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By Alain Ehrenberg

Melancholy, as soon as a subfield of neurosis, has turn into the main clinically determined psychological affliction on this planet. Why and the way has melancholy turn into this kind of topical sickness and what does it let us know approximately altering rules of the person and society? Alain Ehrenberg investigates the historical past of melancholy and depressive signs throughout twentieth-century psychiatry, displaying that making a choice on melancholy is much tougher than an easy diagnostic contrast among general and pathological unhappiness - the single consistent within the background of melancholy is its altering definition. Drawing at the amassed wisdom of a life-time dedicated to the examine of the person in smooth democratic society, Ehrenberg indicates that the phenomenon of contemporary melancholy isn't a building of the pharmaceutical yet a pathology bobbing up from inadequacy in a social context the place luck is attributed to, and anticipated of, the self reliant person. In so doing, he offers either a singular and convincing description of the sickness that clarifies the intertwining courting among its diagnostic background and adjustments in social norms and values. the 1st publication to supply either an international sociological view of latest melancholy and a close description of psychiatric reasoning and its transformation - from the discovery of electroshock remedy to mass intake of Prozac - "The Weariness of the Self" deals a compelling exploration of melancholy as social truth

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Additional info for The weariness of the self : diagnosing the history of depression in the contemporary age

Sample text

Are we being toyed with again? ”1 Because the same can be said of depression today is thanks, first and foremost, to a famous medication. We must approach the shores of the depressive question through the molecule known as Prozac. 2 How has a pill come to embody the hope – unreasonable certainly, but most understandable in these times – of instantaneously ridding oneself of psychological suffering? For a mental cure to hold such a fantasy, for it to produce a collusion between medication and social aspiration, the suffering at which it is aimed had to progressively acquire a central role in our societies.

We have set our objective: to understand the mutations of the notion of the individual through the second half of the twentieth century. Which history of depression should we now study in order to reach our goal? Let us begin by observing what was written on the history of depression in psychiatric treatises: first we find melancholia, whose long history originates in Greek antiquity. It was characterized by great pain, with its main manifestation being listlessness and torpor, once considered as one of the seven deadly sins (acedia).

The first step involves the subtle alliance between lack and conflict, which offered psychiatry the reference point it needed to treat the depression of the sick subject. This was the first paradigm of modern depression. The second step involves the breakup of this alliance during the 1970s, when neurosis began its decline. Depression emerged from the medical field without needing a pharmacological innovation as a vector for expansion (this was in a context in which emancipation led to a movement within the forbidden, while guilt remained hidden in the rise of responsibility).

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