David Langwallner, Public Intellectual Series: Michel Foucault, Cassandra Voices, December 7 2019
Alone among Post-Modernists, Foucault’s methodology was empiricist and historicist. Rather than relying on incomprehensible prose and bizarre generalisations he adopted inductive reasoning. As an historian of ideas, we don’t simply find him inventing absurd abstractions, but analysing real existing data.
For Foucault: ‘[M]madness was an invention, a product of social relations and not an independent reality.
Of course that point can be expanded to our present age, with concepts of rationality and ideas on mental health shifting, augmented by social media, message management and outright thought control. The paradigm shift is towards an all-consuming neo-liberalism, and conformity reconfiguring human identity itself. Soon, I fear, even moderate liberalism might be deemed mad, recalling Chile in the 1970s, or even 1930s Germany.
In my practice as a London-based barrister, increasingly, I find clients in disassociated and derealised states. Social alienation is leading many to perceive themselves as passive onlookers in lives not truly their own. The ills of social dissatisfaction and structural curtailment of achievement leading to moderate or even severe depression.