Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age Paperback – 13 Oct 2003
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'Therapy is indeed the new opium of the people, as Frank Furedi makes clear in this fascinating, readable - and disturbing - book.' - Virginia Ironside, The Independent
'Can it really be such a bad thing that we are now more aware of the place of mental health in our make-up? Furedi leaves us in no doubt that the therapy culture has invaded our media, our workplace, our intimate relationships and our politics. It is an interesting polemic. We should be grateful for the balance this book inspires'
- Community Care 25/4/04
Therapy Culture explores the powerful influence of therapeutic imperative in Anglo-American societies. In recent decades virtually every sphere of life has become subject to a new emotional culture. Professor Furedi suggests that the recent cultural turn toward the realm of the emotions coincides with a radical redefinition of personhood. Increasingly vulnerability is presented as the defining feature of people's psychology. Terms like people 'at risk', 'scarred for life' or 'emotional damage' evoke a unique sense of powerlessness. Furedi questions the widely accepted thesis that the therapeutic turn represents an enlightened shift towards emotions. He claims that therapeutic culture is primarily about imposing a new conformity through the management of people's emotions. Through framing the problem of everyday life through the prism of emotions, therapeutic culture incites people to feel powerless and ill. Drawing on developments in popular culture, political and social life, Furedi provides a path-breaking analysis of the therapeutic turn.See all Product description
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As a lawyer I was particularly interested in the chapter on therapeutic claim-making. Furedi argues that instead of looking to friends and informal networks for affirmation people nowadays tend to seek formal recognition by, for example, suing. Society's recognition of a variety of emotional injuries, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or other hitherto unknown conditions has enabled people to seek formal recognition for a variety of issues. As one claimant in a sex discrimination case put it 'I knew that I had been the victim, but I needed others to know it'.
The strength of Furedi's book is that he not only describes the growth and prevalence of a therapeutic culture in Anglo-American societies but he explains why it matters. The therapeutic approach, argues Furedi, becomes a means through which individuals are not so much cured as placed in a state of recovery. They are far more likely to be instructed to acknowledge their problems than to transcend them. At a social level the therapeutic culture teaches us to be victims and to know our place especially before an 'expert' whether he be a therapist, doctor, lawyer or general do-good community professional. This is an excellent and powerful book for those who seek genuine personal and social enlightenment.
Furedi's arguments would have made for an interesting journal article, but whether they merit a 200 page book is debatable. Overall, a bit of a disappointment.
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Furedi has some interesting ideas, but his writing is needlessly dense and dreary. Granted, this is an academic work, but still -- a good editor could probably bring this book to life. As it stands, however, the overall subject matter is interesting, but the book is almost unreadable.
For a much better treatment of essentially the same topic, see "One Nation Under Therapy", by Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel.
This book was well worth the read because the ideas were so fascinating, but one could be put off by the atrocious copy editing. Compared with Furedi's earlier well-edited "Paranoid Parenting," "Therapy Culture" had numerous distracting grammatical and spelling errors. It would have deserved a higher rating had it been better edited.