Psychiatric Marginalization of Anti-Authoritarians – Excerpt from New Book


For several years, I’ve been thinking about writing Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian―Strategies, Tools, and Models, a book about anti-authoritarians and for them. Authoritarian is routinely defined as “favoring blind submission to authority.” In contrast, anti-authoritarians reject—for themselves and for others—an unquestioning obedience to authority, and they believe in challenging and resisting illegitimate authority.

One early indication that there was an interest in such a book was the large positive reaction to my 2012 article “Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill” (republished on several different websites, titled on some as “Would We Have Drugged Up Einstein?”). I continue to receive many emails from people feeling validated by it, stating that they believe their anti-authoritarianism—or their child’s—has resulted in mental illness diagnoses.

While none of my previous books have been specifically about authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism, in retrospect, I realize that virtually all my publications have been geared for anti-authoritarian readers. In early 2017, the anti-authoritarian AK Press invited me to write a book for them, and I thought that the time was right for Resisting Illegitimate Authority.

Anti-authoritarians are a threat to authoritarians because anti-authoritarians don’t provide unquestioning obedience, but instead first assess the legitimacy of authorities—evaluating their knowledge, competence, honesty, integrity, and concern for those people who are trusting them. And if anti-authoritarians determine an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—whether the authority is their parent, teacher, doctor, or government.

Consequently, authoritarians attempt to marginalize anti-authoritarians, who have been scorned, shunned, financially punished, psychopathologized, criminalized, and assassinated. While U.S. society now honors a few deceased anti-authoritarians, these same figures were often marginalized in their own lifetime (for example, Thomas Paine). Today, anti-authoritarians continue to be under great pressure to comply with the status quo, making their survival difficult. For this reason, I thought it would be helpful to provide anti-authoritarians with strategies, tools, and models they could learn from.

My life work has been “depathologizing” noncompliance and rebellion; helping anti-authoritarians survive within authoritarian schools, workplaces, and other environments; assisting those who love anti-authoritarians to better understand them; and helping anti-authoritarians gain hope that while a wise struggle against illegitimate authorities may or may not be victorious, it can lead to a community of fellow anti-authoritarians.

Anti-authoritarians are a highly diverse group whose members include people from all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual preferences, and personalities; and they exist in all walks of life and come in all kinds of temperaments—some extroverted, some introverted, some funny, some serious, and so on. To illustrate this diversity, in Resisting Illegitimate Authority, I profile several famous anti-authoritarians with a lens focused at illuminating their essential anti-authoritarianism and an emphasis on what can be gleaned from their lives. I discuss anti-authoritarians who I have been drawn to because their lives have provided me with lessons about anti-authoritarian tragedy and triumph.

Part Two of Resisting Illegitimate Authority is called “The Assault on U.S. Anti-Authoritarians,” and it includes chapters on the “Criminalization of Anti-Authoritarians”; “Genocide of an Anti-Authoritarian People: Native Americans”; and “Schooling’s Assault on Young Anti-Authoritarians.” Also in Part Two is the chapter “Psychiatric Assault and Marginalization: Not Just Frances Farmer,” a section of which is attached as a pdf here for Mad in America readers.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


  1. Just the other week I was at the 21st Annual International Conference for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP) conference in Toronto Canada. The keynote speaker there happened to be one Jacob Blum, a whistle-blower on government corruption in a previous Canadian administration. He spoke directly to many of the hardships faced by people who have exposed corruption, in terms of social and institutional malignment, and suggested that doing so almost makes some sort of psychotherapy a necessity for the party who undertakes such actions. I had, prior to this journey, just finished reading your book, and I thought, considering that such disparate ‘anti-authoritarians’ as Ralph Nader and Edward Snowden were covered within its pages, how truly relevant the text becomes to just such an event. Great work, Bruce. I hope your book is able to reach many people.

  2. So Bruce,

    First thanks for your continuing commitment to all this; you are one of the few leftists (to me synonymous with anti-capitalists) who have an understanding of the Orwellian nature of “mental health” or any critique of psychiatry whatsoever. The title of your book immediately grabbed my attention, as the first time I heard a “call to resist illegitimate authority” it was the title of a petition against the Vietnam War signed by Dr. Benjamin Spock and numerous other anti-war luminaries at the time (around 1969).

    Anyway, I’m interested on hearing you expound a little bit more on your take on “anti-authoritarianism,” and “authority,” per se.

    Implied in a call to “resist illegitimate authority” is a concept of legitimate authority. While I have no personal problems distinguishing between the two, many who consider themselves “anti-authoritarian” (or sometimes “anarchist”) oppose any authority whatever, even that which is necessary to enforce the most basic values of civilization. Assuming you have considered the contradictions involved here, how would you differentiate between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” authority?

