Positive and Negative Models of Suffering: An Anthropology of Our Shifting Cultural Consciousness of Emotional Discontent

Anthropology of Consciousness 22 (2):188-208 (2011)

I explore how many within modern industrial societies currently understand, manage, and respond to their emotional suffering. I argue that this understanding and management of suffering has radically altered in the last 30 years, creating a new model of suffering, “the negative model” (suffering is purposeless), which has largely replaced the “positive model” (suffering is purposeful) that prevailed in the 18th and 19th centuries. This shift has been hastened by what I call the “rationalization of suffering”—namely, the process by which suffering is predominantly now understood in biological and psychiatric terms rather than in religious, philosophical, or moral. This process accompanied the great forces of secularization, medicalization unleashed at the enlightenment—forces gaining their modern expression through psychiatry, the behavioral psychotherapies, the happiness industries, as well as through aggressive market, individualistic, medical, and positivistic ideas and movements. This shift has entailed many socio/cultural implications important for anthropologists to explore further
Keywords Freud  emotions  depression  suffering  anthropology
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DOI 10.1111/j.1556-3537.2011.01049.x
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The Fall of Public Man.Richard Sennett - 1978 - Ethics 88 (3):276-279.
Religion in Sociological Perspective.Bryan Wilson - 1983 - Religious Studies 19 (1):137-139.
An Epidemic of Depression or the Medicalization of Distress?Roger T. Mulder - 2008 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 51 (2):238-250.

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