Psychiatry and Capitalism

Of all the parts of the capitalist belief system that have served to justify the system itself, none is more paramount than the concept of individualism.  Eliminated from this perspective are analyses based on class, race, gender, or other socioeconomic factors … individuals are responsible for their own success or failure; activities that create profit benefit society; individual effort – work – is the means through which good character is expressed and success achieved; freedom of choice is manifested and well-being attained by consumption of the appropriate goods or services.

For psychiatrists, disorders are located inside minds and bodies.  Psychiatrists locate problems not in culture, not in the economy, not in the social system and not in work but inside individuals. Problems of all sorts are defined as personal and individual since they are felt, experienced, and expressed individually. These points, then, constitute a major part of the psychiatric belief system: pathology and problems are located solely within the individual; symptoms have medical but not moral or other kinds of significance; and work is not only essential to human happiness but is also a criterion of mental health.

Capitalist and psychiatric beliefs show correspondence.  Capitalism maintains that both success and failure are dependent on individual effort.  Psychiatry places mental illness squarely within the individual and looks for the solution there.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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