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Doctoring the Mind
Doctoring the Mind
by Richard P Bentall
Edition: Hardcover

51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging text, 23 July 2009
This review is from: Doctoring the Mind (Hardcover)
This is, in my opinion, an important book. Bentall reviews a number of areas related to contemporary psychiatry and clinical psychology, and he highlights some of the major areas of controversy between practitioners in these disciplines. It is beyond my competence to assess whether all his conclusions are correct. Indeed, given the diversity of topics covered, I doubt whether many readers will feel competent to draw definitive conclusions.

The central issue arising from this book relates to the validity or otherwise of reductionist accounts of both normal and abnormal behaviour, i.e. the extent to which behaviour can or cannot be explained in terms of the detailed analysis of brain functioning at the neuronal level. Over the last 40 years mainstream psychology has undergone a "paradigm shift' in which reductionist accounts of behaviour have become less influential. Bentall's book reflects this change, and it represents a considerable challenge to conventional psychiatrists, who typically adopt a more reductionist philosophical approach, focussed in particular on drug treatment.

Since the 1970s there have not really been major advances in psychopharmacology, and some of the major ones such as the development of the clozapine-like "atypical/second generation" antipsychotics seem to be progressively disappearing, after much hype, in a cloud of smoke, leaving some puzzled and confused. In part, as Bentall documents, this is due to the malign influence of the pharmaceutical industry which has done itself no favours at all by e.g. i) Rigging clinical trials by the use of inappropriate (high) comparator doses of older drugs in trials investigating the actions of novel drugs, and ii) Lack of attention to serious adverse side effects such as weight gain and diabetes. A strong case can be made for the psychiatric profession and psychopharmacologists in general paying much more attention to what we often do NOT know about many psychoactive drugs - most efficacious doses, mechanisms of action involved in their therapeutic and side effects, consequences of co-administration of two or often more drugs, effects of drug withdrawal, abuse of antipsychotics when administered at high doses to the elderly, interactions of drugs with psychological therapies et alia. Such studies will clearly not be conducted by the pharmaceutical industry and thus will have to be state funded. The best psychiatrists do address the issues described above, and they attempt to deal with the problem of reductionism by marrying neuronal ideas to functional psychological concepts, although they are relatively few and far between. Ideally, Bentall's book would lead to a rapprochement between psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, although given its rather strident tone this appears highly unlikely to happen at present! In the meantime it is probably essential reading for all trainee clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, for interested lay readers as well as individuals in receipt of therapy.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 2, 2010 8:38 PM GMT

Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya
Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya
by Caroline Elkins
Edition: Paperback

33 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars History with distinct limitations., 21 Oct 2008
Elkins' book has received many plaudits in America and was awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for non fiction. Regrettably, Elkins' outrage about events in Kenya in the 1950s results in her forsaking academic rigour, since she tells only part of a murky story. This can be shown most clearly be considering aspects of some reviews of the book by other academic historians.

Bethwell Ogot from Moi University in Kenya noted in reviewing Elkins' book that the Mau Mau fighters who were involved in the insurgency against the Colonial Government "Contrary to African customs and values, assaulted old people, women and children. The horrors they practiced included the following: - decapitation and general mutilation of civilians, torture before murder, bodies bound up in sacks and dropped in wells, burning the victims alive, gouging out of eyes, splitting open the stomachs of pregnant women. No war can justify such gruesome actions. In man's inhumanity to man there is no race distinction. The Africans were practising it on themselves. There was no reason and no restraint on both sides, although Elkins sees no atrocities on the part of Mau Mau" (Journal of African History 46, 2005, page 502).

Susan Carruthers from Rutgers University in the USA noted that "In her determination to redress imperial propaganda's stereotypes of Mau Mau savagery, Elkins leans into unintended condescension, lauding the Kikuyu's `sophisticated' appreciation of British hypocrisy. (Why wouldn't those most thoroughly dislocated appreciate the character of European colonialism better than anyone?) Conversely, Elkins' settlers and colonial administrators are cartoonish grotesques: `These privileged men and women lived an absolutely hedonistic lifestyle, filled with sex, drugs, drink and dance, followed by more of the same' " (Twentieth Century British History 16, 2005, page 492).

None of this suggests that events in Kenya during the Mau Mau insurgency were not distinctly unpleasant, to say the least. It does, however, suggest that Elkins has a very sharp axe to grind, and that her book should be interpreted with this orientation clearly in mind. The many plaudits that Elkins' book have received in America possibly tell us much about American attitudes to the British Empire. This is by a limited history of the Mau Mau insurgency.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2014 4:00 PM BST

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