The Politics of Error: Rethinking the Power of the Symptom in the Case of ADHD Diagnosis in Chilean Society


  • Esteban Radiszcz
  • Hugo Sir


This article seeks, mainly, to develop a critical approach to the problem of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and, through this, to rethink the problem of activism and militancy in relation to the power of a symptom linked to a corporality that seems to overflow a determined moral political framework. For this reason, we seek to think of a militancy that intensifies error, as a political power, beyond the search for a specific and universal diagnostic associated with what is understood as evidence. We begin with the description of the emergence of what we have called the ADHD Situation. First, using field notes from a collective ethnographic investigation performed during 2017, we describe the ADHD Situation as an ongoing process. Then we connect it to a broader context by examining the role of the school in contemporary Chilean neoliberal society from a genealogical-affective approximation, trying to avoid substantializing readings. In the second section, we develop this connection, describing the production of the ADHD Situation through the lenses of epistemology, ethics, economics, and politics. We also use here a critical analysis of three key documents that help us chart the institutional development of the disorder: The National Mental Health Plan (2017), the National Children’s Health Program (2015) and the Clinical Guide to Attention Deficit (2009). We demonstrate the existence of an epistemological connivance between macrosocial transformations and the community approach utilized in these documents. This provokes us to think about a militancy capable of trespassing the borders of academia, health definitions, and social interventions through the intensification of the power of error as an opening to radical transformations.