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Reviewed by:
  • Breaking through Schizophrenia by Wilfried Ver Eecke
  • Thomas Hutchinson
VER EECKE, Wilfried. Breaking through Schizophrenia. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019. 269 pp. Paper, $55.00

Wilfried Ver Eecke's Breaking through Schizophrenia is a fitting title. It breaks through disciplinary barriers befitting its theoretical source, Jacques Lacan. Continuing Lacan's critical project, BTS begins from a psychoanalytic dissent against mainstream psychiatry. Pushing further than Lacan, he includes a philosophical lesson in German Idealism, from which psychoanalysis originates. He demonstrates the influence of Hegelian philosophy on Lacanian psychoanalysis. The very debate that grounds BTS pushes psychoanalysis itself beyond the clinic and into a confrontation with twenty-first-century neoliberalism.

In the spirit of Lacan, Ver Eecke shifts the source of mental illness from individual physiology to the linguistic environment. Externalizing sources of mental illness demands psychoanalysis confront both philosophical [End Page 631] and political problems; scrutinizing institutions as objects of analysis potentially threatens the stability of embedded neoliberal power structures. Given the destabilizing capability of Lacanian psychoanalysis, the appeal of BTS is interdisciplinary. Ver Eecke's ability to summarize Lacan's often impenetrable language makes it digestible for nonpsychiatric specialists. Meanwhile, he demonstrates the importance of German Idealism for purposes both theoretical and practical. The image of psychoanalysis illustrated in BTS warrants attention from readers across the humanities.

The book as a whole should be read with an awareness of the way in which it consistently points beyond itself, firstly in its break with mainstream psychiatry, then through its movement into political society vis-a-vis philosophy. Thereby the reader remains conscious of the philosophical, social, and political dynamics at work in Lacanian psychoanalysis. Drawing parallels between and among Lacan's "mirror-stage," Hegel's master/slave dialectic, Lacan's theory of "aggressiveness" and Hegel's "Law of the Heart," Ver Eecke inherently builds psychoanalysis upon both Hegel's philosophy and Hegel's political philosophy.

Perhaps the main principle in BTS is that Lacan's mirror-stage theory of ego development is philosophically linked to Hegel's master/slave dialectic. This leads to the conclusion that Lacanian self-consciousness constitutes nothing less than a philosophical anthropology. Therewithin, the development from childhood to adulthood is an incredibly complex process, and the ego develops through many stages. The main argument in BTS is that "mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, can be understood as a failure in the psychosocial and linguistic development of the person when growing up." This means that the social institutions constitutive of the subject, most recognizably family, school, church, and so on, are linguistic communities, both distinct and interwoven within a broader sociolinguistic community.

By grounding the stages of self-consciousness in the Hegelian master/slave dialectic, Ver Eecke implies that ego development is an emergent function of interaction between no fewer than two individuals. More importantly, it appears inherently conflictual; it is both (1) grounded in language and (2) social and political. According to Lacan's mirror stage theory, the ego emerges from a number of interactions and tensions between self and other, even before advancing to the Oedipus complex. The family is the immediate source of consciousness and mental illness, and is consequently the first social institution implicated. This problematizes the very notion of family, something perhaps taken for granted in Freud's and even Lacan's time. Is the family not ever increasingly more subject to sociopolitical institutional pressures? Due to the dynamic nature of contemporary neoliberal reality, psychoanalysis aims at an ever developing, moving target. It thus needs to understand itself within a view of the whole, within a philosophic horizon. [End Page 632]

Hegel teaches in Philosophy of Right that "the ethical life" amounts to the conscious unity of family, civil society, and state. It constitutes "the whole" of practical existence. Ethical life unites the family, civil society, and the state into a common whole, meaning that each is in contact with another in the ethical life. Ethical life at the same time transcends the particular instances of each. In the language of German Idealism, the ethical life is precisely that which is in the whole of the family, civil society, and the state more than themselves. Hegel contends that, in the family, "the mother...


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