Psychiatric Hegemony: A Marxist Theory of Mental Illness (2016)

Bruce M Z Cohen (Author)


This book offers a comprehensive Marxist critique of the business of mental health, demonstrating how the prerogatives of neoliberal capitalism for productive, self-governing citizens have allowed the discourse on mental illness to expand beyond the psychiatric institution into many previously untouched areas of public and private life including the home, school and the workplace. Through historical and contemporary analysis of psy-professional knowledge-claims and practices, Bruce Cohen shows how the extension of psychiatric authority can only be fully comprehended through the systematic theorising of power relations within capitalist society. From schizophrenia and hysteria to Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, from spinning chairs and lobotomies to shock treatment and antidepressants, from the incarceration of working class women in the nineteenth century to the torture of prisoners of the 'war on terror' in the twenty-first, Psychiatric Hegemony is an uncompromising account of mental health ideology in neoliberal society.

Product Details

Palgrave MacMillan
Publish Date
December 02, 2016
6.0 X 0.8 X 8.3 inches | 1.25 pounds

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About the Author

Bruce Cohen is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His books include Mental Health User Narratives: New Perspectives on Illness and Recovery, Being Cultural and Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health.


"Psychiatric Hegemony: A Marxist Theory of Mental Illness examines the genealogy of the current hegemonic status of psychiatry in neoliberal societies. His reconstruction of stories and their historical, political, institutional, and economical embeddedness bridges the gap between conceptualizations of mental illness in the traditions of symbolic interactionism, social constructivism, and more classically Marxist-influenced antipsychiatry. ... Cohen's work reminds us that critical challenges to psychiatric hegemony were once, and should again be, a progressive cause." (Martin Harbusch and Michael Dellwing, Symbolic Interaction, August 26, 2019)

"Psychiatric Hegemony explains how and why psychiatric discourse escaped from the clinic and spread throughout the masses to achieve hegemonic status in neo-liberal society. ... Psychiatric Hegemony will inspire a wide range of scholarship that informs both the social and biological sciences, and that will one day perhaps even make a difference to the health and well-being of diverse populations worldwide." (Paul H. Mason, Social History of Medicine, Vol. 31 (1), February, 2018)

"In Psychiatric Hegemony, Bruce Cohen offers a critical analysis of the mental health system ... . Cohen joins with other voices in calling for a system that provides necessary, humane help to those in need, and that exists to serve those in need ... . These objectives seem worthwhile, and perhaps this volume will engage others in thinking outside the sociocultural box as well." (Andrew Nocita, PsycCRITIQUES, Vol. 62 (25), June, 2017)