François Ferrero: Inquiry of the Geneva 1980s’ Psychiatry Crisis: Forced Hospitalization, ECT and Sleep Therapy


François Ferrero’s reply to Eugenio Aguglia’s comments


        Eugenio Aguglia’s comments have the great merit of helping us to understand what occurred in Italian psychiatry from the 1960s to the 1980s.

        Aguglia’s historical and socio-political approach provides us with a fascinating read. He does not forget, however, to remind us of the terrible state of Italian psychiatric hospitals when Franco Basaglia arrived in Gorizia. His comments also allow us to better understand the strengths and alliances which made it possible for Basaglia to have such an influence.

        In comparison with Aguglia’s clear text, some publications mention alternative Italian psychiatry; those of which that were published in French have left me feeling somewhat doubtful.

        Nonetheless, there is one point of Aguglia’s with which I have had some difficulty agreeing: he appears to liken the ideas of Sartre and Foucault with those of Otto Binswanger, who was, in my opinion, a psychiatrist who not shared their ideas. He managed a clinic (in which Foucault worked during a period of time) with a long and good reputation. In contrast with Freud, he never stopped believing that psychoanalysis was a part of medicine and perhaps we have forgotten that he also received the Golden Kraepelin Medal. I do not think that phenomenology denies the existence of mental illness any more than it does not support the idea of an exclusive social origin of the illness. I will refrain from involving myself in an area which strikes me as particularly difficult, gladly leaving this to others more knowledgeable than me. 

        As I wrote in my response to Hanfried Helmchen (Ferrero 2018), the protest movements in Geneva were in no way comparable with the violence which hit psychiatry, particularly in Germany and in Italy.

        I cannot help but think that the impact of the antipsychiatry movements in these two countries also derives, paradoxically some might say, from the weakness of the influence of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. In the field of psychiatry, Italy has often followed in the footsteps of France and 1904 Italian law very much resembles 1838 French law.

        With regard to psychoanalysis, its first development in Italy was interrupted by World War I. Moreover, the Catholic Church opposed it very early. The role of fascism arrived later on and fascists did not appear to be worried about the psychoanalytic movement, because of its weakness. However, the introduction of racial laws in 1938 changed completely the situation. “During the entire period of Marxist supremacy in the world of humanities and human sciences (primarily from 1945 until 1960), psychoanalysis was ignored, or deemed a bourgeois science” (David 1982).

        From this perspective at least, the situation in France and in Switzerland was very different.



David M. La psychanalyse en Italie. In: Roland Jaccard. Histoire de la psychanalyse, sous la direction de. Hachette, Paris, 1982, volume 2.

Ferrero F. Reply to Hanfried Helmchen’s comments (François Ferrero: Inquiry of the Geneva 1980s’ Psychiatry Crisis: Forced Hospitalization, ECT and Sleep Therapy). October 25, 2018.


June 18, 2020