger and malnutrition, substance abuse, and so on. Capitalism also makes us sick of it, leading to protest and rebellion. A hallmark of militant social movements is to turn around the definitions of mental illness and describe the system itself as irrational and harmful."

I think the paragraph one of the key ideas I always to impart in my writing: even things we consider "facts" or "reality" are social and cultural constructions. (Check out Lisa Feldman Barrett's How Emotions Are Made") for fascinating a neuroscience discussion on how even emotions considered to be universal are constructions of the society we live in). 

Even the idea of a biological or psychiatric disorder is not created on its own but is a directly influenced by the society in which it comes into being. The most obvious psychiatric disorder that fits this category is anorexia. Anorexia can only exist in the context of the society in which it was given birth. And our society just so happens to be misogynistic, oppressive and capitalist.