This study presents a cultural history of madness in Cold War America. After World War II, therapy for the masses combined with a newly influential behavioral science to make psychopathology the vocabulary of choice when diagnosing social crises, denouncing political opponents, or formulating countercultural alternatives to mainstream values. Moving beyond medical institutions and practice, psychological accounts of paranoia and schizophrenia were adopted by the social sciences and social movements alike. Meanwhile, madness became a dominant theme in literature, film and cultural criticism.
This rich metaphorical thought intervenes in America’s cultural and political struggles of the mid- to late twentieth century and continues to serve as a resource for debate. The study locates the origins of the Cold War’s discourse of madness in the transfer of European psychology by émigré thinkers and assesses positive re-evaluations of psychosis in the Sixties and the retreat of the left into academia under Reagan. Cultural tropes of madness come to play a central role in Cold War culture, it is argued, because they dramatize the conflict between social determination and personal will as a conflict within the individual mind. Yet ultimately, they begin to imagine a sociality that reaches beyond liberal individualism.
Each chapter focuses on a major aspect of cultural uses of madness: from Cold War denunciations of ideological opponents to conceptions of a schizophrenic postmodernism, and the historical mutations of paranoia in U.S. fiction. The book provides a critical overview of representative authors and movements and changes our understanding of canonical figures of US cultural and intellectual life.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Madness as Metaphor 1. The Pathologies of Dissent: Richard Hofstadter and Cold War Psychology 2. Practical Cures: U.S. Psychiatry Between Thomas Szasz and Mental Patients' Liberation 3. Mad America: Philip K. Dick and Countercultural Opposition 4. The Secret History of the Cold War: Paranoid Narrative from Elia Kazan to Don DeLillo 5. A Schizophrenic Postmodernity: Fredric Jameson and the Politics of Critique. Coda: After Madness? No Future and a New Future