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South African psychiatrist Dr. David G. Cooper (1931–1986) was a noted theorist and leader in the anti-psychiatry movement , along with R. D. Laing, Thomas Szasz and Michel Foucault. Cooper graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1955. He moved to London, where he worked at several hospitals and directed an experimental unit for young schizophrenics called Villa 21. In 1965, he was involved with Laing and others in establishing the Philadelphia Association. An "existential Marxist", he left the Philadelphia Association in the 1970s in a disagreement over its growing interest in spiritualism over politics.

Cooper believed that madness and psychosis were a product of society and that its ultimate solution was through a revolution. To this end, Cooper travelled to Argentina as he felt the country was rife with revolutionary potential. He later returned to England before moving to France where he spent the last years of his life.

Cooper coined the term anti-psychiatry (see below), to describe opposition and opposing methods to the orthodox psychiatry of the time, although the term could easily describe the anti-psychiatrists' view of orthodox psychiatry, .i.e., anti-psychic healing.

His major essays include:

  • Reason and Violence: a decade of Sartre's philosophy, Tavistock (1964) – co-authored with R. D. Laing
  • Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry (Ed.), Paladin (1967)
  • The Dialectics of Liberation (Ed.), Penguin (1968) – Cooper's introduction can be read at the Herbert Marcuse website.
  • The Death of the Family, Penguin (1971)
  • Grammar of Living, Penguin (1974)
  • The Language of Madness, Penguin (1978)

He coordinated the Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation, held in London at The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm from 15 July to 30 July 1967 Participants included R. D. Laing, Paul Goodman, Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Marcuse and the Black Panthers' Stokely Carmichael. Jean-Paul Sartre was scheduled to appear but cancelled at the last moment. The term "anti-psychiatry" was first used by David Cooper in 1967.

He was a founding member of the Philadelphia Association, London, and director of the Institute of Phenomenological Studies.

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