You can read & download the new edition of the excellent Occupied Times here. OT23 features articles by a host of people including McKenzie Walk. This issue features on networks of technology and the management of populations, and includes- on page 6- an article I wrote on the problem of democratisation in psychiatry.
Happiness is a kind of madness
Look around you. Examine the world you live in. Give it a cursory glance. How could you not conclude that happiness is a delusional state? In the abstract to a 1992 paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, experimental psychologist Richard P Bentall put this idea on the table for real:
It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains–that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant .
As Bentall explains in his Madness explained: psychosis and human nature, he intended to suggest that happiness was a psychiatric illness as a satire on the medical model that was, and continues to be, the dominant paradigm through which psychiatric practice is concieved, planned and organised. While Bentall intended this as a cutting spoof, a few media outlets and psychiatric journals took him at his word and cited it as evidence of the madness of psychiatry in its pursuit of relentless pathologisation, or painting scientific research as so completely detached from everyday life, so totally “ceased living in things”, as to be absurd. One newspaper even running the headline “Top Doc Talks Through Hat”. Bentall even uses his mocking article to bring the question of happiness into contact with political economic terms, coolly reporting that
Interestingly, despite all the uncertainty about the epidemiology of happiness, there is some evidence that it is unevenly distributed amongst the social classes…
Bentall’s cutting paper uses humour as a weapon to slash the pretentious throat of biological psychiatry’s classificatory system, a fetish that I’m sure has also been sardonically cited as evidence of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Still, this piece isn’t primarily about psychiatry or taxonomic reductionism; this is part intended as a response to a post by anthropologist and synthentic_zer0 fellow traveller, Jeremy Trombley. In a post titled “Happiness and Struggle“, Jeremy raises some questions on the subject of the relations between happiness and struggle, hedonism and eudaimonia, before finally connecting happiness and “healthiness”. In what follows, I want to add to what Jeremy has written, and to examine some of what lurks beneath and beyond these questions.