Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 605–613

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

  • John Adlam
  • Irwin Gill
  • Shane N. Glackin
  • Brendan D. Kelly
  • Christopher Scanlon
  • Seamus Mac Suibhne
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

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Adlam
    • 1
  • Irwin Gill
    • 2
  • Shane N. Glackin
    • 3
  • Brendan D. Kelly
    • 4
    • 5
  • Christopher Scanlon
    • 6
  • Seamus Mac Suibhne
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of PsychotherapySt Thomas’ HospitalLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of PaediatricsChildren’s University HospitalDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  4. 4.Department of Adult PsychiatryUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  5. 5.Mater Misericordiae University HospitalDublinIreland
  6. 6.Maudsley Foundation NHS TrustLondonUK
  7. 7.Department of PsychiatrySt Luke’s HospitalKilkennyIreland
  8. 8.School of MedicineUniversity College CorkCorkIreland

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