Depression, once a subfield of neurosis, has become the most diagnosed mental disorder in the world. Why and how has depression become such a topical illness and what does it tell us about changing ideas of the individual and society? Alain Ehrenberg investigates the history of depression and depressive symptoms across twentieth-century psychiatry, showing that identifying depression is far more difficult than a simple diagnostic distinction between normal and pathological sadness - the one constant in the history of depression is its changing definition. Drawing on the accumulated knowledge of a lifetime devoted to the study of the individual in modern democratic society, Ehrenberg shows that the phenomenon of modern depression is not a construction of the pharmaceutical industry but a pathology arising from inadequacy in a social context where success is attributed to, and expected of, the autonomous individual. In so doing, he provides both a novel and convincing description of the illness that clarifies the intertwining relationship between its diagnostic history and changes in social norms and values. The first book to offer both a global sociological view of contemporary depression and a detailed description of psychiatric reasoning and its transformation - from the invention of electroshock therapy to mass consumption of Prozac - The Weariness of the Self offers a compelling exploration of depression as social fact.
About the Author
Alain Ehrenberg is research director emeritus at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Paris.
"... a major contribution to the anthropology of modern individuality [Ehrenberg] demonstrates an impressive knowledge of his field. The Weariness of the Self is not, nor does it pretend to be, a treatise on clinical depression. Instead it aims to demonstrate and discuss what the syndrome may tell us about modern society... beyond doubt one of the most interesting publications on depression in recent years. ...a must-read..." - Rasmus Johnsen, Ephemera
"It is invaluable for those interested in understanding the nature of depression, its prevalence, and its complexity." Choice
"The European, and in particular the French, perspective of the history of depression in the context of self provides an interesting dimension, if not breadth, to the American perspective of depression specifically and mental illness generally, especially as the American view is usually oblivious of self-concepts. I am quite certain that those who choose to read this publication will be rewarded." Richard Duus, PsycCRITIQUES
"One gets drawn into Ehrenberg's interesting ideas ... this book could help spark a debate about a subject of growing concern in contemporary society." Winnipeg Free Press