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The first section presents his life in context. The second section presents his work in detail. There follows a section on the critical reception of Cooper, and, finally, a conclusion that sets out ways in which he might be interesting and useful today.

He graduated in medicine from the University of Cape Town in The son of a chemist, he never wanted to become a doctor and was probably responding to family pressure in becoming one.

In his home country, Cooper was involved in underground resistance to the Apartheid regime. According to the radical Scottish psychiatrist R. He did, however, spend time in China for political education probably in the mids. Later, Cooper would travel to Cuba in the early days of the revolution.

Debts to Marxism are evident throughout his work. In his debt to Marx, we can draw a contrast with R. Laing, for whom Marxism was never a significant influence. In his more radical outlook, Cooper had affinities with the Psichiatria Democratica Democratic Psychiatry movement in Italy, of which Franco Basaglia was the key voice.

Nevertheless, Cooper always insisted on the need to understand the symptoms of the individual not simply in terms of individual psychology or family dynamics, but also in terms of broader social, institutional and economic forces, and, for him, Marx was a key starting point in doing so.

He was very much a New Left countercultural revolutionary. This meant that the terrain of everyday life was as valid a region of political struggle as the factory or office, and sex and drugs went together with revolution.

His focus on love and on what goes on between people in households especially in The death of the family [ Cooper, ] and The grammar of living [ Cooper, ] involved him in both an appropriation of and a critique of psychoanalysis.

However, unlike Laing, Cooper never trained in psychoanalysis. He trained in psychiatry in England in the s and held several hospital appointments before leaving the National Health Service in after his time at Shenley Hospital in Hertfordshire.

He underwent two periods of psychoanalysis with different therapists , both brief, and one of which was with the South African Kleinian analyst Leslie Sohn. There, he set up an experiment in ward democracy in a wing for male adolescents and young men. The Villa 21 experiment, however, which began in , moved far beyond the then-popular idea of the therapeutic community associated with Maxwell Jones and proved unsettling for the hospital authorities, who closed the ward in Cooper soon came to reject both psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Laing and others. The PA established a therapeutic community outside state mental health provision at Kingsley Hall, East London —70 , but Cooper showed little interest in the project. From his point of view, this smacked of failure to recognise the wider political nature of distress. As a member of the London-based Institute of Phenomenology, Cooper was instrumental in setting up the Dialectics of Liberation conference at the Roundhouse in North London.

This event focused on the nature of violence and the possibility of liberation, and included presentations from Herbert Marcuse, Stokely Carmichael, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Bateson and others, including Laing and Cooper. One of the very few women to take part, the artist Carolee Schneerman, has spoken to me of the opposition to her involvement that she encountered from male participants R. Laing and Paul Goodman in particular. Jean Paul Sartre was to have been the key speaker at the Dialectics conference but could not attend.

Radical psychiatry in the long s often drew on existentialism and phenomenology, and Cooper, like Laing, as well as Basaglia in Italy and Frantz Fanon in Algeria, was very influenced by Sartre. Through his work introducing English readers to the work of Foucault and Sartre, Cooper played an important part in mediating midth-century French philosophy.

Education was important to Cooper, who was involved in the Anti-university of London —71 , a radical educational initiative that, prior to the establishment of the low-cost, open access Open University and the expansion of adult education, offered very cheap courses to all-comers. More than just a low-cost form of education, however, the Anti-university aimed to question the division between teacher and student, and to orientate study explicitly to personal and political development.

Cooper met Basaglia at a conference in Portugal in and was impressed by his Psichiatria Democratica movement. Cooper was married to a French-Vietnamese psychiatric nurse, and the two had three children. He left his family, however, and by , was in a relationship with Juliet Mitchell, who had been a patient of his and who would go on to write the influential Psychoanalysis and feminism The two lived for a while in the South of France. Cooper remarked that his The death of the family Cooper, marked his departure from his own family Ticktin, : In the book, he alludes to a period of madness of de- and restructuring in his own life.

Cooper left England for Argentina in in order to promote opposition to psychiatry in the developing world. There he wrote The grammar of living Cooper, , but had little success in developing alternatives to psychiatry. In his later The language of madness Cooper, : 29 , written in Paris, where he moved in , he writes of undergoing a period of madness in Argentina. There he taught at the University of Vincennes Paris VIII and wrote the brief, untranslated, Qui sont les dissidents Who are the dissidents Cooper, , an essay composed with the assistance of his lover Marine Zecca.

He died there in Like Laing, who also died young in , Cooper was a long-time heavy drinker — a significant factor in his early death. While he could be riotous when drinking, when he was sober, he was often perceived as the perfect gentleman although he hated anyone referring to him as such.

Cooper was researching a book to be called The geometry of freedom to be written with Marine Zecca prior to his death. This was to be a project that moved beyond mental health to consider health needs more broadly in France, Italy and North Africa. I know of no manuscript copy of this last book.

Nor do I know of any Cooper archival resources. Probably the best reason for remembering Cooper is Villa 21 —66 , a residential unit consisting of young working-class men at Shenley Hospital in Hertfordshire, UK. There compulsory treatment was pared down to a daily meeting that included patients, doctors, nurses, social workers and volunteers interested in the project.

Oisin Wall provides a good basic history of Villa 21 that includes an interview with a former resident. One volunteer was the US author and left-wing activist Clancy Sigal, writer of Zone of the interior Sigal, , a satirical novel about anti-psychiatry based on his own experiences at both Villa 21 and his association with Laing at the much more famous therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall.