  3. State does not exists, its law, its culture, empathy and mythic reality = psyche, were destroyed by psychiatry, the same way inquisition destroyed the law. Authoritarians, Bleuler, Kraepelin, partly Jung, destroyed the real image of psyche (phenomenology, mythic reality) and created false empiricism, and now psyche means= brain or the health of the meat. We are seen ONLY as a healthy tissue by pseudo scientists and psychiatry. Animals have got more rights than psychological man.


    Anti authoritarianism = truth, and the truth means nothing for the law, for the psychiatry, for medicine, for polithics, for economy.
    There are many people TODAY who are being killed the same way LORCA was killed. The yesterday murder of Lorca is contemporary death of Luise.


    There is no differences between the murder of the poet and the murder of someone with diagnosis.

    Church is praying for “poor” mentally ill, and never for the victims of the psychiatry.
    Thank you.

  4. Anti authoritarianism is a sign of and/or result of intelligence. I believe they ( T.H.E.Y The Hierarchy Enslaving You ) I believe they are engaged in deliberate dumbing down of the population because of this.

    For example:

    Its a conspiracy theory that’s real tough to point to hard evidence of but its so easy to see it in action. Its a given that if you want to rule over a large group of people you don’t want them to be too smart.

    Its natural for many young people to look for an outlet to rebel, so what have they given them as outlets ? Lots of ways to “resist” such as Hip Hop culture, acting like the people on “Jersey shore” the epicenter of stupid MTV and getting Tattoos.

    This is epic > Tattoos Are For Stupid People

    The dumbing down to combat anti authoritarianism is real.

    • I can’t agree more with your comment here. As an antiauthoritarian child, I took a lot of abuse for my questioning illegitimate authority. When told to respect my elders, I always replied that I’d respect them if they earned it. Many people in charge of my care responded by describing the abuses they’d employ if I were their child in order to bend my will. Talk about being under a constant state of threat. I was also constantly told what a disappointment I was for not living up to my potential. Of course, rather than being put into advanced placement with children my own age, I was skipped three grades, placed with the sixth graders, and then told it was my fault I couldn’t stay because I wasn’t emotionally ready for that environment. So I sat bored AF with the average kids my age. It was basically a perfect storm of abuse at home, gaslighting by authorities, and then shock that my life turned to shit. When I think back on my child therapy, I think now that it was specifically designed to break my will and make me a compliant child, not necessarily a happy one. (And I think this aim is what has led to so many children being targeted for medicating.) So, anyway, my personal experience has always made me think exactly what you’ve posted here. The system is designed to dumb down the populous and make them easy to control. I’ve actually tried very hard to blend in with the crowd, just as a survival attempt at this point, but it makes me miserable.

      • “I’ve actually tried very hard to blend in with the crowd, just as a survival attempt at this point, but it makes me miserable.”

        I have trouble with this too, what happens to me is I get lonely then find myself around moron level people incapable of any conversation besides maybe sex humor, TV sports and using the F word in every sentence … It is miserable cause I am usually not smart enough to remember that the last 100 times I was around those types that trying to start some intelligent conversation is a frustrating waste of time.

        I have a healthy number of friends capable of higher level discussions but I am often surrounded by NPCs (non-playable characters). In video games, this means a character controlled by the computer via predetermined or responsive behavior, in real life these NPC types can’t hold regular conversations but instead they rely on robotic pre programmed MTV dumbdown algorithms to function.

        I am getting better at walking away instead of trying to interact with them.

        • OR they repeat Republican/Democratic talking points they heard broadcasted across the idiot tube on the 24 hour news cycle without ever having to exercise the jello in their cranium.

          Oldhead may think you’re too cynical. I think you’re one of the few with eyes open and “woke” (to borrow from current popular culture) enough to realize we are all screwed.

          • “Woke” is a term we could all do without. But why are you so enamored of cynicism? I’m not decrying cynicism about the system, which should be a given, but people have the capacity to liberate themselves from all this artifice, which is something we should NOT be cynical about; that is equivalent to surrendering in advance.

          • OH, I think hope that flies in the face of evidence is little different from faith, and as an atheist, I don’t peddle in fantasies that make reality easier to swallow.

            For the record, my cynicism is not directly related to psychiatry or social justice issues and has far more to do with global issues such as the ongoing rapid climate collapse that humans are gleefully racing into while raping the planet of every last resource in the search for money and power. And war, which Americans can never get enough of, is the tool used most heavily to leverage that power – both in terms of population control at home (via fear of foreign attack) and global population control (via fear of American attack or sanctions). So, money and military power are basically two sides of the same evil.

            Psychiatry is one way that hope is continually killed, but it’s just one of many ways in which the powerful hold onto power. Hope is what our leaders sell us to keep the populous calm and compliant. It’s a drug, AKA Hopium. And it’s effects are powerful – for the powerful.

            Cynicism would be a much more effective arbiter of change than hope if enough people would take the blinders off long enough to realize the shit show we are all living and participating in. It’s not enough to fight back against psychiatry anymore.

            As they say, hope for the best, expect the worst. You can fill in the rest.

