Dr Bruce Macfarlane Zarnovich Cohen

BSc (Hons) (Teesside), MSc (Huddersfield), PhD (Bradford)

Profile image
Senior Lecturer


  • Senior Lecturer
  • Undergraduate Advisor

Research interests

Critical theories of psychiatry, mental illness, and professional power

Current research

'Productivity' at work and the expansion of mental illness designations; Institutional racism and Māori mental health; Crime and mental illness in Aotearoa New Zealand; Developmental psychology and the surveillance of school children.

Recent publications (see also section below):

Cohen, B. M. Z. (in print) ‘A Postcolonial Critique of Mental Health’, in Moodley, R. and Lee, E. (Eds) Routledge International Handbook of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Mental Health. Abingdon: Routledge.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2018) 'Introduction: The Importance of Critical Approaches to Mental Health and Illness', in Cohen, B. M. Z. (Ed.) Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health. Abingdon: Routledge, 1-12.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2018) ‘Madness: Ideas about Insanity’, Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches, https://doi.org/10.1080/17522439.2018.1472629

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2018) 'Marxist Theory', in Cohen, B. M. Z. (Ed.) Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health. Abingdon: Routledge, 46-55.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (Ed.) (2018) Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health. Abingdon: Routledge.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2016) 'The Psychiatric Hegemon and the Limits of Resistance', Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 23(3/4): 301-303.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2016) Psychiatric Hegemony: A Marxist Theory of Mental Illness. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Image resultRoutledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health (Routledge International Handbooks)

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2016) ‘Psychiatry Under the Influence: Institutional Corruption, Social Injury, and Prescriptions for Reform’, Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches, 8(4): 372-373.

Cohen, B. M. Z. and Tseris, E. (2016) ‘Indigenous and Ethnic Minorities: New Zealand’, in Boslaugh S (ed.) Encyclopedia of Pharmacology and Society. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 774-777.

Tseris, E. and Cohen, B. M. Z. (2016) ‘Cosmetic Pharmacology’, in Boslaugh S (ed.) Encyclopedia of Pharmacology and Society. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 420-423.

Cohen, B. M. Z. and Allison, W. (2015) ‘Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches: The effects of criminalising a ‘legal high’ in Aotearoa New Zealand’, New Zealand Sociology, 30(1): 10-29.

Research | Current

Psychiatric Hegemony: A Marxist Theory of Mental Illness

Despite the continued lack of scientific evidence to justify psychiatric knowledge, categories of mental illness have proliferated over the past thirty years with terms such as ‘bipolar’, ‘ADHD’ and ‘autism’ now common in public discourse and often worn as badges of honour by those labelled as such. How do we understand these changing attitudes towards mental illness and the increasing power of psychiatric knowledge today? This research investigates our growing passion for mental illness, articulating it as the success of a Psychiatric Hegemony in neoliberal times – that is, our willingness to consume capitalist ideology under the guise of psychiatric expertise.

Drawing on the research evidence and utilising a Marxist approach, this work profiles the decline of the social state and an increased focus on the individual from the 1980s onwards, suggesting that there has been an increased need for the informal control of populations beyond institutional borders through the expansion of milder forms of mental illness and the encouragement of mental health self-regulation. Thus, the research is a return to critical theory in which the available research evidence is framed within the structures and processes of late capitalism; something that has been missing from much of scholarly work within the sociology of mental health since the 1980s.


Recent Publications

Cohen B M Z (2015) Mental Health User Narratives: New perspectives on Illness and Recovery, revised edition. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cohen B M Z (2014) ‘Emil Kraepelin’, in Scull A (ed.) Cultural Sociology of Mental Illness: An A-to-Z Guide. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 440-442.

Cohen B M Z (2014) ‘Mental Health and ‘Emotional Deviance’’, in Atkinson R (ed.) Shades of Deviance: A Primer on Crime, Deviance and Social Harm. Abingdon: Routledge, 190-192.

Cohen, B. M. Z. (2014) ‘Mental Illness (Joan Busfield) [review]’, Journal of Sociology, 50(4): 628-629.

Cohen B M Z (2014) ‘Passive-Aggressive: Māori Resistance and the Continuance of Colonial Psychiatry in Aotearoa New Zealand’, Disability and the Global South, 1(2): 319-339.

Cohen B M Z (2014) ‘Routledge Handbook of Critical Criminology (Walter S. Dekeseredy and Molly Dragiewicz) [review]’, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 47(2): 299-301.

Cohen B M Z and Tseris E (2014) ‘Psychiatric Social Work’, in Scull A (ed.) Cultural Sociology of Mental Illness: An A-to-Z Guide. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 687-691.


