Agency, pathology and abuse

Kenneth McLaughlin

in Social work, politics and society

Published by Policy Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9781847420459
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303572 | DOI:
Agency, pathology and abuse

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This chapter looks at the exponential rise of diagnostic criteria and proliferation of the concept of abuse in the United Kingdom. It presents a brief history of psychiatry and psychology in order to see not only how such disciplines were influenced by factors external to them, but also how ever more areas of life became subject to a medical gaze and interpretation. Related to this, the notion that interpersonal relations, rather than being a source of strength and respite, could be sites of abuse became increasingly popular. Of interest to social work is not only the incorporation of a quasi-medical framework, but also its role in constructing the subject of abuse. The main point is that as an overarching cultural viewpoint, the discourse of abuse is revealing in what it says about contemporary professional attitudes to the general public. This chapter also discusses the rise of pathology and abuse, psychiatry and agency, psychosis, and the idea that past abuse leads to current problems. Finally, the chapter presents a case study that shows the transition from illness to abuse.

Keywords: United Kingdom; social work; psychiatry; psychology; interpersonal relations; agency; pathology; abuse; psychosis; illness

Chapter.  7833 words. 

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