In this piece for rs21, Kate Bradley writes about the depression she has experienced as a result of capitalism and societal oppression, and the way the public mental health system can serve as a form of social control.
“Insofar as it’s part of the socially-reproductive remit of the state, public healthcare has a stake in making populations efficient and healthy workers. This can seem fairly value-neutral in the case of many physical ailments: it is in my interest as much as my employer’s that I fix my broken leg, for instance. However, it can take on a more sinister edge in relation to mental health. What is defined as ‘healthy’ is so often based in value-laden conceptions of ‘happiness’ and ‘effectiveness’, and being told you’re ‘ill’ because you’re not functioning well enough as a worker has an obvious political motive. My depression is at least partly a reflection of the rubbish quality of my life as a working-class woman under capitalism, so attempts to numb me with pills and talking therapies are, in practice, ways to make life tolerable in material circumstances that are making me deeply unhappy. Mental health treatment can be a form of biopolitical control, keeping workers functional.”