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The Politics of Experience

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,132 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
Unorthodox to some, brilliantly original to others, The Politics of Experience goes beyond the usual theories of mental illness & alienation, making a convincing case for the 'madness of morality.'
The Politics of Experience
Persons and Experience
The Psychotherapeutic Experience
The Mystification of Experience
Us and Them
The Schizophrenic Experience
Mass Market Paperback, 190 pages
Published February 12th 1981 by Ballantine Books, Inc. (NY) (first published 1967)
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Jan 16, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What if the "delusions" reported by patients during psychotic episodes were not symptoms of a disease, but valid descriptions of their experiences?

Laing describes schizophrenia as a kind of journey into the inner self, one that is misunderstood by people in the "normal" world and labelled as madness. Why do we misunderstand it? Because we are so alienated from our own inner worlds that we cannot comprehend someone else's experiences there. Indeed, we are so alienated that even the thought of go
Esteban del Mal
Psychology as imperialism.

While the writing is at times clunky and some chapters are top-heavy with psycho-analyst speak -- gibberish to the non-specialist -- Liang does string together some powerful stuff at times:

“Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be breakthrough. It is potentially liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.”

“The family’s function is to repress Eros; to induce a false consciousness of security; to deny death by avoiding life; to cut off tr
Holly Lindquist

Is schizophrenia an understandable response to the unreasonable pressures of a terminally insane society? It's a notion with perennial appeal, one that's been brought up by many, many people (not just this guy). Certainly our modern world is a three-ring circus of demented behavior accepted as "normal". In a world of Honey Boo Boo, Beliebers, drone strikes, and mass government surveillance, the concept of what is "sane" or "normal" may just as well be vacationing off-planet at this point.

Feb 17, 2013 JJVid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Schizophrenia, in some cases, may be a healthy reaction to an unhealthy situation. Laing views society and the family as positively destructive to its members; that shared, naked experience with another human being is nearly impossible. He claims we connect with others only by forming an Us mentality where a nexus of kinship is formed, but in doing so the nexus necessarily excludes some group of others and calls it Them. By forming these nexuses we create antagonistic relationships with Them and ...more
I am having a hard time finding words for this book. It is ostensibly about Psychiatry, and a few sections treat that subject fairly specifically, but the more striking parts of the book seem to have a much more general significance. In particular, chapters 1, 3, and 4 are . . . woah. They are incredibly striking and left me stunned. It fits in a lot with Derrick Jensen themes, although his wording is much more severe and "prophetic" than Jensen's. Particularly, Chapter Four, Us and Them, takes ...more
Sep 08, 2007 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
dear reader,

hello! what weather! welcome to another edition of "small talk" wherein i review a VERY recently published novel by an up-and-coming author! on the docket this week, it's "the politician's experience" by r.d. "swingin' low" laing (you may know his sister, k.d. laing!). ok, let's GO!


all previous psychiatry is fundamentally flawed.
what is considered "mental illness" is rather a healthy reaction to an oppressive society, and insane standards of living.
psychoses - s
Apr 03, 2011 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book starts off very theoretical, but once you get past the beginning it becomes entirely absorbing. It entirely changed my perspective from which to view mental illness, in a good way -- basically, Laing posits that we're all alienated from ourselves in some shape or form; those labelled schizophrenic just express this alienation in forms non-acceptable to mainstream society. His ideas were very liberating for me.
David Balfour
Offensively bad.

He completely denies the practicality of the (admittedly subjective) views society forces upon us regarding 'normality' and mental illness. While these are certainly an evil in themselves, they are necessary for the effective functioning of society which in turn is necessary for our physical and emotional security. A schizophrenic is dissociated from the collective reality and is thus less able to attain contentedness within it. Madness is the most profound form of loneliness and
Erik Graff
May 04, 2016 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Laing fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: psychology
This is a short collection which, as I recall, contains the most substantial piece I've seen by Laing about psychedelic drugs. I read the thing in the midst of studying a lot of other work by him and his colleagues in "the antipsychiatry movement" in the context of doing independent study work in the nebulous field of "humanistic psychology" in college. The essay, "The Bird of Paradise", appears to have been written under the influence.
Mar 18, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Someone else wrote this but I like what he said and it is what has always been in the back of my mind:

"What if the "delusions" reported by patients during psychotic episodes were not symptoms of a disease, but valid descriptions of their experiences?"

