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Autism, Capitalism and the Autism "Self" Advocacy Industry

Posted Nov 02 2010 3:11am
I don't usually find much of value in the various Neurodiversity commentaries on the internet. From Jim Sinclair to Ari Ne'eman it is always the same claim by some very high functioning person to speak on behalf of all persons with autism including those, like my son,  with actual Autistic Disorder diagnoses who are severely affected by their autism disorders. I commented yesterday in my post Autism is a Mental Disorder for Which Cures Should be Sought on the tendency by some self proclaimed autism representatives to  describe autism as everything but what it is .. a medical disorder ...  a mental disorder, a diagnostic category in the DSM and ICD.  Today I read a comment on a site  cripchick's blog   called Autism, Capitalism, and the Establishment which I found interesting even though I disagree with much of it. In that comment cripchick criticizes what she describes as an autism advocacy industry. She  places her criticisms of the alleged autism advocacy industry  in the context of what she describes as the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC):


Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) is a system where non-profit organizations become about making money and maintaining the status quo. A lot of people feel offended by the NPIC critique, but without this conversation we can’t really talk about the environment we are trying to create change in, the role institutions play in our work, or our vision for the world we want to live in.

This is what the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence , an organization who has been doing a lot of work around the role of the NPIC, says about the NPIC:

The state uses non-profits to:
Monitor and control social justice movements;
Divert public monies into private hands through foundations;
Manage and control dissent in order to make the world safe for capitalism;
Redirect activist energies into career-based modes of organizing instead of mass-based organizing capable of actually transforming society;
Allow corporations to mask their exploitative and colonial work practices through “philanthropic” work;
Encourage social movements to model themselves after capitalist structures rather than to challenge them.

It has been a long time, maybe decades,  since I have stumbled upon such an anti-establishment critique.  Like most such commentaries it is often easy to mock and dismiss but there are some thought provoking elements in the critique. Essentially though she cripchick alleges that autism advocacy causes are  governed by self interest , eg. paid, sometimes government and industry subsidized,  charity directors and officers, and used by state and industry interests to prevent positive social change.

It would be interesting to apply cripchik's critique to the autism "self " advocacy industry and to those very high functioning professionals who have made careers, sold books and otherwise promoted their own very personal self interests by promoting themselves as "autistics" who do not want to be cured and who, although they have a medical diagnosis of autism or Aspergers, do not see themselves as having a medical disorder.  By pretending that autism disorders are not medical, mental or psyshiatric disorders does the autism "self" advocacy industry reduce pressure on government and industry to find the external or environmental causes of autism disorders. Does the autism "self" advocacy industry, with its anti-cure rhetoric take the pressure off of governments to find cures for a mental disorder which now affects 1 in 110 persons including 1 in 70 males?

cripchik doesn't take her radical critique that far though. She sticks to criticizing those parts of the autism advocacy industry that work towards, or purport to work towards, goals such as curing autism.  She provides no similar critique of the anti-cure autism "self advocacy" industry.  Her criticism, in the end, seems little more than another variation, a "natural" variation, of the same old autism self advocacy industry denials that autism disorders are in fact medical disorders.


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