          • There is hope and there is blind faith, and there is a difference. Hope with no material basis is delusion. But there are “scientific” reasons to believe in our capacity for liberation. And psychiatry is of course but one weapon of the system, but it’s presumably the one we’re focusing on here.

            History I think shows that many crises are never solved until the very last minute when there is absolutely no alternative. We need to prepare for such moments and be able to do lots of education in a very short time once that point of critical mass — which will also be the point of no return — arrives. Which means we need to educate, be educated by, and organize within the ranks of those who “get it” until a genuine revolutionary consciousness begins to grow exponentially. This includes “survivors.”

      • “I’ve actually tried very hard to blend in with the crowd….” Sigh. Me too.

        I thought psychiatry would make me normal. It just made me weirder than ever and encouraged my friends and family to shun me.

        Psychiatry helps us in two basic ways. Random acts of violence on our brains (and other vital organs) and isolating or segregating us from the mainstream community.

        Destroying our brains and public shunning. What’s not to like?

    • By the way, whether or not you’re a parent, you’ll find some friends in the “Free Range”, “Wild and Free”, and “Unschooling” communities. These people really get how harmful our modern social structures have become to children’s development and many also reject formal government schooling as well. And you can see how they are targeted by CPS and police for that. But if you talk to those children, most of the time, you will find kids who have been taught how to think, not what to think (reference to Sydney Sugarman). Someone here mentioned Summerhill recently too. I would have done very well in that kind of environment and it’s certainly how I’d have parented if I’d had a real chance at that. I don’t see any chance of most kids having an opportunity at that kind of environment. I also wonder sometimes if the reason average people are so easily controlled is that they are average, and if it’s as you said, the curse of intelligence that breeds the need to question everything – authority first and foremost.

      • It was I. I was the person who mentioned A.S. Neil and Summerhill. I think the Summerhill experiment in the education department bears positive comparison with the Kingsley Hall/Soteria House experiments in the “mental health” department. Madness, if left unattended, has a way of resolving itself in the same way that freedom, natural pursuits, may prove more beneficial at teaching than compulsory learning by rote.

        • Frank, this is the first time in the 24 years since I was pregnant with my eldest child and received that book as a gift that I have ever heard anyone reference it. Thank you. That book and Neil’s philosophy on child development and education had an enormous impact on my parenting for the few short years I had my daughters. I have given it to a number of expecting parents over the years. It could have been a game changer but for the reality that our government does NOT, in fact, want a thinking populous.

  5. Double post what ever

    I am going to get this book. I find the most frustrating part of being an Anti Authoritarian is trying to instill it into people who are not. You can see it in my first post trying to find evidence make a case…

    And I keep thinking about this young woman I met who was new to addiction recovery for opiate dependency who was assaulted with Haldol in a hospital. She kept referring to the Haldol as “booty juice”. I suggested or told her in sort of nice way to stop using that low life looser slang to describe how they assaulted her. You are not a looser low life stop with that.

    Long post short I was unable to instill a fight back attitude or even get her to be open to the idea that psychiatry is a scam. The anti authoritarianism was in her, likely the source of many of her problems but it was so buried in the MTV brand of stupid culture it was un reachable to be directed towards anything useful.

    • So Cat, I’ll ask you the same thing I’ve been posing to the “lefties” (and I mostly agree with you about the “bread & circuses” btw): Are there any rules or laws under the present system you support? And if so, where does one draw the line between “authority” and “authoritarianism”?

      • What difference does it make now? We are done. Biometrics and the big brother police state control grid is growing exponentially. It won’t stop till they cover the earth with it.

        But ya there are rules I support. Some people might say libertarianism and environmentalism are incompatible. Not really cause libertarianism basically says do what ever you want as long as you don’t harm other people but for example that obviously doesn’t include spraying cancer causing Roundup all over the place. I would support using authority to ban that stuff.

        This is authoritarianism : The officials in Bass’ hometown of Oak Park, Mich., have charged her with growing “vegetable garden in front yard space.” Woman Faces Jail Time For Growing Vegetable Garden in Her Own Front Lawn

        When the state will come to your house with deadly sidearms to kidnap and put you in a cage for growing vegetables in your front yard not harming anyone you may be dealing with out of control authoritarianism.

        But again what does it matter now, I don’t see the trend ever reversing.

        “We are now moving to facial-recognition technology, which takes it to a whole new level, where it can see the face of the person in the car and run that technology against databases.

        Game over folks, this beast will not stop. Welcome to the “New World Order” smile at the cameras LOL

          • I’m hesitantly willing to agree with the cat and don’t think it’s too cynical at all. I am not happy at all with the direction this country is taking and I’m appalled at the murders that took place in the past week here in the United States. We are leaderless at this point since neither political party is of much use at this point in time and good ol’ 45 thinks only of himself. Pipe bombs, murdering people in houses of worship, killing people simply because of their race……and there is no one to lead us……It’s time for an antiauthoritarian to step forth to lead us…..

          • It’s time for an antiauthoritarian to step forth to lead us….

