Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 605–613

Perspectives on Erving Goffman’s “Asylums” fifty years on


  • John Adlam
    • Department of PsychotherapySt Thomas’ Hospital
  • Irwin Gill
    • Department of PaediatricsChildren’s University Hospital
  • Shane N. Glackin
    • Department of PhilosophyTrinity College Dublin
  • Brendan D. Kelly
    • Department of Adult PsychiatryUniversity College Dublin
    • Mater Misericordiae University Hospital
  • Christopher Scanlon
    • Maudsley Foundation NHS Trust
    • Department of PsychiatrySt Luke’s Hospital
    • School of MedicineUniversity College Cork
Short Communication

DOI: 10.1007/s11019-012-9410-z

Cite this article as:
Adlam, J., Gill, I., Glackin, S.N. et al. Med Health Care and Philos (2013) 16: 605. doi:10.1007/s11019-012-9410-z


Erving Goffman’s “Asylums” is a key text in the development of contemporary, community-orientated mental health practice. It has survived as a trenchant critique of the asylum as total institution, and its publication in 1961 in book form marked a further stage in the discrediting of the asylum model of mental health care. In this paper, some responses from a range of disciplines to this text, 50 years on, are presented. A consultant psychiatrist with a special interest in cultural psychiatry and mental health legislation, two collaborating psychotherapists in adult and forensic mental health, a philosopher, and a recent medical graduate, present their varying responses to the text. The editors present these with the hope of encouraging further dialogue and debate from service users, carers, clinicians, and academics and researchers across a range of disciplines.


Institutionalisation Mental health Asylums Psychiatry Mental illness Hospitals

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012