Narrating Social Order

Narrating Social Order: Agoraphobia and the Politics of Classification

SHELLEY Z. REUTER
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442684652
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  • Book Info
    Narrating Social Order
    Book Description:

    Reuter seeks to confront the gap that exists between sociological and psychiatric conceptions of mental disease and to understand the relationship between biomedical and cultural knowledges.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8465-2
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: A Sociology of Psychiatry
    (pp. 3-21)

    Zoom in, floor level. Opera plays in the background, and we see a heavy steel apartment door opening slowly. An arm emerges and feels around. A woman peers out to see her newspaper lying just out of reach.

    ‘Not again!’ she snaps, and slams the door.

    Zoom out.

    The door opens again. On her knees, now she’s armed with a broom. Her eyes averted, her diaphragm heaving, suddenly the broom flails out. She tries dragging the newspaper in with it … damn!

    Can’t get it.

    Out of breath she pulls back, aggravated, muttering, tossing aside both broom and eyeglasses. Quietly,...

  5. 2 Urban Modernity and Social Change: Diagnosing Alienation
    (pp. 22-31)

    This history of agoraphobia begins in the late nineteenth century. At that time, science, including medicine, was assuming a position of great social importance in an increasingly secular society in which medical professionals could reasonably aspire to higher status (Porter, 1997:348; also Lunbeck, 1994:27). The gap between lay and professional medical knowledge was also expanding, and sickness was increasingly defined as best left in ‘credentialed hands.’ Physicians’ abilities were ‘powerful and seductive’ (Rosenberg, 1992:267–8), and in this era of self-improvement doctors working within a potentially lucrative medical market had an unprecedented degree of authority (Hansen, 1992:119; also Porter, 1997:305)....

  6. 3 Explaining Agoraphobia: Three Frameworks
    (pp. 32-72)

    European and American physicians began to publish case reports on agoraphobia in the later decades of the nineteenth century. Although there was a relatively strong consensus on the symptoms of agoraphobia and the profile of patients presenting with it, as well as a tendency to treat the disease outside institutional settings,¹ the approaches varied. Chief among them were explanations that unfolded along the lines of biological (neurological) psychiatry, those that followed a Freudian psychoanalytic approach, and those that favoured behaviourist principles. Although these approaches coexisted and shared a commitment to biology to varying degrees, they also competed and differed in...

  7. 4 The Prerogative of Being ‘Normal’: Gender, ‘Race,’ and Class
    (pp. 73-94)

    Alongside discussions of the perils of social change and the problem of over-stimulation in fast-paced cities, the individual characters of patients figured prominently in literature on the aetiology of agoraphobia. As we saw in the previous chapter, mental disorders were often equated with moral depravity and personal weakness; as one American neurologist wrote, ‘mental disorder, in neurotic individuals, [could bring] about a moral epidemic or even [threaten] to change the structure of society and unity of the household’ (Atwood, 1903:1072). Recall Dr Sutherland (chapter 2), for example, who concluded that the agoraphobia in his patients was the result of excess...

  8. 5 The DSM and the Decline of the Social
    (pp. 95-160)

    In this chapter I describe the development of theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)and discuss its implications for both psychoanalysis and agoraphobia. As we have seen, with the practice of early-twentieth-century psychiatry increasingly dominated by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic approach, by the 1930s agoraphobia had emerged as a symptom of ‘neurosis,’ as a biopsychosocial reaction to unresolved early childhood and family difficulties. This view, at least within the United States, endured for several decades, but relatively recently mainstream American psychiatry reoriented itself towards its earlier reductionist biological and positivist tendencies, in a shift to a neo-positivist paradigm...

  9. 6 Conclusion: Doing Agoraphobia(s) – The Social Relations of Psychiatric Knowledge
    (pp. 161-176)

    So far I have examined agoraphobia as it has been mobilized in psychiatric texts, but I have not yet fully explored the theoretical implications of this mobilization. Specifically, the psychiatric reports under discussion here have historically constituted a central venue in which doctors can dialogue with one another about (this) disease and thereby collectively construct various psychiatric realities. To be sure, psychiatrists put much stock in medical reports, as they are crucial for their work. But in addition to being professionally important, these texts are ‘vivid documents of social history’ (Hansen, 1992:106). They are indispensable historical artefacts that provide access...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 177-188)
  11. References
    (pp. 189-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-237)