Journal article Open Access

Interview with Bruce Cohen, author of 'Psychiatric Hegemony: A Marxist Theory of Mental Illness'

Relojo, Dennis


Bruce Cohen of the University of Auckland offers a comprehensive Marxist critique of the business of mental health, demonstrating how the prerogatives of neoliberal capitalism for productive, self-governing citizens have allowed the discourse on mental illness to expand beyond the psychiatric institution into many previously untouched areas of public and private life including the home, school and the workplace.


Through historical and contemporary analysis of psy-professional knowledge-claims and practices, Cohen shows how the extension of psychiatric authority can only be fully comprehended through the systematic theorising of power relations within capitalist society. From schizophrenia and hysteria to ADHD and borderline personality disorder, from spinning chairs and lobotomies to shock treatment and antidepressants, from the incarceration of working class women in the 19th century to the torture of prisoners of the ‘war on terror’ in the 21st, Psychiatric Hegemony is an uncompromising account of mental health ideology in neoliberal society.


In this interview Cohen addresses some of the aspects of his recent book. He concludes that the psychiatric discourse has become hegemonic, a situation in which ‘we have all become implicated as subjects at risk of mental disorder’.

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