If someone has a dream you really can't say they did not live through that experience is what I would add.
May 30, 2015 James rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychologistical
You can feel the feverishness of the writing as soon as it begins. Nonsensical in parts - a lot of words to communicate ideas that are neither complex nor thoroughly thought.

‘The sky is blue’ suggests that there is a substantive ‘sky’ that is ‘blue’. This sequence of subject verb object, in which ‘is’ acts as the copula uniting sky and blue, is a nexus of sounds, and syntax, signs and symbols, in which we are fairly completely entangled and which separates us from at the same time as it refers u
Sean A.
I haven't really read anything quite like this before and found it very insightful. The part that kicks off the book with defining experience and the way interpersonal experience can be strident and tricky was excellent and set a great tone. I thought perhaps, however, his thesis that schizophrenia was a sort of right of passage that just needs those who suffer to come out the other side was somewhat challenging and edgy, but wonder how someone who presumably doesn't suffer from the disorder can ...more
Oct 04, 2012 Matthew rated it really liked it
I admit I haven't read this in years, not since my youth. I barely remember you. But I do remember you were one of those books that pretty much completely altered my perception of reality. And now that I've been out of therapy for a number of years I can say that remnants of that shattering are still there, and really more important now. Now that the "madness of morality" is a lot more evident in this world.

Even looking on later psychological events, like say the infamous Stanford Prison Experi
Cameron Rogers
R.D. Laing's best known work came out at a time of idealism, and "free love" when psychedelic drugs were briefly seen to possess the cure all to the woes of society. If only LBJ and Brezhnev could have sat down and dropped some acid we wouldn't have had 20 extended years of the Cold War dewwwwd.

This book lays out that idealism perfectly, and in perhaps one of the most bizarre and quite frankly incorrect theories ever put forward in psychedelic literature, Laing states that schizophrenia is an a
Robert Wullenschneider
this was a mind-blowing book to read as a young man coming of age in the sixties and a few words, it's lasting premise is that 'everything is political' in the broadest sense of the word...and the subtle truth that the decision to view the world 'objectively' is itself a 'subjective' choice
May 12, 2011 Thadd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disturbing, compelling book about Schizophrenia, a disease that is hard to treat. Because mental health professionals know so little about the brain, helping Schizophrenics is difficult. This book raises interesting questions. Are Schizophrenics crazy or are they enlightened individuals who don't fit in?
May 12, 2015 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read on perception, consciousness, id/ego etc. Quite Jungian in my mind...a fun juant.
Roberta McDonnell
Even more mindblowing!!
Ricardo Acuña
Aug 01, 2016 Ricardo Acuña rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
One of the best books I have ever read, where Laing exposes the real nature of our social madness. The world in which we live, inevitably leads us to alignment, and make us blind. We can see other people’s behavior, but not their experience. Therefore, the experience of each other are inaccessible, invisible, and interpreted through the observed behavior. Laing says that psychiatrists have paid very little attention to the experience of the patient and the diagnosis, psychotherapy and treatment ...more
Dec 25, 2009 Guy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like this book as much as I wanted to. However, there are some great passages!

For example:

Few books today are forgivable. Black on the canvas, silence on the screen, an empty white sheet of paper, are perhaps feasible. There is little conjunction of truth and social 'reality'. Around us are pseudo-events, to which we adjust with a false consciousness adapted to see these events as true and real, and even as beautiful. In the society of men the truth resides now less in what things are t
Mar 17, 2013 Nicholas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Although written in the era of the 3 minute warning and when child beating was a perk of a teaching career,this examination and analysis of the causes of mental disturbance still resonates, as its subjects are the timeless ones that mediate our inner experiences, particularly in relation to other people and the wider society we live in.Although the external landscape has changed since it was written the human condition remains exactly the same.
Much of the authors point of view is summed up by
Jun 22, 2013 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very tricky book to navigate. Laing is now regarded at the forefront of the "anti-psychiatry movement", which is a clumsy sort of term, but consequently this work can be seen as lionizing madness or condemning useful treatment. Certainly this is the prevailing perception of Laing's aims today.

