The Three Principles of La Borde Clinic

I’ve been slowly making my way through François Dosse’s Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari: Biographie croisée, which, obviously, is a biography of both Deleuze and Guattari, focusing on their work together and how their very different lives crossed. Tonight I read the chapter on La Borde clinic, an experimental psychiatric hospital that Guattari worked at, and really co-led after some years, with Jean Oury.

La Borde has interested me for many years after my first research stint at the Institute for Nature and Culture where my task was to look into models of trans- or interdisciplinarity. In this chapter I came across the three principles that founded La Borde and that continue to guide it today. I find them to be a fascinating model and one that seems so simple and obvious for bringing about change and fostering a good, communist society. Perhaps that is why it is so hard to do.

  1. Democratic centralism assuring the prominence of group administration. This arose out of a Marxist-Leninist principle that aimed for the withering away of those “little priests of the people”.
  2. Corollary to this  was the principle that each must be capable of doing both manual labour and intellectual labour (developed from the notion of a Communist utopia, which is really a Platonic ideal, doing things for both the body and the mind and removing alienation from production). Anyone could be called upon to perform menial and administrative tasks as well as medical tasks. Part of this was systematizing a rota of duties.
  3. The anti-bureaucratic principle is the last and was the institution of a communitarian organization with the making responsibilities, tasks and salaries in common.

This lead to a kind of summary mission statement that I’ve roughly translated this way: “The permeability of spaces, the freedom to move about, the criticism of professional roles and qualifications, the plasticity of institutions, and the necessity of therapeutic society for the sick (Dosse, p. 56).” The goal of La Borde was a kind of communist utopia and obviously there were always problems that arose in the pursuit of that goal, but that there was and is such an attempt in the world cheered me some.