In 1956, together with his research group, the anthropologist Gregory Bateson published a theory that was to revolutionize the way of conceiving mental illness. Over the years, the central concept of this theory, the double bind, proved effective in an increasing number of fields of knowledge: from the theory of communication to epistemology, from sociology to pedagogy, from literature to philosophy. Through an examination of the inception and development of this concept, the book retraces the main themes, connections and critical points that mark the whole of Bateson’s multifaceted research: from the early ethnographic surveys in New Guinea through to the ecological ideas of his later years, including the cybernetic reflections, his studies of human and animal communication, his work in the psychiatric field. This analysis of the double bind theory, originally formulated as a hypothesis to explain schizophrenia, is not only a guide to the work of one of the most unpredictable and original thinkers of the last century, but also gives access to essential theoretical tools for bringing into focus a number of increasingly persistent contemporary problems.