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RunawayGregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness$
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Anthony Chaney

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631738

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631738.001.0001

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Difficulties at the Metalevel

Difficulties at the Metalevel

(p.45) Two Difficulties at the Metalevel

Anthony Chaney

University of North Carolina Press

The narrative setting for chapter 2 is the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, California, in the 1950s, where Bateson lead the double-bind research group investigating paradox and disorder in family relations. The chapter traces the early development of the double-bind theory of schizophrenia and its source in Russellian logical paradox. It discusses the double bind as a resonant and empirically rich example of similar constructs that distilled the modern predicament as an impossible dilemma. Other examples include Joseph Heller's catch-22, Reinhold Niebuhr's reformulation of original sin and his Serenity Prayer; Albert Camus's concept of the absurd and his novel The Stranger; and constructions in Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s Slaughterhouse Five. Double-bind equivalents as reactions to the atom bomb are described in works such as Joanna Greenberg's I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Allen Ginsberg's Howl, and the film Rebel Without a Cause. Meanwhile, social critics such as Lewis Mumford used psychiatric and systems theory language and paradoxical constructions to talk about the failure of "pragmatic liberalism," the arms race, and policies of nuclear deterrence.

Keywords:   double-bind theory, schizophrenia, logical paradox, catch-22, Reinhold Niebuhr, Albert Camus, Rebel Without a Cause, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Lewis Mumford

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