Radical Therapeutics: Family Therapy and the Politics of Chance

Deterritorial Investigations


Perhaps the domain of family therapy was postmodern before its time, eschewing a vision of progress toward a progressively revealed ‘truth’ for one in which the coexistence of multiple voices allows us to contribute to the richness of our unique voice to the chorus of the field to which we belong.1

-Mony Elkaim, 1997

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In the late 1950s, Gregory Bateson, recently returned from time spent in Bali developing new cybernetics-influenced theories on anthropological sociability, found himself in Palo Alto working with a group of therapists working in the emerging field of family therapy. The goal was to integrate cybernetic concepts in the psychoanalytic spectrum, just as Jacques Lacan was doing overseas in faraway France. One of the most pronounced results was a groundbreaking new theory of schizophrenia, describing the psychotic condition as resulting from a double-bind arising inside a family’s communication pathways. Bateson later recalled that one of…

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