chapter  4
31 Pages

R. D. Laing: the politics of the family

Introduction Popular culture may sometimes come closer to the darker side of family living than academic social science. The American 'private eye' story, for example, often shows the investigator attempting to unravel a tangle of wealth, corruption, violence and, binding all these together, a guilty secret at the heart of an influential family. Often the detective (like the analyst) may find that the trail leads back to the very person who hired him in the first place. Or there is a sub-genre of horror movie (illustrated by Les Diaboliques, A Taste of Fear or Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte) where two or more members of a family or closely related set of persons conspire to drive another person mad. Such popularly expressed myths convey, in common with all myths, a form of social reality. Such myths certainly, in a dramatic form, echo some of the central concerns of Laing and his associates and remind us that not all the streams of popular culture maintain the model of the 'happy family' to be found in many television series. Perhaps it was the Forsyte Saga that most clearly illustrated to millions of people the two-edged character of family life; one edge is warm, protective and fiercely loyal while the other edge is destructive, narrow and ultimately violent.