Teaching | Current

SOCIOL 105 Cultural Studies and Society

SOCIOL 316 Critical Theories of Schooling

SOCIOL 703 Sociology of Mental Health

Postgraduate supervision

I expect doctoral students in sociology to investigate their chosen topic in a systematic, challenging and critical manner drawing on relevant social theory.

Postgraduate study, especially a doctoral programme of study, can be highly challenging at the same time as being rewarding. My philosophy on supervision is simple: I am here for guidance, advice and signposting; generally making sure the student has as smooth a ride as possible in completing their work to a high standard. In return, I expect students to be autonomous and highly motivated. They need to be prepared to put in the hours, complete work on time, and demonstrate a high level of analytical and critical thinking in their writing.

Current supervisions

  • Natalie Cowley, 'Understanding Depression: Personal and Social Interpretations' (PhD)

  • Aimee Simpson, ‘Presumed Guilt: A Comparative Study on the Role of Individual Responsibility in Shaping the Diagnosis, Treatment and Policy Initiatives for Obesity in New Zealand and the United States’ (PhD)

Completed supervisions

  • Meredith Bean, 'The Internet Industry of Love: Lived Experiences of Online Daters in New Zealand' (PhD)
  • Ryan Choy, 'Technologies of Inclusion in New Zealand Mental Health Initiatives' (Masters)
  • Stephen Farnsworth, ‘The Sociology of Mental Health’ (Masters)
  • Callum Fitzpatrick, ‘Methamphetamine and Moral Panics: An Analysis of the Portrayal of Methamphetamine in the New Zealand News Media' (Masters)
  • Benjamin Gilmore, ‘Under the Influence: Alcohol, Narratives and Male Identity in New Zealand’ (Masters)
  • Saphron Hastie, ‘Neoburlesque in New Media’ (Honours)
  • Doug Hoey, ‘The Sociology of Computing’ (PhD)
  • Bertalan Magyar, 'A Mixed Methodological Interrogation of the Undergraduate Student Experience, Socialisation, and Fields of Study in 21st Century New Zealand' (PhD)
  • Justin Peters, ‘Mental Disorder or Social Deviance? A Sociological Investigation of Oppositional Defiant Disorder’ (Masters)
  • Angela Rapson, 'An Ethnographic Account of the Lived Experiences of Caregivers and Residents in a New Zealand Rest Home' (Masters)
  • Aimee Simpson, 'Governing Obese Bodies: Examining Post-Bariatric Surgery Narratives' (Masters)
  • Aimee Simpson, 'Of Monsters and Men: A Sociological Analysis of how ‘Monsters’ are Constructed within Western Media' (Honours)
  • Sari Ter Huurne, 'An Evaluation of New Zealand’s Like Minds Like Mine Program to Counter the Stigma And Discrimination Associated With Mental Illness' (Masters)
  • Alice Tregunna, ‘Women Godfathers of Organised Crime: As Presented by Twenty-Three Auto/Biographies' (PhD)

Areas of expertise

For a full list of my publications and downloads please see auckland.academia.edu/BruceCohen

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Cohen, B. M. Z. (2018). Madness: ideas about insanity. Psychosis, 1-1. 10.1080/17522439.2018.1472629
  • Cohen, B. (2016). Psychiatric Hegemony A Marxist Theory of Mental Illness. Springer. Pages: 241.
  • Cohen, B. M. Z. (2016). The psychiatric hegemon and the limits of resistance. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 23 (3-4), 301-303. 10.1353/ppp.2016.0034
  • Cohen, B. M. Z., & Allison, W. (2015). Pills, thrills and bellyaches: The effects of criminalising a ‘legal high’ in Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand Sociology, 30 (1), 10-29.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/40454
  • Cohen, B. M. Z. (2014). Mental health and ‘emotional deviance’. In R. Atkinson (Ed.) Shades of deviance: A primer on crime, deviance and social harm (pp. 190-192). London, UK: Routledge. 10.4324/9781315848556
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/38534
  • Cohen, B. M. (2014). Emil Kraepelin. In A. Scull (Ed.) Cultural Sociology of Mental Illness: An A-to-Z Guide. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE.
  • Cohen, B. M. (2013). Psychiatric Hegemony: A Marxist view on social constructionism. In F. Davies, L. Gonzalez (Eds.) Madness, Women and the Power of Art. Oxford, UK: Inter-Disciplinary Press. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/38538
  • Cohen, B. M. (2013). The Power of Madness: A Marxist critique of social constructionism. Beyond these walls: confronting madness in society, literature and art. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary.Net.

Contact details

Office hours

Please email for an appointment

Primary office location

HSB - EAST - Bldg 201E
Level 9, Room 934
New Zealand

Social links

Web links