Yet, there is much to be said about his analysis of the intersection of the subject and society, and the folly of attempting to analyze the subject in isolation (that is, separate from the act of
Tiffany Reddick
Sep 11, 2013 Tiffany Reddick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Contains some really interesting ideas. Laing writes in an earth-shattering way that keeps you reading. I do wish he wrote like more modern authors, though, with more examples; it's mostly abstract and negating in the first chapter--and that's all my class has assigned me to read. I want to read more, though, because how can you read the starting point, "a man alienated from its source creation arises from despair and ends in failure," without knowing how to go beyond: "where it all ends, there ...more
Oct 10, 2014 Sean rated it really liked it
"The Politics Of Experience" doesn't just cover schizophrenia, but a range of psychological disorders, which Laing attributes to the conditioning of society at large.

He posits that many psychological ills result from the pressures of conforming to a 'mad' society. He also posits that traditional psychiatry isn't really addressing the root causes. These notions seem quaint now, but at the time the book was published, I suspect it caused a furore within the profession.

Laing himself added to the co
Bry Nicole
May 17, 2016 Bry Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such an underrated little dandy of a miracle. People always ask me who the devil this astounding human being was. Ronald David Laing was perhaps way ahead of his time in regards to such insight he bestowed upon mental illness (as if it were) and relating to people and society itself as a psychiatrist. He is very inspirational to me. I loved the fact that he really did try to experience the experiences of patients by mimicking their behaviors from every analytical detail.
With a penetrating perspective mediated through simple prose, many have regarded the Politics of Experience as R.D. Laing's crowning jewel. I am forced to agree. PoE is rich with deep insights and yet unburdened by a maze of theories (which, if one is so inclined, can be found in his other superb books, such as Self and Others and The Politics of the Family).

We are, for the most part, estranged from the inner world. Case in point: Most of us are unaware of its very existence. Thus, as R.D. Laing
Apr 26, 2014 Itisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Changes and challenges your view of the world: inter-group relations, Schizophrenia, madness, and sanity. Leaves you with interesting thoughts, if you cannot be sure about a man's sanity, how can you make assumptions about a man's insanity? And that "madness may not always be a breakdown, it might be a breakthrough'
Agostinho Paulo
Apr 07, 2015 Agostinho Paulo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've found this easier to read and digest than "The Divided Self" which I read twice and still found myself thunderstruck( I will never forgive it for emotionally alienating me and fucking my brain cells up) and still felt like I had to read it again at some point i the future with a different mindset, till I came across a copy of "The Politics of Experience/The Bird of Paradise" while, lazily, browsing through a local secondhand bookstore, picked it without thinking twice. Best decision that da ...more
The first part of Laing’s book has a number of messages for those like me with dependent personalities. We’re clearly not the target audience of the book, but in addition to the authorial meaning, which isn’t too hard to grasp for me, being familiar with schizophrenia, the medical institution, and the application of the latter to the former, there are some lovely tidbits of commentary about our society, some lovely gems of phenomenology, and some fun games for thinking. It’s not the most well wr ...more
Dec 05, 2014 Ioanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Τουλάχιστον μερικοί από μας κατάφεραν να μισήσουν αυτό που μας έκαναν να είμαστε"
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Ronald David Laing was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the subjective experience of psychosis. Laing's views on the causes and treatment of serious mental dysfunction, greatly influenced by existential philosophy, ran counter to the psychiatric orthodoxy of the day by taking the expressed feelings of the individual patient or client as valid descrip ...more
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“Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.” 112 likes
“What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience. It is radically estranged from the structure of being. The more one sees this, the more senseless it is to continue with generalized descriptions of supposedly specifically schizoid, schizophrenic, hysterical ‘mechanisms.’ There are forms of alienation that are relatively strange to statistically ‘normal’ forms of alienation. The ‘normally’ alienated person, by reason of the fact that he acts more or less like everyone else, is taken to be sane. Other forms of alienation that are out of step with the prevailing state of alienation are those that are labeled by the ‘formal’ majority as bad or mad.” 50 likes
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