Capitalism and Mental Health

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From Monthly Review: “In capitalist society, biological explanations dominate understandings of mental health, infusing professional practice and public awareness. Emblematic of this is the theory of chemical imbalances in the brain—focusing on the operation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine—which has gripped popular and academic consciousness despite remaining largely unsupported. Moreover, reflecting the popularity of genetic reductionism within the biological sciences, there has been an effort to identify genetic abnormalities as another cause of mental-health disorders. Nonetheless, explanations based on genomics have also failed to generate conclusive evidence. While potentially offering illuminating insights into poor mental well-being in specific cases, biological interpretations are far from sufficient on their own. What is abundantly clear is the existence of significant social patterns that elucidate the impossibility of reducing poor mental health to biological determinism.

The intimate relationship between mental health and social conditions has largely been obscured, with societal causes interpreted within a bio-medical framework and shrouded with scientific terminology. Diagnoses frequently begin and end with the individual, identifying bioessentialist causes at the expense of examining social factors. However, the social, political, and economic organization of society must be recognized as a significant contributor to people’s mental health, with certain social structures being more advantageous to the emergence of mental well-being than others. As the basis on which society’s superstructural formation is erected, capitalism is a major determinant of poor mental health. As the Marxist professor of social work and social policy Iain Ferguson has argued, ‘it is the economic and political system under which we live—capitalism—which is responsible for the enormously high levels of mental-health problems which we see in the world today.’ The alleviation of mental distress is only possible ‘in a society without exploitation and oppression.’

In what follows, I briefly sketch the state of mental health in advanced capitalism, using Britain as an example and utilizing the psychoanalytical framework of Marxist Erich Fromm, which emphasizes that all humans have certain needs that must be fulfilled in order to ensure optimal mental health. Supporting Ferguson’s assertion, I argue that capitalism is crucial to determining the experience and prevalence of mental well-being, as its operations are incompatible with true human need. This sketch will include a depiction of the politically conscious movement of users of mental-health services that has emerged in Britain in recent years to challenge biological explanations of poor mental health and to call for locating inequality and capitalism at the heart of the problem.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. ‘it is the economic and political system under which we live—capitalism—which is responsible for the enormously high levels of mental-health problems which we see in the world today.’

    First of all, we no longer live in a capitalist system, we have “crony capitalism,” which has largely moved to fascism. And fascism is bad.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6ayb02bwp0

    Our governments have failed the people, because our government officials have been bought out by the “psychopathic” corporations.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHrhqtY2khc

    So in reality we have systemic, lack of ethics problems. And these run far and wide, as Chris Hedges points out, “We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.”

    Although, I do concede that there are also problems with miseducation and “fake news.” Which is apparently, the goal of the CIA, given CIA Director William Casey’s quote, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” Now many are acknowledging we have problems with what they are calling the “deep state,” or America’s permanent, unelected government.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_state_in_the_United_States

    Gosh, it seems my early 2002, anticholinergic toxidrome induced, thus psychotomimetic, “psychosis,” which took the form of a supposed struggle with God. Where God told me there was a “local planet manager problem,” has some relevance to reality. John Read might be pleased that I found “meaning in my madness.”

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2019/05/an-interview-with-dr-john-read/

    The reality does seem to be, we have had the wrong people in charge of America for a very long time, at least since 1913. “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.” And their monetary system is imploding, or did in 2008, because it’s a Ponzi scheme. Although, there are numerous nefarious globalist banksters, not just the one I quoted.

    And apparently, they’ve been working to destroy America from within, with miseducation, “fake news,” poisoning of the masses with the psych drugs and other mind control methods, bad laws, financial lies, lots of thievery, and never ending wars, for way too long. We do have “local planet manager problems.” God was correct.

    Enough is enough.