            I guess you mean this ironically?

            Anyway, that’s depressing, this “cynicism thing”; I almost feel like I need to be a cheerleader. So here’s all I can say:

            The current state of affairs is not solvable by capitalist political parties, such as the currently ruling Democratic Republican Party (either faction). So much “cynicism” is legitimate, but it has to be about the right things. Because to repeatedly hope that there will be a solution coming from these people becomes a form of self-abuse, i.e. beating one’s head against the wall. (And please no one bring up alleged “definitions of insanity.”)

            I am reminded here of John Lennon’s response to a fanzine question about his own supposed cynicism; he replied to the effect that he was cynical about man-made things, politicians and the like, but not about things like love.

            In the same sense, we should be cynical about lots of stuff that’s put out there, but not about our own capacity to liberate ourselves from the merry-go-round. It’s not so much about what others don’t do, but what we choose to do, and how much we’re willing to risk. If we choose to beat our heads against the wall we shouldn’t be disappointed in the results. This applies to psychiatry as well as capitalism. (Incidentally, looking for leadership from others in the name of security is the first step that opens the door for fascism; Benjamin Franklin knew as much, though he didn’t call it fascism.)

            The seeming chaos swirling around us represents the system crumbling in random ways, unfortunately so far without direction, as people are still in denial. But all this has been predicted by scientific marxists for ages, so there’s no reason to get hysterical when false solutions turn out to be false, again. It’s important to understand what’s going on as the scapegoating will get worse and efforts to sow confusion as to the source of people’s emotional and economic suffering will intensify and become even more sophisticated. It’s the proverbial thrashing tail of the dying dinosaur, and we are all well advised to keep as much distance as possible.

  6. I would also like to be an authority on antiauthoritarianism, maybe even become a bit of an authority figure for antiauthoritarians?

    Actually probably best I stick with the absurdism and the dada.

    Problem with the anarchists is their general lack of regard for other peoples’ stuff. It being a kind of virtuous act of liberation to fuck with other peoples’ stuff, to kinda teach them a fundamental lesson about the illegitimacy of ownership (thankfully rape was broadly discussed and settled as an unacceptable disregard for ownership way back in the 19th C.).

    Bakunin for instance was okay with arson and burglary. You can’t destroy an anarchists property causes it’s all shared and so you’d be destroying your own assets too. So non-anarchists are fair game. Coz they aint sharing.

    This is music to the ears of arsonists and burglars.

    For religious people, there is only one final authority. To the atheist, it’s an unsolved problem, answered with pseudo-talk about the golden rule.

    I think most authority is arbitrary, if you deconstruct it, just a little. Is Simon Cowell an authority on popular music? I think most would say yes, but then would Paul McCartney. And then who knows best between McCartney and Lennon, or both of them and Dylan. It goes on and on.

    The final authority on the absurdism of a human life, any human life, is Samuel Beckett. Although, who’s to say it isn’t Salman Rushdie or De Seus?

    Psychiatry is an authority that people have decided is best suited to these times. They cut through a lot of the crap and put their finger on things that no-one can in actual fact put their finger on.

    It’s a more frightening world without the witchdoctor. And God knows those illegitimate shamans have a lot to answer for…

    • Problem with the anarchists is their general lack of regard for other peoples’ stuff. It being a kind of virtuous act of liberation to fuck with other peoples’ stuff, to kinda teach them a fundamental lesson about the illegitimacy of ownership

      You must know the same ones I do. 🙂 Breaking “bourgeois” windows and uglifying urban neighborhoods with spray paint to protest “gentrification.” Then going back to the suburbs for holidays.

      To be fair, none of these types could quote a page of historical anarchist theory.

    • Yeah, better to stick with nihilism than become a contradiction in terms.

      Problem with the anarchists is not a problem with the anarchists, it’s a problem with popular trends. Remember all the radicals associated with the anti-war and civil rights struggles of former times. There was this magazine way back when called Ramparts, and some of its editors, once the war was over, skipped over to the other side, and became right wing political commentators. There were also Yippees, politicized hippies (Jerry Rubin and Rennie Davis come to mind), who changed camp, jumping from socialist activism to money grubbing corporate lackeyism once a changing of the guard had occurred. This is to be expected. Some people, lacking convictions, are only in it for the short term.

      Once upon a time there was no American Idol, previously, in more revolutionary times, there had been a Battle of the Bands instead. Oh, for the good old days when it was all a matter of a Battle between the Bands. (The Hollywood entertainment industry, if you must know, has become something of a monopoly.)

      It’s not a more frightening world without witch doctors because shrinks–psychiatrists, short for head shrinkers–are the witch doctors for today.

      I don’t know. Who does? I would like to feel that absurdism is going to give way to sense someday.

      • There was this magazine way back when called Ramparts, and some of its editors, once the war was over, skipped over to the other side, and became right wing political commentators. .

