The Politics Of Experience – R. D. Laing (1967)

“When anything is ever written about Ronald Laing it often seems to be with a prefix of ‘controversial’ but for many people he was always thought to be talking absolute sense. Absolute common sense, in fact, if such a thing exists? The Politics Of Experience And The Bird Of Paradise is a collection of essays detailing and expounding upon some of Laing’s ideas and thoughts in the fields of psychoanalysis and psychiatry, along with a prose piece tagged on at the end that reads like something that could have leaked from the mind of William Burroughs before being cut up and folded in. There’s a lot going on in Laing’s essays, so much so that to simply write up a quick review isn’t really sufficient. Rather, a whole thesis is demanded but of course, I’m not about to do that here because this is The Art Of Exmouth not Psychology Today. The bottom line of (some of) what Laing is saying is that the world is an asylum. Reality is an asylum that we’re all conditioned into adjusting and adapting to through actual violence, the threat of violence and (more controversially – there’s that word again) violence masquerading as love. … To bring things more up to date, the normalization of the problematic continues as in the normalization of imposed austerity, the normalization of a sex predator as the President of the United States, the normalization of never-ending war in the Middle East, the normalization of powerlessness in the face of globalisation and the super-rich, and so on and so forth. On reading some of the reviews of The Politics Of Experience on Goodreads, it’s interesting to see how Laing’s ideas come as revelations to a lot of people because by now I’d have thought a lot of this stuff such as reality being an asylum is old hat. Apparently it’s not. The thing to ask at this stage in the game, however, is what good does knowing any of this do us? What benefit is there in knowing for example that reality is an asylum? Does it lift a veil from our eyes? Well, to a certain extent yes, it does. It reveals the power structures in place; from parents, the family, society and the State that enforce that reality. It reveals to us that the reality in which we exist is an imposed one that we are all prisoners within. But it tells us also that another reality is possible. That another reality can be created. And in that tiny straw to be clutched lies hope not only for the individual but for the whole of mankind. …”
The Art Of Exmouth
W – The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, W – R. D. Laing
Madness Radio: R.D. Laing The Politics of Experience Audiobook (Audio)

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