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New Left Review I/28, November-December 1964

R. D. Laing

What is Schizophrenia?

Paper read to the First International Congress of Social Psychiatry

The term schizophrenia has come to have so many contradictory meanings and implications. What is schizophrenia?

For me, almost the one certain thing about ‘schizophrenia’ is that it is a diagnosis, that is, a clinical label, applied by some people to others. Until recently, this label meant that the labeller was under the impression that the behaviour of the person he was labelling was symptomatic of some pathological process, itself of unknown nature and origin, going on in the body of the person. This view could be held together with the view that the pathological process was also, primarily or secondarily, a psycho-pathological one, going on in the psyche of the person. In any case the label had one connotation. The person labelled was not like us.

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R. D. Laing, ‘What Is Schizophrenia?’, NLR I/28: £3

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