Living With Depression Under Capitalism


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.”


  1. “As activists, we also interpret our world in ways that can make us feel worse: identifying and dwelling on the injustice we and others face without being able to change it significantly inevitably takes its psychological toll.”

    hmmm…maybe it’s partially a state of mind…if you want to blame everyone else for your own problems, it just makes you feel worse…I’m not saying our current, virulent capitalism doesn’t have some massive problems of its own especially as it games the system more and more for those already rich, but I think capitalism gives people the hope that they can do better, while it appears socialists just want to blame everyone else that they aren’t doing better…as usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between…

    Report comment