Ronald David Laing (1927-1989) was a Scottish psychiatrist who was often considered part of the anti-psychiatry movement (although he rejected this characterization); he wrote many other books such as Politics of Experience, Self and Others, etc. He wrote in the Preface to this 1971 book, "This book consists of revisions of talks (except the first chapter) given in 1967-1968 on diverse occasions... The first chapter is virtually rewritten. Otherwise they are as they were: intended, then and now, to evoke questions rather than to provide answers."
He wrote in the first chapter, "The family discussed here is the family of origin transformed by internalization, partitioning, and other operations, into the 'family' and mapped back onto the family and elsewhere. It is to the relation between the observable structures of the family and the structures that endure as part of the 'family' as a set of relations and operations between them that this chapter is addressed." (Pg. 3-4)
He states, "Co-inherence compounded by reciprocal mapping of the 'family' of each onto the common family leads to what I have called the 'nexification' of the family. Such nexified families may become relatively closed systems; they are seen again and again in studying families of people diagnosed schizophrenic. This statement is very different from any assertion that such families cause schizophrenia." (Pg. 18) Later, he observes, "The smoothly working family system is much more difficult to study than one that is in difficulties." (Pg. 81)
He argues, "Such differential diagnosis of [a patient] is an elaborate diversion from the important issue: to diagnose (literally to see through) the social situation." (Pg. 29) He adds, "No one in the situation may know what the situation is. We can never assume that the people in the situation know what the situation is. A corollary to this is: the situation has to be discovered." (Pg. 33) Still later, he adds, "'Diagnosis' is appropriate for social situations, if one understands it as seeing through the social scene. Diagnosis BEGINS as soon as one encounters a particular situation, and never ends." (Pg. 40)
He asserts, "Schizophrenia is the name for a condition that most psychiatrists ascribe to patients they call schizophrenic." (Pg. 44) He suggests, "observations on the behaviour of animals in captivity tells us nothing reliable about their behaviour in their natural setting. The whole of our present civilization may be a captivity. But the observations upon which psychiatrists and psychologists have drawn in order to build up the prevailing picture of schizophrenia have, almost entirely, been made on human beings in double or even treble captivity." (Pg. 57-58)
Laing is not the highly controversial and polarizing figure he once was; with the passage of time, one can more easily appreciate what he had to say.