Show Less

Psychiatry, Subjectivity, Community

Franco Basaglia and Biopolitics


Alvise Sforza-Tarabochia

Law 180, which abolished mental asylums in Italy, was passed in 1978. It came to be known as the ‘Basaglia Law’, after the physician whose work revolutionised psychiatry in Italy and worldwide. Franco Basaglia (1924-1980) battled to overturn an obsolete but prevalent conception of psychiatry, rooted in the asylum, where allegedly dangerous madmen were incarcerated rather than cured. Following Law 180, the asylum system was indeed dismantled in Italy, to be replaced by community centres. This radical transformation coincided with the emergence of ‘biopolitics’, a direct involvement of political power with the biological lives of the subjects, by means of homogenising disciplines such as the statistical analysis of the population.
Examining both his practice and his theory of psychiatry, this book argues that Franco Basaglia foresaw this change in the paradigm of power, and that it is possible to trace its embryonic conception in his writings. Combining history of ideas, social and cultural history, and philosophical analysis, the book contextualises Basaglia’s works within the intense current debate on biopolitics. In doing so, it shows not only how his theory of the subject and his criticism of psychiatry are still as powerful and relevant now as they were in the 1970s, but also how Basaglia’s philosophy makes an integral contribution to the burgeoning field of contemporary Italian theory.


Show Summary Details
Restricted access



Abboud, L. (2005). ‘The Next Phase in Psychiatry’. The Wall Street Journal, 27 July. Available at , accessed 15 March 2012. Abraham, K. (1927). ‘A Short Study of the Development of the Libido, Viewed in the Light of Mental Disorders’. Translated by Douglas Bryan and Alix Strachey. In: Selected Papers on Psycho-Analysis. London: Hogarth, pp. 418–79. Acheson, E.D. (1985). ‘That Over-Used Word Community’. Health Trends, 17, p. 3. Agamben, G. (2003). Stato di eccezione. Turin: Bollati Boringhieri. —— (2005). Homo sacer: Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita. Turin: Einaudi. Allaby, M. (2006). ‘Graft’. Available at , accessed 17 March 2009. Almeida-Filho, N., et al. (1997). ‘Brazilian Multicentric Study of Psychiatric Morbidity’. British Journal of Psychiatry, 171, pp. 524–29. Andreasen, N. (1997). ‘Linking Mind and Brain in the Study of Mental Illness: A Project for a Scientific Psychopathology’. Science, 5306, pp. 1586–93. Andrews, G., et al. (2001). ‘Prevalence, Comorbidity, Disability and Service Utilisation: Overview of the Australian National Mental Health Survey’. British Journal of Psychiatry, 178, pp. 145–53. APA (1968). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2nd edn). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press. —— (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision (4th edn). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press. Armocida, G. (2007). ‘A.M. Fiamberti and “Psycosurgery”’. Medicina nei secoli, 19(2), pp. 457–74. Armstrong, D. (1995). ‘Bodies of Knowledge/Knowledge of Bodies’. In: Jones, C., and Porter, R. (eds), Reassessing Foucault: Power, Medicine and the Body. London: Routledge, pp. 17–27. —— (1997). ‘Foucault and the Sociology...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.