It is unarguable that R. D. Laing was the best-known and, certainly outside mainstream psychiatry, the most influential psychiatrist of his time. His ideas have continued to exercise an astonishing appeal to writers, film directors, sociologists and philosophers. He epitomised for many the so-called anti-psychiatry movement and its portrayal of psychiatrists as agents of social control, psychiatric institutions as centres of degradation and psychiatric treatment as a process of invalidation. His rolling Glaswegian rhetoric summoned forth once again the compelling romantic concept of the psychotically ill as bearers of a potent insight into the fallibility, the malevolence and the violence at the heart of the human condition. He was, as his old teacher, and fellow-psychiatrist and Scot, Morris Carstairs, observed in a review in the Times Literary Supplement in 1976, “a guru of our time”. Now that he is no longer with us, how will time remember him?
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