        You are speaking specifically of David Horowitz, who is more than a commentator, he is an out and out racist and fascist, who has stated that Blacks should be grateful for slavery. His transformation into an agent for the “dark side” is comparable to E.F. Torrey’s abandoning his insights in The Death of Psychiatry in favor of system “respectability” and power.

        However you can’t disparage a movement because of one or two individuals who go bad. People love to set other people up as super human then trash them when they don’t fulfill such expectations. Don’t know about Rennie Davis, but Jerry Rubin simply became a liberal who favored supporting corporations that had socially conscious policies. Hardly different than many MIA people in that regard, no matter what you think of liberalism. Abbie & Jerry remained friends while traveling the country with their “You Yippie! — You Yuppie!” debates, and Abbie’s ex-wife Anita tore up the poster for such at his memorial in Madison Square Garden (which was organized by Jerry). The last time I saw him speak he answered a question about Jerry & others “selling out” by saying simply, “No one sold out. The movement ate its own.” Something worth taking to heart today.

        • “Three editors, David Horowitz, Sol Stern and Peter Collier, later denounced liberalism and became critics of the left. For a brief time, the magazine’s Washington correspondent was Brit Hume, now working for Fox News.”

          “Rennard Cordon “Rennie” Davis (born May 23, 1941) is a spiritual lecturer and venture capitalist who is best known for his prominent organizational role in the American anti-Vietnam War protest movement of the 1960s. He was one of the Chicago Seven defendants.”

          I heard Rennie Davis speak out against the Vietnam war at the anti-war moratorium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Same moratorium in which I heard Phil Ochs sing.

          “Davis later became a venture capitalist and lecturer on meditation and self-awareness. He is the founder of Foundation for a New Humanity, a technology development and venture capital company commercializing breakthrough technologies.”

          I always saw Jerry Rubin as something of a sell out, what with when he “Yupped out” as they say, after his Yippee days. Not so, Abbie. Of course, dying in close proximity to one another time wise, perhaps they can be remembered as something of a comedy team. It’s only a shame that Abbie managed to, whether intentionally or not, that’s still unclear with me, do himself in. Had he stayed on for a few more years, maybe we’d be associating the two names together less than we do.


          The nights, the railway-arches, the bad sky,
          His horrible companions did not know it;
          But in that child the rhetorician’s lie
          Burst like a pipe: the cold had made a poet.

          Drinks bought him by his weak and lyric friend
          His five wits systematically deranged,
          To all accustomed nonsense put an end;
          Till he from lyre and weakness was estranged.

          Verse was a special illness of the ear;
          Integrity was not enough; that seemed
          The hell of childhood: he must try again.

          Now, galloping through Africa, he dreamed
          Of a new self, a son, an engineer,
          His truth acceptable to lying men.

          December 1938
          Wystan Hugh Auden

          • Again, check out Abbie’s comments on the “sellout” thing — most of the people who make these sorts of charges have very little to show in terms of their own activism. Abbie definitely was the most brilliantly creative and hardcore, getting chased through the south by the Klan during the civil rights days, joining in on the Newark rebellion, etc. as compared to JR, who started out as a newspaper reporter. But he had his moments as well.

            Still not sure how this is all related to your original point though, or even what it was — that the anti-war movement was a ruse?

          • I don’t know how this is related to any original point about the anti-war movement being a ruse because it certainly was not a point I was making. I was only acknowledging that many of these people were only in it for the moment. I admired Abbie for not selling out. Jerry got into this “young upwardly mobile professional” thing (i.e. he took the cash and ran with it). Okay. It served him for a time I’m sure. Youthful rebellion over, all these upper middle class kids can go into business… to please dad. I’m not there. Some people sold out, some people didn’t sell out. I have a little more admiration for those with the fortitude not to sell out. Of course, I’m imagining that there is a place for not selling out. Too much corruption is just that, too much corruption. Your bargain, in other words, with the devil is not mine.

      • “It is not for nothing that international socialist congresses adopted the decision not to admit the anarchists. A wide gulf separates socialism from anarchism, and it is in vain that the agents-provocateurs of the secret police and the news paper lackeys of reactionary governments pretend that this gulf does not exist. The philosophy of the anarchists is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and their individualistic ideal are the very opposite of socialism. Their views express, not the future of bourgeois society, which is striding with irresistible force towards the socialisation of labour, but the present and even the past of that society, the domination of blind chance over the scattered and isolated small, producer. Their tactics, which amount to a repudiation of the political struggle, disunite the proletarians and convert them in fact into passive participators in one bourgeois policy or another, since it is impossible and unrealisable for the workers really to dissociate themselves from politics.”

        Lenin, 1905

        • Frank Blankenship wrote: “Yeah, better to stick with nihilism than become a contradiction in terms.”

          Anarchists are romantic nihilists. Nothing wrong with that, as such. Everyone loves a good bonfire of the vanities, even if its vain people carrying the matches.

