When I wrote [History of Madness], in Poland in 1958, antipsychiatry didn’t exist in Europe, and in any case it wasn’t an attack on psychiatry for the very good reason that the book stops at the very start of the nineteenth century – I don’t even fully examine the work of Etienne Esquirol. Despite all this, the book has continued to figure in the public mind as being an attack on contemporary psychiatry. Why? Because for me – and for those who read it and used it – the book constituted a transformation in the historical, theoretical, and moral or ethical relationship we have with madness, the mentally ill, the psychiatric institution, and the very truth of psychiatric discourse. So it’s a book that functions as an experience, for its writer and reader alike, much more than as the establishment of a historical truth. For one to be able to have that experience through the book, what it says does need to be true in terms of academic, historically verifiable truth. It can’t exactly be a novel. Yet the essential thing is not in the series of those true or historically verifiable findings but, rather, in the experience that the book makes possible. Now, the fact is, this experience is neither true nor false. An experience is always a fiction: it’s something that one fabricates oneself, that doesn’t eist before and will exist afterward. That is the difficult relationship with truth, the way in which the latter is bound up with an experience that is not bound to it and, in some degree, destroys it.
Michel Foucault, “Interview with Michel Foucault” In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume Three. Power New York: New Press, p. 243