Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 July 2009
Definitions of insanity and the treatment of those identified as mentally ill have been more obviously subject to changes in social values and ideas of individual responsibility than any other category of clinically recognised illness. These changes have exercised a significant influence upon the relationship of psychological to physical medicine and, inter alia, the status of psychiatry as a scientific and authoritative source of medical treatment and social labelling. The present trend towards the integration and expansion of psychiatry within general and community medicine has resulted in the increasing involvement of psychiatry in the problems of social life. A wide spectrum of deviant and socially disturbing behaviour, previously considered largely as legal or moral problems, is now seen and treated as a symptom of illness and explained in medical terms.
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(41) The social consequences of the havoc caused by insanity in interpersonal relations and the dynamics of containment are analysed in detail by Goffman in his essay, “Insanity of Place”.
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(43) This comparison has been drawn by anthropologists on numerous occasions; however, see, in particular, Horton, Robin, African Traditional Thought and Western Science, Africa, XXXVII (1967), 50–71 and 155–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Although Horton does not discuss mental illness in detail, much of his analysis of the similarities between scientific and traditional systems of thought applies in this particular context.