          Some good things have come out of anarchism. Punk rock. Grafitti. Situationism. All of course easily assimilated, because, as lenin points out, its the flip-side of bourgeois self-obsession dressed up as anti this and anti that. When really the whole point of the anti is that it cannot exist without its antithesis.

          The anti does not want to rid the world of what it opposes. It wants to dance eternally with it.

          • Romantic nihilists are romantic nihilists. Anarchists are advocates of self-government and voluntary associations rather than autocratic or “representative” government and coercive institutions; the word etymologically means “without rulers”.

            As for Vladimir Lenin, as many of those same anarchists have pointed out, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics isn’t what it used to be, being kaput. So much for Leninism. The same Leninism that recently, by collapsing, breathed new life into anarchy.

            Now that you’ve got Putinism triumphant in Russia, tell me, what kind of improvement is that!?

            You’re wrong about anti. First you have thesis, then you get antithesis, leading to a synthesis, and an outcome of the dialectical process. First explanations inevitably lead to revisions, that is, second, third, etc., explanations. A good lie may hold water for a short while, but inevitably, as a water container, it is going to be found inadequate. Ditto, as a wardrobe.

            This leads back to a variant of our chicken versus egg argument I mentioned earlier. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? A fundamentalist Christian might say God the father while a fellow with a more scientific Darwinian understanding of the world, might say, um, Tyrannosaurus Rex.

        • The philosophy of the anarchists is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and their individualistic ideal are the very opposite of socialism… Their tactics, which amount to a repudiation of the political struggle, disunite the proletarians and convert them in fact into passive participators in one bourgeois policy or another

          Wow great quote. I agree with much or most of it. Did you post it because you agree or because you think it “exposes” something about Lenin?

          • I agree with it. That was my motivation to post it.

            And not without irony, given that an appeal to authority to make a point is a quintessentially bourgeois rhetorical device. But ah well. Lenin nails it.

            The other discomfort is the bourgeois tactics Lenin deployed in exploiting the anarchists and then reneging on the promises post-revolution. That was a dreadful faux pas, although, realistically, would you really want such a wart of disruption growing on your state’s chubby flank?

            I’m under a lot of strain and when I am under a lot of strain I remember bits and bobs from my younger years. I once self identified as a leninist-trotskyist. Those were proud and hopeful days. During those times I made acquaintance with many self-identifying anarchists and I admired many of them, and learnt much from them.

            These days I am a hermit and enjoy watching youtube videos made by targeted individuals. Increasingly I’m feeling an affinity with them.

            Funny how life ebbs and flows, innit.

          • ALL governments are authoritarian, which is a big part of what makes them governments, which are by definition organizations of violence. (Even your traffic ticket is ultimately backed up by organized violence.)

          • Are you an authority on this subject, OldHead, or are you just making this stuff up as you go along? I suspect, knowing a little about bit about the subject myself, the second part of the question to be true.

            A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state.

            In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government is a means by which organizational policies are enforced, as well as a mechanism for determining policy. Each government has a kind of constitution, a statement of its governing principles and philosophy. Typically the philosophy chosen is some balance between the principle of individual freedom and the idea of absolute state authority.


            I take it that in this matter of scales you weigh more heavily in on the side of absolute state power than you do on the side of individual liberty. I think power divorced from the will of the people is dangerous, and likely to lead, as it has in the past, to catastrophic conclusions.

          • Under true socialism (not “democratic,” i.e. bourgeois, socialism) the will of the people is reflected through the power of the state. But true socialism has only appeared in fits and bursts, as to date it has been immediately targeted and defeated by global imperialism.

            Anyway, since you like Wikipedia so much:

            “The monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force, also known as the monopoly on violence (German: Gewaltmonopol des Staates), is a core concept of modern public law, which goes back to Jean Bodin’s 1576 work Les Six livres de la République and Thomas Hobbes’ 1651 book Leviathan.[citation needed] As the defining conception of the state, it was first described in sociology by Max Weber in his essay Politics as a Vocation (1919).”

          • If it is authoritarian socialism, it isn’t the will of the people anyway, it’s just the will of another autocrat. Joseph Stalin, in his paranoia, killed a great number of people who didn’t need to die, and many Russians are still nostalgic about his rule. Vladimir Putin manages to retain the autocratic nature without the socialistic illusions. So, thug with illusions, or thug without illusions, sometimes one must draw a line.

            At least, here, if subtly, you are acknowledging the violence of the state in your Wikipedia quote. As for legitimacy, isn’t that mostly a matter of who holds the reins of power and who doesn’t? Holding a monopoly on power, in other words, doesn’t make the exercise of that power legitimate. It is no more legitimate than a claim to power on account of the divine right of Kings, that is to say, by the claim that one’s tyranny is countenanced by the good graces of some supposed supreme deity or other.

  7. OK so this is my comment on the excerpt Bruce made available: Basically it’s an excellent presentation of historical examples up to the present day of exceptional individuals who stood out in ways that could be described as rebellious in one way or another, who were then branded by the system as deviant and unacceptable “bad examples” and neutralized. I would add Ken Kesey and Abbie Hoffman, maybe Allen Ginsberg to the list of those we may never have heard about had they been living today, given the degree of mass psychiatrization. I appreciated some of the details on Rush and Hemingway especially.

