Asperger’s poststructuralism debate

Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, is the subject of this website which is having a debate about poststructuralism and social construction. It would be of interest to people like Ian Hacking, who as I wrote in an earlier post has made a study of autism and the idea of “making up people.”

Has anyone given thought to Michel Foucault’s concept of social construction? So, to Foucault, both sex (male<->female) and sexual orientation (heterosexual<->homosexual) were constructions and were maintained by those in positions of power. In other words, sex and sexual orientation do not exist, per se. They are, rather, simply names used, as part of our social narratives or discourses, to reinforce existing power structures.

Similarly, there has been considerable debate over AS. Is it high-functioning autism? Is it a separate condition on the spectrum of pervasive developmental “disorders”? Currently, the American Psychiatric Association is considering placing AS under a new category of Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders in its upcoming DSM-V codebook.

One Response

  1. There has been an explosion of this kind of medicalised identity discourse of late. People are now drawing on psychiatric and especially neuropsychiatric concepts and imagery, like Asperger’s Syndrome, to fashion new kinds of mythologies of identity. The whole category of “high functioning autism” has in a very short time become a constantly living and expanding category that is already showing signs of inflating beyond any semblance of clinical usefulness.

    Listen to AS-identifying people talk about themselves. There is virtually no aspect of their person that they would not claim is somehow uniquely “AS.” Look also at the preposterous recruitment of dead celebrities to the AS hall of fame. Virtually every mythical genius has been admitted: Einstein, Newton, da Vinci, van Goch, Mozart, to name but a few. The trend also extends beyond physical reality to the world of fiction where Jane Austen characters are now grouped on the basis of “autism traits.”

    I am beginning to feel we are entering a bizarre age of one-dimensional acronymized people who are only capable of making sense of their reality by dividing it to word combinations: AS, ADD, ADHD, PTSD, ASPD, etc., etc. I mean all these constricted forms (and people do use them a lot these days) look like some kind of crude code for socially constructed reality. It is a weird kind of push-button reality where word-combinations are seen as a short cut to introspection and self-understanding.

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