Sociological Perspectives on Mental Health and Illness

  • Rosemary Fitzgerald


Modern sociological thought developed with those thinkers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who shared a desire to discover what Louis Wirth has described in his definition of sociology as “that which is true of human beings by virtue of the fact that they everywhere live a collective life” (Bramson, 1961). During the period of European history when sociology emerged as an independent body of thought this collective life had been disrupted by a series of major upheavals which fundamentally altered the structure of traditional society. The twin processes of industrialization and urbanization had transformed the social, economic and political institutions that had governed social existence in previous centuries and thus radically altered traditional patterns of social life and thought. Key sociological concerns of the nineteenth century reflect the search to grasp the nature of this newly emerging industrial order and to understand the inpact of social dislocation and change not only at the level of the collectivity but also at the level of the individual. The need to understand the ways in which changes at the societal level — economic, political, social and cultural — affected the individual and to understand the relationship between these wider social structures and processes and the individuals caught up in them were seen as vital elements of an analysis of the new industrial world.


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© Spectrum Publications, Inc. 1985

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  • Rosemary Fitzgerald

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