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Politics of Experience Paperback – August 12, 1983

ISBN-13: 978-0394714752 ISBN-10: 039471475X

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Stunning . . . I am overpowered by the challenges he dares to make to what has become a rather conventional profession. I can only hope that he will be heard, and heard respectfully."
—Robert Coles, The New Republic

From the Inside Flap

Laing attacks accepted assumptions about the nature of "normality" with a challenging view of the mental sickness built into our society.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (August 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039471475X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394714752
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.4 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Laing was much more than a scientist.
William Starr Moake
This is one of the best books I have ever read, and has influenced my thought more than almost any other.
Derrick Jensen
If he were alive today, he'd undoubtedly be even more appalled by what passes for civilization.
William Timothy Lukeman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By William Starr Moake on March 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the most profound book I ever read. Laing defines mental illness as an ontological crisis with the potential to be a spiritual breakthrough. He decries psychiatry for perversely thwarting this potential with various forms of torture (incarceration, drugs, electroshock, etc.) As to normality, Laing argues it is the product of a pathological "us and them" mentality underlying personal identity and group dynamics.
To be well-adjusted to our modern dysfunctional society is not healthy for the individual or society. Who is more dangerous? Laing asks: the psychotic who mistakenly believes he carries a hydrogen bomb in his stomach or the perfectly adjusted B-52 bomber pilot who will drop very real hydrogen bombs when ordered to do so?
The chapter titled "The Bird of Paradise" is hypnotically poignant in exploring the inner world of thoughts and emotions. Laing was much more than a scientist. He was a visionary who shed light on the dark role of pscyhiatrists as voodoo-like priests and purveyors of social engineering.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Derrick Jensen on May 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I have ever read, and has influenced my thought more than almost any other. He lays bare the presumptions that are guiding our culture to destroy the planet, with beautiful writing that is clear when it needs to be and obscure when that best serves. A truly remarkable book. My own perception of the ending was different than one other reviewer who thought it was the weakest point of the book: for me it was the strongest. I read it lying on the grass in the middle of a public park so crowded people were stepping over the top of me, yet I was so moved I could not stop crying. Amazing book.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Makula Aulanchis on October 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an important book in which Laing pioneers a new view of "madness" and "insanity". According to L., a sensitive person, pushed by an unhealthy environment, escapes into another reality so as not to deal with the disconnectedness and horror of the consensual reality. As a consequence, he/she is promptly classified as being "mad" by the orthodox psychiatry and its practitioners, ever so scared of losing the monopoly on sanity. During reading of the book, I sometimes had to ask myself who was really mad: the cold, anal and unfeeling parents or their sensitive schizophrenic son, whose ramblings when decoded make much more sense to me than their parents' eerie "normality". Another question that kept cropping up was whether our shrinks, "regular people" who are usually themselves disconnected from their emotional and spiritual foundations, are the right people to guide the sick into other realities and back again? Laing makes a good case that methods used for training and practicing of psychiatry need serious re-evaluation. This is as true now as it was in the 60-ies.
Many ancient cultures value and even encourage temporary forays into "insanity" when the initiate goes to ask the gods about the meaning of life. We have lost these initiation experiences and when they occur spontaneously in the most sensitive members of our society, as they are wont to, the psychiatrists classify these people as insane, drug them heavily and, if they encounter resistance to their authority, lock them up. The loss, sadly, is all ours. As Laing says: "our sanity is not *true* sanity. their madness is not *true* madness. ...The madness that we encounter in "patients" is a gross travesty, a mockery, a grotesque caricature of what the natural healing of that estranged integration we call sanity might be.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Smith on July 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Politics of Experience was introduced to me by Derrick Jensen. I can't thank him enough for exposing me to this extremely important book. R.D. Laing questions the sanity of the human race by writing, "The Germans reared children to regard it as their duty to exterminate the Jews, adore their leader, kill and die for the Fatherland. The majority of my own generation did not or do not regard it as stark raving mad to feel it better to be dead than Red. None of us, I take it, has lost too many hours' sleep over the threat of imminent annihilation of the human race and our own responsibility of this state of affairs."

He goes on the say that in the last 50 years (this was written in the 60's) humans have slaughtered by our own hands one hundred million of our species. Laing argues that the human race is out of touch with the "inner". He writes, "As adults, we have forgotten most of our childhood, not only its contents but its flavor; as men of the world, we hardly know of the existence of the inner world: we barely remember our dreams, and make little sense of them when we do; as for our bodies, we retain just sufficient proprioceptive sensations to coordinate our movements and to ensure the minimal requirements for biosocial survival-to register fatigue, signals for food, sex, defecation, sleep; beyond that, little or nothing." We, as parents, go on to effectively destroy our children using violence disguised as love. "Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I.Q.'s if possible. From the moment of birth, when the Stone Age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father, and their parents and their parents before them, have been.
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