Ken Kesey and the Rush to Deinstitutionalization

Source: Quillette
by Stephen Eide

“Ken Kesey (1935–2001) was a great admirer of manliness, a quality that would inform his countercultural indictment of America’s attitude toward mental illness, and of postwar America more generally. The darkly comic 1962 novel for which he is known, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, likened US society to an asylum in which men (in particular) are stripped of freedom and psychologically castrated. … Kesey’s programmatic recommendation was to provide everyone, including those who seem troubled or dysfunctional, with more autonomy. It’s a viewpoint that’s gained enormous influence in the 60 years since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was published. Unfortunately, whatever the literary strengths of Kesey’s signature novel, the movement it helped inspire has done much to harm both the mentally ill and the communities in which they live.” (11/14/22)