    What is more insidious and more dangerous however is the way psychiatry is used to mystify, invalidate and stigmatize everyday folk who are reacting to the same toxic capitalist culture but don’t manifest this in “socially acceptable” or conscious, organized ways, such as via art, writing, political activity, or other more coherent forms of expression. Human impulses and aspirations, and instinctual rebellion, are thwarted and suffocated, and twisted into unrecognizable contortions. Being conscious of one’s oppression can help one unravel this internal chaos and understand it as a manifestation of an oppressive system, which then might lead to engaging in activity in opposition to that system. So it becomes necessary to identify and neutralize such “unconsciously” rebellious people by mystifying their disturbing perceptions, thoughts and actions as symptoms of pathology. Further, anyone who rejects or attempts to logically deconstruct such attempts at pathologizing their existence is further pathologized with terms such as as “paranoia” or “anosognosia.”

    The above is happening on a mass level, in very systematic ways, and is not just directed at “name brand” people who have been identified in the public eye as “problems” to be labeled, smeared and made examples of (such as is currently being done to Kanye West). It is important to help all people understand that being psychiatrically labeled is an attempt to invalidate the reality of their perceptions and their existence, and that this needs to be resisted at all costs!

  8. Once you understand pharmacogenetics you realise that there are loads of drugs – not just psychiatric – you can get toxic on and show ‘psychiatric’ symptoms. In the UK there now seems to be a system in place, in public places like libraries, banks, supermarkets where people who are deemed by the workers to be ‘problematic’ getting a social worker called out who has part power to section people. Of course the workers in these places have no real knowledge of what they are really a part of. They just make an assumption based on an ostensible manifestation of what they know as a ‘nutta’ or ‘nutjob’ or the local ‘nutter’.

    Today there will be a budget in the UK..Expect more money for ‘mental illness’ With pharma and psychiatrists rubbing their greedy hands.

    • I have always thought that should be a “diagnosis!” If being excessively oppositional and defiant is a disorder, it’s only fair that being excessively compliant and submissive should be a “disorder,” too. Just like there is no “Excessive attention hypoactivity disorder.” The fact that only one extreme is emphasized shows the moral bankruptcy of the process. We LIKE compliant kids, so they are “healthy.” We only label the ones that give us trouble!

      • Oh, I tend think we’ve been there for some time. If this psychiatric label fits you to a Tee, maybe it’s time for you to break out of your box

        Dependent personality disorder (DPD), formerly known as asthenic personality disorder, is a personality disorder that is characterized by a pervasive psychological dependence on other people. This personality disorder is a long-term condition in which people depend on others to meet their emotional and physical needs, with only a minority achieving normal levels of independence.

        Of course, the majority who can’t achieve normal levels of independence are those giving undue credence to the opinions of the experts, the authorities on such “disorders”. Anti-authoritarians, by this token, with their hard won skepticism towards authority, are by inclination, if not nature, much more “healthy” to begin with.

        • Dependent is different from compliant. We don’t want people to be clingy and dependent – we want them to DO AS THEY ARE TOLD! People that refuse to knuckle under are the most likely to get “diagnosed,” followed by those who get upset about being abused and start to complain about it.

          • Dependent is also different from independent. A little independence, and they, that “we” you speak of, can’t touch you. Cut the strings, and the puppeteer is lamenting the loss of his marionette. There is much to be said for self-reliance, especially as other-reliance can prove debilitating and crippling. I’m ever ready to knock “helpers” when the people they “help” the most are themselves.

          • Agreed. Independent is dangerous to the status quo, but at the same time is held up as a mythological goal that we’re all to strive for. I think what our “leaders” mean by independence is not needing anything and accepting our lot, not actually thinking for oneself and making our own decisions. Real independence is easily classified as a “mental illness” in a lot of cases.

    • Or as we were discussing earlier, one person’s anti-authoritarian is another person’s thief.

      What I think is being glossed over is that Bruce’s article stresses illegitimate authority, it does not oppose the very idea of authority. So it would seem that people’s most likely angles of debate here might be either a) challenging the very notion of “legitimate” authority; and/or b) the legitimacy/illegitimacy of various current or proposed forms of authority. There seems to be a tendency developing of equating “authority” with “authoritarianism.”

      • It may have been a deliberate play on words…

        It’s upsetting to discover that a literary cool-dude such as George Bernard Shaw was also a bit of a kill-y, hatey-y person. I mean, read the Don Juan in Hell section in Man and Superman and come back and tell me you are not stirred into finding something good and thrilling inside you.

        But GBS is definitely being an antiauthoritarian in that extracted speech of his I posted. What is he opposing but the final authority of God and the sanctity of all human life, with the meekest as the core of humanity and the ultimate aim of all compassion. Like I say, have a read of Don Juan in Hell and it all links into the authoritarianism of eugenics which is merely a displacement of the authoritarianism of God and fundamental Christian values.

