Not doomed: sociology and psychiatry, and ignorance and expertise

This paper by George Ikkos has been published in the BJPsych Bulletin. It begins:

“According to Whooley, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico, there is a growing body of sociological research on ‘ignorance’, including the ignorance of the professions.Reference Whooley1 He suggests that from the perspective of this field, psychiatry serves as fertile ground for study. He neatly summarises his argument as follows:

‘Psychiatry has been shaped less by the knowledge it has secured and more by the ignorance it cannot resolve. Indeed, the most striking feature of psychiatry’s history is how little progress it has made in resolving its basic questions. Psychiatry has changed, there can be no doubt. But how far has it really come?’ (p. 197).Reference Whooley1

Some will accuse Whooley of being yet another in a long line of anti-psychiatrists, but he concedes the concept of mental illness when he states ‘We [society] have abdicated our duty to those with serious mental illness’ (p. 201) and affirms the legitimacy of biomedical research on mental illness when he writes that ‘The parallel with previous reinventions does not mean the neuroscientific vision of psychiatry will necessarily fail, that it will succumb to the same fate as its predecessors. It is far too early to tell’. Militant defenders of psychiatry may even derive some pleasure from reading that ‘Foucault is known for playing fast and loose with the historical record. He paints vivid pictures and provocative arguments but often at the expense of rigour’ (p. 220) ….”

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