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Title: The 'moral treatment' of insanity : a study in the social construction of human nature
Author: Fears, Michael
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1978
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This thesis uses an historical example - the 'moral treatment' of the insane in Britain at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth - to defend a particular theoretical understanding of the social construction of human nature. In the Introduction, comparable work in the history of psychiatry and in the sociology of medical knowledge is discussed, as well as the theoretical structure which holds the substantive part of the thesis together. This latter feature, described as 'the theory of praxis in historical materialism', is an interpretation of the Marxist theory of history which attempts, within the necessary constraints of that theory, to indicate the subjective element of man's activity in creating his own history. The substantive part of the thesis utilises this theory in order to portray some of the rich detail by which moral treatment appeared as a meaningful and progressive means of treating the insane. Chapter one examines the prehistory of moral treatment: the social, institutional, medical and intellectual contexts of the mid-eighteenth century, as they affected the treatment of both the insane and the deviant population generally. In Chapter Two, the creation of the concept of moral treatment itself is dealt with through an examination of the work of Philippe Pinel in Paris and the Puke family in York. Chapter Three focusses on the various manifestations of moral treatment once it was taken up as a progressive practice in a variety of institutional contexts. Its relation to contemporary concerns such as the idea of moral community, penal reform, the necessity to work, are all discussed in detail; as is the significance of its practice to the ideologists of capitalist social relations. In Chapter Four the internal history of moral treatment is examined, and its status as knowledge evaluated. Chapter Five deals with the transformation of moral treatment after the 1830s and the reasons for its gradual demise. There is no separate conclusion, but a short Coda discusses some of the theoretical issues raised from a slightly different perspective.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available