Any new concept or movement can be understood only when considered in light of the sociopolitical context in which it emerges. The authors critically assess the concept of the therapeutic community in such terms. They assert that the therapeutic community should be viewed as a protest movement itself, or as part of a greater protest against the dehumanizing conditions of mental hospitals in the early 20th century. As a protest movement it has achieved significant success. However, the authors say, its therapeutic value has yet to be conclusively demonstrated and its practicability is also highly questionable. The authors suggest that the therapeutic community should be reassersed in light of changed social conditions, and a new and more pragmatic approach to organizing psychiatric hospitals be formulated.