Critical Madness Theory. A Way of Interpreting Irrational Behavior as Political Action

Author: Kaye, Bradley
In philosophical and economic traditions it is common place to discuss agency as rational and self-interested. This book examines how therapeutic practices in bi-polar support groups actually contradict this baseline presupposition. Can irrational people whose behavior does not correspond to their own personal interests be viewed as political agents, and this book argues yes. How does the madness inherent in mental illness factor into political organizing in radical groups like anarchists, and how can a new existential-phenomenological philosophy, which Dr. Kaye creates, help us to better understand grassroots organizing. The chapters progress from a discussion of transversality as the panacea to disciplinary power, which opens up agency, on to a discussion of existential-phenomenological intentions. It then moves to advocacy for this new philosophical system. It finishes in the final chapter on the art of living.


“Dr. Kaye’s interlocutory style is not merely requesting but expecting his readers to do politicized, socio-emotional work, again, and again, always on ethical grounds.”
Prof. Diane Wiener,
Syracuse University

“Dr. Bradley Francis Kaye is a young theoretical philosopher with a fresh theory of madness, for which his first book is a prolegomenon to a new phenomenology, rich and edifying. Great are the philosophical progenitors of phenomenology who have built a rigorous method for a science beyond the limits of positivism and psychologism, as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre have each done in his own way. Having set their sights primarily on rationality, they have only partially illuminated the variety of self-inflicted malaises, from the unhappy consciousness, or alienation, of Hegel and Marx, to Sartre’s bad faith, without offering a full phenomenological reduction (in the e.g. Husserlian mode) to expose irrationality and madness in terms of intentionality. Bradley Francis Kaye is fully and humbly aware that he has not finished the job: “This project is a prolegomena toward building a discourse that would seek to empower people to feel the insurgent possibilities inherent in the ‘abnormal’ existential-phenomenological intentions.” What Dr. Kaye has accomplished, by my lights better than any other philosopher writing on this side of the Atlantic, is the sorely needed first opening salvo. Just as Sartre shows how we can become ‘mad’ in order to ‘turn our illness into a weapon,’ Dr. Kaye shows madness as political action. Right on!”
Prof. Daniel Kolak,
William Paterson University

“Bradley Kaye gives us a striking synthesis of psychological and philosophical insight. He brings his critical studies of recent Continental thought – the ideas of Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, and others – to bear upon concrete issues of psychotherapeutic practice. Kaye’s experience as both a philosopher and participant in community bipolarity support groups makes him uniquely qualified to carry out this important mission. He breaks new ground concerning the nature of mental illness as well as the forms of therapeutic practice likely to achieve success in our own postmodern times, and in doing so he draws out the surprising yet cogent political implications of his entire approach. This is a book that should be read by philosophers, psychologists, and political activists alike.”
Prof. Donald Weiss,
Binghamton University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Diane Wiener
Chapter 1: Subject Groups, Disciplinary Power, Transversality
How Does Disciplinary Power Influence the Mind (And Body)
What is Transversal Resistance?
Historicizing Transversality
Subject Group and Subjugated Group as Transversal
Transversality in the Early Guattari
Transversality in the Later Guattari
Felix Guattari’s Anti-Psychiatry Leanings: Coding, Encoding, Decoding
The “Blind Spots” of a Mediocre Psychiatrist
Chapter 2: Existential/Phenomenological Revolutionary Intentions
Existential-Phenomenological Foundations for Understanding Psychosis
The Horror, the Horror: How the Slumber of Reason Creates Monsters
Psychosis as Being-In-The-World
The Therapeutic Possibilities of Being Unproductive
Lyotard: Marx as Work of Art, Beyond the Fetishism of Production
Communist Ontology as Therapeutic
Industrial Reserve Army and the Bio-Power of Asylums
Chapter 3a: Pure Immanence as Being-In-The-World
Chapter 3b: On Subjection in Critical Theory: Towards a Mad Subject
Chapter 4: Madness, Death, and the Art of Living
Meditations on Jacques Derrida’s The Mad Truth: The Just Name of Friendship
Conclusion: Thinking the (Un)Thought of Immanence: “Abnormal” Consciousness as a Break from the Economic Base
Works Cited