Alienation is a pivotal concept in critical theory, going back to Rousseau, Hegel and Marx. In his theory on the becoming of the subject, Lacan gave the concept an even more radical and original meaning (there is no original essence whatsoever) and doubled it with a second process: separation. The central argument of this paper is that separation is a key concept for understanding how we can handle our contemporary alienation induced by neoliberalism.
This contribution originates with a number of problems in the current psychodiagnostic and therapeutic field which give rise to important ethical, clinical and scientific questions: questions that, from a broader social perspective, are interrelated. The criteria for psychopathology depend on socially decided norms and values (ethics), which coincide with the societal context. Current neoliberal discourse dictates a medical model that determines the manner in which scientific research is conducted, resulting in so-called evidence-based DSM-based diagnostics. In the clinic, this psychiatric handbook is used to identify individuals that deviate from the proposed criteria, with the goal of treatment to ‘normalise’ them. This is little more than a form of social standardization and patients are becoming increasingly aware of this. However, what little protest has occurred has had correspondingly little impact. Psychotherapy is hence at a tipping point. To protect our discipline, it is necessary to explicitly see the sea in which we all swim and to question our own role in determining the general perspective.