        Which is the problem of nihilism and the anti. It seeks to annihilate or depose that which it considers an illegitimate authority, via the mechanism of its own authoritarianism. Deposing the despot in order that the space is filled by the deposing authority.

        As I wrote previously, I am under a lot of strain so I could just as well be missing the point.

        A couple of days ago I limped into the local park with my dog and was alarmed to spy three youths attempting to stamp out a fire they had started, that had already part-decimated a children’s play area. I approached them and they all scarpered, but one remained. He reminded me of when the akathisia was kicking in at the beginning of each freshly injected month, all those years ago when I was on the forced depot. He had ants in his pants. It went like this:

        “You know… back in the day… when I was your age… they often wouldn’t listen to me.”
        “Trust!” he replies.
        “I think if they had listened to me, my life might have been much better.”
        “Trust!” he says again, “Trust!”
        “But you know… sometimes… sometimes you do have to listen to other people. To older people, adults…”
        “And you know… playing with fire, arson. In many ways it’s considered by the courts as worse than murder. The authorities are not happy about people lighting fires. When they catch people doing it they often send them to forensic institutions, and torture them…”
        And then the fire engine could be heard approaching. And the firemen started pounding across the grass towards us.
        “This is the bit where you run away.”

        And off he ran with one last, “Trust!”

        • Your comment began by discouraging people from romanticizing anti-authoritarians using George Bernard Shaw as the prime example. George Bernard Shaw’s admiration and affection were drawn to both fascist and socialist dictators, and there’s nothing anti-authoritarian about that aspect of Shaw.

          “Shaw’s later plays often arose from impatience with between-the-wars malaise, when governments that had failed to prevent the First World War were in disorderly regression towards a second war. As before, the political mixtures were not working. Shaw was en route from textbook socialism to a vague authoritarianism.”

          Got that, vague authoritarianism.

          If you would be opposing the authority of man to the authority of God, you are still adopting an authoritarian position.

          Simply put, authoritarian according to a Google search is an adjective meaning…Favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom. Authoritarian person here is a synonym for autocrat, despot, dictator, tyrant.

          Antiauthoritarian, according to, means “opposed to authoritarianism.” Antiauthoritarians, in other words, are opposed to the qualities described in the previous definition. The synonym given for antiauthoritarian is democratic.

          George Bernard Shaw admired some of the policies of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. (Very ‘great man theory’ I would imagine.) If he was following Tolstoy earlier in his career, apparently his enthusiasms eventually went in another direction, and that direction was by no means antiauthoritarian.

          Shaw’s statements in the YouTube video were very judgmental, that is, full of the sort of judgments one might arrive at who adopted an authoritarian attitude. I don’t see antiauthoritarians, as a rule, declaring the mass of humanity unfit to live. George Bernard Shaw’s picks for the three greatest men of the 20th century were Einstein, Stalin and, if modesty permitted, George Bernard Shaw. Again, anti-authoritarian is not a word I would use to describe George Bernard Shaw.

          • Antiauthoritarian, according to, means “opposed to authoritarianism.”

            I’d chuck that as a source if I were you; it’s commonly understood that a definition cannot contain the word that it is defining (or a form of it).

          • Not that Merriam-Webster does any better: “opposed or hostile toward authority, authoritarians, or authoritarianism” — plus it defines authority and authoritarian differently. So by this reasoning anti-authoritarian refers to all authority, not just illegitimate authority, which is the focus of the article.

          • Anti is a prefix meaning against. Antiwar, antifascist, antipsychiatry, etc., I’m surprised that we would even be having this discussion. Notice that I start with the definition of the anti before proceeding to the term it is intended to oppose. If you are against something, alright, this is the thing you are against. Most importantly, authoritarian is autocratic while anti-authoritarian knows that you’ve got a lot of fools holding the reins to power. Democratic was the synonym used for anti-authoritarian. More than democratic, anti-authoritarian tends to be non-hierarchical, and, in many respects, sees change as coming from the bottom up rather than from the top down. Sometime the guard (the status quo) has got to change, anti-authoritarians are there to give it a little push in that direction.

  9. It would be really helpful if MIA would organize a section of this website dedicated solely to book reviews such as this one in order for patients and families to easily find a collated resource of reading materials related to the goals of Mad in America. There are many authors here: Levine, Brogan, Breggin, etc, and I don’t see an obvious link to an easily accessible collection of titles right now.

    Speaking directly to Bob and team, I hope that a virtual “reading room” of sorts might be something you’d consider worth making the time to create, and perhaps in future book reviews, a link to “further reading” with a page dedicated to titles of interest to MIA readers, such as the titles previously chosen for review, might be considered. It seems like a ‘Reading Room’ could be tucked under the Editorial link and would be a valuable resource to those looking for additional titles of interest.