I bought this book as in the blurb it proposed to "open up the debate on mental disorders". In hindsight that should have alerted me... such a statement immediately presupposes "mental disorders" and therefore limits wider debate. Instead of exploring meaning and critical discussion, what Neel Burton presents is a reasonable introduction to what psychiatry thinks at the moment. Fair enough. If you are interested in a reader on psychiatry and mental illness this may be what you are looking for. It is however an assertion of only one meaning of Madness, the meaning attributed by traditional psychiatry and neuroscience. This is not altogether surprising (he is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist after all) but the blurb misleads potential buyers. The language and attitudes within are firmly traditional down to the curiously depressing statement "The modern psychiatric concept of bipolar disorder has its origins in the 19th century" what a shame not much has been added? The slightly sinister "Genes for potentially debilitating disorders such as bipolar disorder usually pass out of the population over time because affected people have fewer children" is a good example of the unreferenced and rather cavalier handling of evolutionary genetics within. Research is cherry picked to ensure that Schizophrenia is a biological/medical illness,it's biochemistry is well understood by psychiatry. We should all be reassured. These are the points made. The mysteries of Madness (and as Peter Chadwick put it, it's seduction) are carefully glossed over and links with creativity imagination society or intelligence are dismissed. Laing and the anti psychiatrists were wrong (Laing Szasz and Foucault are dealt with in one dismissive paragraph on page 82). Foucault in particular is misrepresented as an "antipsychiatrist" rather than a post modern philosopher analysing the role of power and politics in the construction of contempory "truth" and the role of texts and authors in the construction of accepted reality. A shame since this book itself could be seen as an example of Foucaults thinking, it represents, after all, a member of an elite creating and confirming an elites "expert" reality through the choice of research and anecdote used in the narrative. Reflections on Foucault by the author and on what "truth" emerges as a result of an expert writing may have helped widen the discussion within? Worryingly the language is negative towards those suffering these experiences. DSM rules ok recovery and it's proponents are ignored and research is only explored as far as it serves the needs of Dr Burtons core positions on the subject.The experiences of people are interesting only as far as they confirm Madness as a medical phenomenon.... Simple really. If you want an easy to read summary of mental illnesses and symptoms according to psychiatry (with some interesting anecdotes) this may be the book for you. If you want the exploration of meaning(s) indicated on the cover go to Richard Bentall, Dr Marius Romme, Phil Barker or indeed Laing Szasz and Foucault. I also note on revision of my view that those who review it positively are psychiatrists or people looking for an explanation in a structuralist sense of what mental "illness" is and so they may be very satisfied with this book that propagates a "safe hands" view of what these experiences are according to psychiatry. Thats great. If this book brings some reassurance I am happy that that is so. However there are less traditional views out there and the non medical among us may enjoy more debate han the author allows.