Anthony Chaney teaches history and writing at the University of North Texas at Dallas. His book Runaway: Gregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness (University of North Carolina Press, 2017) offers an examination of the intellectual life and ideas of Gregory Bateson that came to fruition in the midst of the social upheaval of the 1960s. Bateson trained in the natural sciences and anthropology, moved to the field of psychiatry and conceptualized the double bind theory of schizophrenia. Leading a research group of scientists and captivated by the possibilities the double bind theory offered in understanding the anxiety of the age, he sought to connect it with other intellectual currents such cybernetics, game theory, evolutionary and communication theory. Working across disciplines, he addressed the modern problem of the distinctions between fact/value, reason/emotion, nature/culture, producing an inescapable double bind for society. Plunging into the paradox of the human condition, he challenged the instrumental view of solving social problems, breaking new ground against binary thinking and in addressing the ecological crisis as a system in runaway. Without appealing to metaphysics, he articulated a holistic theory of mind as a new foundation for thinking about humanity and its relationship to the natural world. Chaney has provided a rich exploration of a fascinating thinker who set the foundations for the information age.
This episode of New Books in American Studies was produced in cooperation with the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.
Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology forthcoming from Oxford University Press.