For Sigal, Villa 21 was a place for those who, unlike the residents of Kingsley Hall, had no class privilege to cushion their voyages into madness and provide a route back into a basically secure world. The hospital authorities, disturbed by the physical messiness of Villa 21 not to say the challenge it presented to their view of mental health care , closed down the experiment after four years.

Cooper came to believe that the future of radical psychiatry was beyond the hospital. We should remember, however, that the first experimental anti-psychiatric community was carried out not at Kingsley Hall, but in a state mental hospital, and it was Cooper who persuaded the hospital authorities to allow the project to go ahead.

He recalls the experiment in his only book still in print, Psychiatry and anti-psychiatry Cooper, , which gives an account of his journey from being a psychiatrist to becoming an anti-psychiatrist. In this text, we find him, despite withering attacks on the hospitalisation of the mad and his questioning of the distinction between sanity and madness, following conventions of social-scientific writing and writing as a medically legitimated critic of psychiatry.

There is, for instance, a chapter on methodology; another offers an extended case history. In his next two books, The death of the family Cooper, and The grammar of living Cooper, , Cooper moves away from the role of therapeutic professional. This is a place in which children can bring up grown-ups, as well as vice versa, and in which people are not fixed in the contractual obligation of marriage or in one of the binaries of passive—active or heterosexual—homosexual.

Some people, by dint of their hard-won, relative freedom from their internal families — the result of considerable work on themselves — will be in a better position than others to act as witnesses and to provide supportive guidance through experiences of de- and restructuring see Cooper, : 54—65; b: 31— Therapy, for Cooper, becomes a matter not of specialised treatment, but rather of the practice of close attention to how people treat one another in everyday life.

Consciousness-expanding drugs have a place, too, in opening up new therapeutically valuable experiences, as does meditation Cooper, : 30—38, —31; b: There is a great energy about his writing, which is clearly different to that of R. Laing, with whom he is so often associated.

In Zone of the interior , Sigal satirises the Laing figure, Willie Last, who understands the madman as the new proletarian, the harbinger of revolution.

Most notably, for Cooper, madness is both a resistance to and a sign of the repressive nature of the family. In his exploration of communal anti-families in The death of the family Cooper, and The grammar of living Cooper, , we find him seeking to move beyond the bourgeois family. Growth is stunted among family members to the extent that, existentially , people tend to be more absent than present, and, therefore, the non-meeting of false selves characterises relationships see Cooper, : 54—65; b: 31— Madness presents a challenge to the family, which, for Cooper, stands at the basis of capitalism — and capitalism can only cope with psychotic dissent by invalidating the mad.

The death of the family Cooper, abounds with revolutionary optimism: it is possible to transcend the limitations of the bourgeois family; it is possible to make a revolution — and a new, revolutionary kind of self.

To readers on the Left, of course, such optimism is likely to read rather plaintively today. This is the case despite his keen sympathy for those who suffer, and despite his writing about his own episodes of madness.

Cooper, at times, clearly associates madness with the purity of childhood — he can be very romantic and can romanticise, and he associates madness with truth-telling and full, transformatory experiences. What about the madness of the lost, we might ask — those lost for weeks, months and years? The death of the family Cooper, and The grammar of living Cooper, are very much about constructing environments in which madness might be positively transformative.

In The language of madness Cooper, , madness is presented as a resource, something almost everyone has that might be drawn upon for the purposes of individual and social transformation. Moreover, madness is distinguished from schizophrenia, a sort of failed madness:. Cooper, : In this way the institution is not being attacked. Madness, then, needs to be integrated into every aspect of society and politicised.

Inspired especially by the work of Franco Basaglia, in The language of madness , Cooper —52 styles himself as an advocate not of anti-psychiatry — a confusing term, he now argues, that has been co-opted by those really in support of psychiatry — but of non-psychiatry, a practice of politicised community activism, support and political education for those stigmatised by disabling labels. Cooper is still a revolutionary in his last book, but his stance also represents mounting pessimism in the counterculture and New Left.

It is easy, perhaps, to dismiss Cooper as hippy-dippy, as representing the excesses and lamentable enthusiasms of the New Left and counterculture. This, I think, is a significant reason why Cooper has been overlooked in the academy. In considering the critical reception of Cooper, it must first be noted that he has received very little scholarly attention. He is mentioned in surveys or critiques of anti-psychiatry, but usually only in passing and en route to the analysis of the much better known critic of psychiatry R.

Liam Clarke —47 focuses at length on Villa 21, but is offhandedly dismissive of Cooper. In his biography of Laing , he argues that there was only ever one anti-psychiatrist: Cooper.

In a debate on the legacy of R. They pointed out that Laing was not an anti-psychiatrist and ought not to be confused with David Cooper A.

Laing et al, Staub implies that Cooper is unwilling to enter into fruitful debate about the nature of psychiatry. He presents himself as a revolutionary addressing revolutionaries or would-be revolutionaries.


Psiquiatria Antipsiquiatria by Cooper David

Anti-psychiatry is a movement based on the view that psychiatric treatment is more often damaging than helpful to patients. It considers psychiatry a coercive instrument of oppression due to an unequal power relationship between doctor and patient and a highly subjective diagnostic process. It has been active in various forms for two centuries. Anti-psychiatry originates in an objection to what some view as dangerous treatments.


Re-Coopering anti-psychiatry: David Cooper, revolutionary critic of psychiatry





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