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Madness Is CivilizationWhen the Diagnosis Was Social, 1948–1980$
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Michael E. Staub

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226771472

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226771496.001.0001

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Society as the Patient

Society as the Patient

(p.12) (p.13) 1 Society as the Patient
Madness Is Civilization

Michael E. Staub

University of Chicago Press

During the postwar era, mental health and mental illness became the subject of considerable debate in the United States, a debate that became a fascination for magazines, books, newspapers, and television shows. The dominant assumption in postwar American psychiatry was that society contributed to the etiology—or “triggering off”—of mental disorders. In 1950, Theodor W. Adorno collaborated with Else Frenkel-Brunswik, R. Nevitt Sanford, and Daniel J. Levinson to publish The Authoritarian Personality, in which they explored the relationship between personality and political values. This chapter examines the explosion of interest in all things psychological in postwar America in the context of lessons taken from World War II. In particular, it looks at the traumatic experiences of soldiers who fought in the war and the “personality structure” of the Nazi opponents, along with their implications for the practice of psychiatry and domestic politics.

Keywords:   mental health, mental illness, United States, psychiatry, Authoritarian Personality, personality, World War II, soldiers, domestic politics, Theodor W. Adorno

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