Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Mental illness, Sociology of knowledge, Antipsychiatry



Physical Description

1 online resource, digitized manuscript.


Over the past two decades an increasing number of theorists and practitioners have called for a thorough rethinking of the underlying assumptions of the concept of rrental illness and the traditional psychiatric nodes of responding to mental disorders. The work of this group of writers has come to be referred to as the "antipsychiatry" literature. The insights of this perspective center largely about a rejection of those theories and methods of treatment that are based upon the medical model. Many writers point to the use of traditional psychiatric practice as an oppressive instrument of social control. While much of this perspective is directed toward the analysis of specifically sociological factors there have been few attempts by sociologists to provide focus for the claims that have been made.

This paper proposes a synthetic sociological framework with the intention of providing sociological focus for the otherwise disparate insights found within this literature. A general model is constructed by incorporating aspects of the labeling perspective, the sociology of knowledge, and Marxian analysis. The model provides the analytical tools for investigation of the manner in which "mental illness" as a concept, and the phenemenon which it allegedly describes, are rooted in the nature of everyday life.

The framework that is developed places particular emphasis upon the political dimensions . of everyday life. This dimension is especially useful in explicating the role of labeling as a device to discredit the claims of .people as they attempt to identify the oppressive aspects of .their social environment. The nature .of socialization within Western culture is analyzed in terms of the various factors which are instrumental in the mystification of consciousness and its relationship to "mental illness."

The observation is made that the majority of the claims that are proffered by the "antipsychiatrists" are devoid of a firm empirical foundation in that they rely primarily upon findings from case studies and a series of loose inferences. An attempt is made to overcome this problem by mapping out the empirical points of departure for the model by developing a set of testable propositions and corollaries.

It is concluded that a radical sociology of knowledge framework does provide a useful method of conceptualizing the "antipsychiatry" literature from a sociological perspective. The validity of the claims themselves, however, must wait until much more of the empirical evidence is in. It is pointed out that extreme caution be taken to avoid contentions to the effect that all mental disorders can be fruitfully

Suggestions are made as to the likelihood that some diagnostic categories, more than others, may be subject to analysis by this model. It is implied that further research into the role of biopsychological factors will undoubtedly show the interactive effects of such factors with defective socialization and oppressive social relationships.


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