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Towards a Sociology of Schizophrenia

Towards a Sociology of Schizophrenia: Humanistic Reflections

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 124
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  • Book Info
    Towards a Sociology of Schizophrenia
    Book Description:

    Schizophrenia, at one time considered by many clinicians to be a psychological response to an oppressive upbringing, is now generally accepted as a physical illness. While Keith Doubt does not quarrel with this current view, he does challenge the positivist assumptions that tend to accompany it. Throughout this fascinating survey of the literature on schizophrenia, Doubt presents a critique of society's neglect of the mentally ill and promotes a humanistic understanding of the affected person as a social being.

    Doubt draws on several disciplines and uses the works of such diverse writers as Vygotsky, Piaget, Deleuze, Laing, and Torrey. While he rebukes medical practitioners for ignoring the social dimensions of schizophrenia, he is equally critical of post-modernism's tendency to valorize the mentally ill. Nor does he sympathize with particular sociological approaches which, he believes, emphasize society's reactions to the illness - often at the expense of the afflicted person. Thus, a major part of Doubt's project is to place the individual at the centre of sociological theorizing about schizophrenia.

    This thought-provoking study offers an alternative perspective on schizophrenia to scholars and professionals, as well as to those who live with the disease. Doubt offers practical recommendations, which he hopes will bring some relief to sufferers, and helpful insights to those engaged in treating or assisting people with schizophrenia.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8271-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Prologue: Towards a Humanistic Understanding
    (pp. ix-2)

    This book undertakes a concerted examination of schizophrenia as a social phenomenon while supporting the medical understanding of schizophrenia as a biological illness. Schizophrenia is not, as popular culture sometimes understands it to be, the actually rare phenomenon of split personality; nor is it now viewed by clinical psychologists, as it once was by some, as a personʹs creative response to an untenable, oppressive family situation. Within the scientific community, schizophrenia, like Downʹs syndrome or Alzheimerʹs disease, is understood as a fact of nature, and this view, at the political and institutional level, is the hegemonic one.²

    The clinical symptoms...

  5. 1 Self
    (pp. 3-20)
    George Herbert Mead

    InSurviving Schizophrenia: A Family Manual, E. Fuller Torrey identifies a primary issue for any sociological study of social interactions between people afflicted with schizophrenia and people not afflicted with schizophrenia:

    Sympathy for those afflicted with schizophrenia is sparse because it is difficult to put oneself in the place of the sufferer ... Those who are afflicted act bizarrely, say strange things, withdraw from us, and may even try to hurt us. They are no longer the same person – they aremad? We donʹt understand why they say what they say and do what they do.²

    To address this...

  6. 2 Language
    (pp. 21-38)
    Kenneth Burke

    As seen in the previous chapter, one problem that exists for the treatment and understanding of schizophrenia lies in the realm of interpersonal communication. It is difficult for people with schizophrenia to interpret othersʹ language and behaviour and to respond, not only appropriately, but also persuasively. The problem, moreover, is not one-sided. In the hospital setting, the language of people with schizophrenia is used to diagnose the pathology, and, with this clinical goal in mind, the physician listens to the patientʹs language in a particular way, a way that may not even hear the language as social or communicative. The...

  7. 3 Role-Taking
    (pp. 39-54)
    Morris Rosenberg and Lev Vygotsky

    To develop a sociology of schizophrenia, it is necessary to critique previous sociological studies of schizophrenia. David Rosenhanʹs ʹBeing Sane in Insane Placesʹ is well known for exposing the inhumane treatment of patients in mental hospitals and drawing attention to the inadequacy of admission interviews employed by psychiatric hospitals. The studyʹs pseudo-patients gained admission to mental hospitals by feigning one tell-tale symptom of schizophrenia; they were not detected by hospital staff during either the admissions interview or their subsequent hospital stay.

    To dramatize this point, Rosenhan writes: ʹDespite the public ʺshowʺ of sanity, the pseudopatients wereneverdetected.ʹ² Three paragraphs...

  8. 4 The Individual
    (pp. 55-66)
    Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Jorge Luis Borges

    Who is the individual who suffers the affliction known as schizophrenia? Does schizophrenia create an individual who is genuinely and radically different from other individuals? Is it even appropriate to speak of people with schizophrenia as having either social identities or human personalities?²

    The person with schizophrenia is todayʹs pariah, which is why postmodern thinkers like Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari find the subject so appealing for their theorizing. The behaviour and language of people with schizophrenia seem to stand beyond the pale of rationality, not unlike the very theorizing of postmodernism itself. In postmodern writing, people with...

  9. 5 Puns
    (pp. 67-78)
    Kenneth Burke and M.M. Bakhtin

    As I walk past a mainstream church in a small midwestern town on a hot summer day, I read the following statement: ʹCome, Praise the Summer, Son.ʹ As I continue, I walk past a jewellerʹs display window in which I read:ʹ A carat or more wonʹt spoil her diet.ʹ Inside the window are three orange, cloth carrots with green tops, one of which is wearing a diamond ring.

    We encounter puns all the time in everyday life. Elaine Chaika writes: ʹIn recent years, American advertising has been characterized by a fit of punning.ʹ² We also encounter puns, or what seem...

  10. 6 Action
    (pp. 79-90)
    Max Weber, R.D. Laing and G.W.F. Hegel

    Schizophrenia is a troublesome phenomenon. It generates significant problems in social understanding and interpersonal relations. Medical research has made persuasive advances in the empirical treatment of schizophrenia, but social science has yet to construct (with any sort of theoretical confidence) what Max Weber would call ʹan adequately meaningful level of understanding.ʹ In his discussion of causal explanations and their place in the theory construction of the social sciences, Weber warns:

    If adequacy in respect to meaning is lacking, then no matter how high the degree of uniformity and how precisely its probability can be numerically determined, it is still an...

  11. Epilogue: Beyound Altruism
    (pp. 91-96)

    Readers may ask what experiences I have and what studies I engaged in to write this book. The evidence in this work is not governed by conventional notions of empirical inquiry. Rather than cite experimentally determined data that I or someone else has generated, I draw upon examples from first-person accounts, biographies, clinical reports, news reports, and film documentaries. The justification for this dependency resides in part on Talcott Parsonsʹs insistence that, in sociological inquiry, a fact never speaks for itself. In sociology, a fact is not really a fact. A fact is a statement, and so itself an icon...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 97-122)
  13. Index
    (pp. 123-124)