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“Herein are a wealth of ideas to stimulate thought, contribute to a much-needed debate on the left, and clarify the need to refashion our society into a more humane and workable one. A task which is now urgent. ” – Ron Roberts, author, Psychology and Capitalism: The Manipulation of Mind
Introduction: Ron Roberts. Authors: Susan Rosenthal and Patricia Campbell. Illustration: Joe Rosenthal
1.The Myth of Personal Life
2. What’s Wrong with Freud?
3. Mental Illness or Social Sickness?
4. The Madness of War
5. Marxism and Psychology
“Profound, powerful, personal”
Review by Leisa Han
Susan Rosenthal and Patricia Campbell are clear and powerful in their pamphlet, Marxism and Psychology. One of my favorite quotes is
“Marxism and psychoanalysis cannot be integrated, because Marxism serves the working-class while psychoanalysis and its derivatives serve the capitalist class.”
My entire read was filled with a familiar, internal knowing – the analysis and critique are correct. Reading this helped me to feel connected to a broader struggle, and to see forces behind the myth that we live ‘personal’ lives.
This pamphlet took many shattered feelings and experiences I’ve had in the medical, psychiatric, and teaching spheres and braided them together into a brilliant root cause analysis of modern capitalism and its instrumental use of the psychiatric industry. It illuminates the difficulties we face in seeing ourselves as the collective that we are and in understanding our oppression and abuses as shared.
In “The Myth of Personal Life,” Rosenthal poignantly demystifies this constructed social binary forced on us about our individuality and personal choices,
“In reality, there is only one sphere, capitalism, that we experience socially and individually—one sphere with one solution. The liberal emphasis on personal choice hides the impact of capitalism as a social system and deflects workers from our common class interest.”
I read this to discover the many ways this is happening in my own life. Now I can see it everywhere.
Patricia Campbell shares stories that expose the destructive illusions perpetuated (funded and enforced) around social supports for those traumatized by war. She concludes,
“People who have been traumatized by war need more than drugs; they need complex interventions.”
Blaming the victim and ‘treating’ the person while neglecting the reality that the situation is the sickness—the abuse and emotional devastation of war—only works to favor the capitalist class by keeping people separated through shame and alienation.
Campbell brings to light something of great importance,
“There is no funding for socially supportive therapies, especially not for therapies that politicize what the system prefers to treat as individual problems.”
If we only address our emotional trauma in isolation, we fail to understand that our oppressions and the violence waged against us are all interconnected. She tells us,
“Patients cannot develop a therapeutic relationship with those who only treat their symptoms and disregard the source of their wounds. Rather than subject themselves to that humiliation, they prefer to self-medicate.”
If the ‘problem’ of trauma is distributed in little bits in the rooms of individual households, then capitalism, and its wildly damaging impact, is served. Shame and illness become the norm.
I would recommend this pamphlet to every person I love and care for. I would recommend this pamphlet to every nurse and teacher I know and to every parent I know. This question, posed by Susan Rosenthal, leaves us with a challenge to better understand the deeply embedded workings of such an ill system,
“In the normal course of its functioning, capitalism deprives, injures, sickens and kills millions of people. What prevents them from rising up to end this oppressive social arrangement?”
Knowing the answer to this only makes us stronger.
Profound, powerful, personal, and readable in one day! We have a responsibility to one another to read this pamphlet.
Comment – Colleen Fuller
This is terrific! I was involved in a two-year “listening exercise” in east Vancouver (BC) for a community health centre. We asked each person in circles of between 7 and 12 people what changes would have the best impact for them, their families, their communities. At first a number of people would say “mental health services”, but – because I hear Pharma in that phrase – I asked them to be more specific: social workers? Shrinks? Drugs? This shifted the conversation immediately to the stressors in their lives: poverty, poor and overcrowded housing, lack of public transit/child care/job security, etc. The changes that were needed then became obvious. And so was how everything that is screwed up in people’s lives has been pathologized and turned into a chemical imbalance in the brain.