The Causes of Sanity

Barry Richards

Abstract


Leading in with some personal reflections on the impact of R.D. Laing in the 1960s, this paper proceeds to suggest that sanity, simply defined, is dependent on an internal sense of safety, which in turn depends on effective containment of the basic anxieties of the human condition. The societal environment is an important source of this containment, in historically specific ways which until recently leaned heavily on religions and other sources of societal authority. The cultural changes which crystallised in the 1960s, particularly the rise of expressive individualism, signalled a transition away from the traditional modalities of containment, and towards popular culture with its expressive potential and its containing powers, found in its combinations of release and restraint, and lately enhanced by its reflective, therapeutic dimension. This turning away from societal authorities has entailed an impoverishment of the political sphere, presently often seen as antithetical to expressive selfhood. Intense antipathies to the state now flourish. Not only does this in itself present a risk to democracy, it also leaves the public without a key element in the apparatus of societal containment, which is a geographical place of safety. The role of the nation-state as modernity's geopolitical container of anxiety and grounding of the self is discussed, and it is suggested that an appropriate retrieval of this role would help to defend liberal democracy against insanity.        


Keywords


containment, individualism, popular culture, nation-state

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1234/fa.v0i78.326



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