David Cooper

He was born in 1931 in Capetown where he completed medical studies and then moved to London where he led the experimental unit for schizophrenics called “Pavilion 21″ from 1962 to 1966. With his colleagues, he focussed primarily to develop an Existentialist Psychiatry in Britain challenging project of which is illustrated by the term of anti-psychiatry. In contrast to “social psychiatry” “family systemic therapies,” an ecosystem approach to the family as a social system to stable configuration, the British anti-psychiatry attributed to the capitalist social model and castratrice Christian culture the effects and the causes of mental illness.

Indeed, the first asylums for the insane were English and intended to put out young turbulent aristocrats, to the bid and over-spending mores, by enclosing them to avoid that the fame and the fortune of their family were stained.

The Soviet dissent was in prison and psychiatric hospital which is the modern name for the insane asylum. Indeed, any deviancy is socially and politically, madness and treachery. The English Gregory Bateson, anthropologist, considered schizophrenia as an appropriate response to the paradoxes and double stress resulting from a pathology of the communication.

The man and his work

David Cooper (1931-1986) was the inventor of the word “anti-psychiatry” (Word attested for the first time in his first book Psychiatry and anti-psychiatry, 1967) and founder of the current of thought of the same name with Ronald Laing. Born in Cape Town (South Africa), David Cooper studied Psychiatry in London after turned to music. Graduated in 1955, it is in a facility reserved for blacks in London. In 1962, he opened the Pavilion 21 in a London psychiatric hospital where he will implement his antipsychiatriques theories.

For Cooper, mental illness does not exist, and the madness is a personal and social experience, an altered state of consciousness (EMC), a trip. He challenges any classification of mental deviations in disease. For some, generally followers of psychiatric theories and incapable of reason out of the terminology of the mental hygiènisme, its therapeutic practice – which is not a, since Cooper refutes the notion of mental illness – is akin to the “let”: the delirious patient regresses to an archaic state, and then gradually back to the State said normal its detritus and his feces.

For other, more critical of psychiatric theories, Cooper advocated to accompany the individual labeled “mentally ill” in the path of re-appropriation of his language, his mind and his body, that this path passes or not by a supposedly archaic State or cross the yellow line of propriety and the Manege.

This practice was successful, showing by this same that schizophrenia is not a disease. It has also been well “failures”, both the confrontation to the psychiatric and capitalist dogma within the society in which it proposed to act was inevitable.

In 1965, he founded the Kingsey Hall hospital, specifically oriented to schizophrenia as a “crisis microsocial”. In 1967, he organized with Gregory Bateson, Herbert Marcuse and Stokeley Carmichaël a World Congress of “dialectic and release”. In 1972, he moved to Paris, city in which his antipsychiatriques theories are favourably received (Maud Mannoni, Félix Guattari). He died in 1986 in Paris.

His work is a challenging combination of psychiatric hospitals and the social model capitalism.

The large difference between the European anti-psychiatry and the “American”systemic family therapies”social psychiatry is that the first is extra-familiale and is on any capitalist society, perceived it as totalitarian and authoritarian, where any deviancy is socially condemned and repressed by the psychiatric internment.” Social psychiatry is family and is focused on the theatre of family life where everyone has to play its role by present and implicit rules.


  • The language of the madness, 1977
  • A grammar for the use of the living, 1976
  • Death of the family, 1975
  • Psychiatry and anti-psychiatrie, 1970

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