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The concept of autism gave such approaches psychological legitimacy and aimed to protect the rights of children so defined. On the contrary, autism legislation seeks to protect the autonomy of children and adults with the diagnosis. It protects autistic autonomy in the eyes of the law. Autism thus became a statement of the authenticity of budding individuality in child development.

Think about it this way: the formation of the concept of intelligence and the development of intelligence tests at the start of the twentieth century did not simply bring to light a facet of human thought processes that had existed, yet never been exposed. The development of this concept and these tests completely transformed the way that society functioned.

Intelligence tests enabled easier screening and separation of children based on intelligence levels, first justifying the assessment and complete social exclusion of children with IQs below 50, and later, in , enabling the development of tests for eleven-year-olds and the establishment of the tripartite secondary school system covering grammar, secondary modern and technical schools. Researchers looked, and still look, for its genetic correlates, constantly searching for further confirmation that this psychological category has a basis in the brain.

Biological correlates for intelligence may well exist, but the important point here is that society, law and public life were all transformed by the concept. From a historical perspective, the concept of autism has many similarities to the concept of intelligence. The formation of this concept did not merely reveal an aspect of human thought that had lain dormant until that time.

Reading Formations of Subjectivity: From Discourse to Psyche

It completely transformed the ways in which we think about psychological development. Ever since psychological researchers developed tools to measure autism, these have been used to assess, categorise and sort children within the education system. Although it is usually considered that laws to ensure the rights of all children to be educated were enacted at the end of the nineteenth century, it was actually only in that all children in the UK were granted the right to be educated regardless of whether or not they had the supposedly correct levels of intelligence.

The Education Handicapped Children Act paved the way for autism to be regarded as a unique impairment that required specialist education, leading to a transformation in the way that schools managed their intake and organised their classes via an expansion in the employment of educational psychologists, speech therapists and teaching assistants.

The formation of autism as a measurable entity also encouraged epidemiological and social-scientific work that provided information about numbers of cases and offered political solutions for managing this new population. It also added a further analytic category to social-scientific and neuroscientific analysis and enabled an explosion of studies into environmental, biochemical, genetic and other sources of autism. Several scholars have interrogated, scrutinised and analysed the history of intelligence tests. This loss of confidence in intelligence testing was also associated with an international realisation, following the Second World War, that intellectual improvement and compulsory schooling did not necessarily make for a peaceful and happy social order.

It was through these networks that a new form of psychology came into being that began to undermine previous individual psychology based around intelligence tests. The Metamorphosis of Autism also explores how government entities have dealt with the psychological category of autism. It looks at how populations of children have been assessed and managed, and how psychological categories have changed in response to that management and government.

It focuses on changes in the meaning of autism, but views this in relation to wider theories of child development and socialisation. In other words, child development could not have been redefined had it not already been defined in the first half of the twentieth century in relation to a prior era of social science guided by the science of intelligence testing and psychoanalysis.

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Sociological sciences of the late s marked out new territory for assessing and analysing society. The establishment of modern psychology was only made possible through the emergence of evolutionary sciences in the middle of the nineteenth century. Isaacs also propagated and developed the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget.

This book looks in detail at theories of socialisation and instinctive motivation in children from the s until the s in Britain. It also looks at controversies over the description of social development and its absence in children, investigating early theories of autism. Most importantly, it examines why mental deficiency law, and theories of mental deficiency in infants and children, prevented psychologists from developing comprehensive models of autism and social development prior to the s.

These were people such as Brian Kirman and Leslie Hilliard, whom barely anyone has heard of. In short, all these psychologists helped to create a myth of child psychology as an absolute science, relating to a total population group, which was not consistent with the actual range of possible childhood thoughts and emotional processes. This all began to change in the s, when psychological researchers shifted their attention to the actual total population of infants and children, rather than just those ones who were lucky enough to escape certification. This initially happened following pressure from medically trained psychiatrists who were working in cosmopolitan medical institutions such as the Maudsley Hospital in London.

These professionals were the first to come across children who were living on the borderline of certification and who often displayed multiple medical and psychological atypicalities. Mildred Creak, Elwyn James Anthony and Kenneth Cameron from the Maudsley were amongst the first to challenge general theories of child development based on their observations of what they saw as severe psychopathology in infancy and childhood. This book demonstrates how and why the approach in Britain was unique in its challenge to conventional psychological and sociological theory, and why it went on to dominate the scene of autism research from the s.

They were all psychoanalytically oriented, although many presented a more palatable and user-friendly version of psychoanalytic theory. Their main interest was in human relationships and thus their theories were easily adaptable and transferable to industrial firms, management consultancies and government policy advisers. It also argues that the psychology of autistic spectrum-making has now largely replaced the psychology of human relationships, in particular in relation to child development. In wider work on the history of psychiatry, German Berrios has argued that professional consensus on the nature of particular mental symptoms always has a major impact on clinical practice.

This book demonstrates how the growth of the autism category in children in Britain has influenced wider understandings of psychiatric disorder and neurological dysfunction, in particular relating to concepts of schizophrenia, psychosis and delusion. The history of child psychology in Britain has largely been compartmentalised into the history of child guidance, 42 the history of intelligence testing, 43 the history of special education 44 and the history of psychoanalytic theory. Several practitioners have provided important information on how this began to happen, although they have not explained the significance of these shifts in relation to general psychology and social organisation.

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With this background, we should not be surprised to see the growth of the self-advocacy movement in relation to autism, as this is merely an affirmation of the social and legal changes that followed the development of autism spectrum- making and the redefinition of child development that began in the s.

In fact, the category of autism has been hugely influential in shaping contemporary health, education and welfare policy in the UK and in establishing autonomy and social rights for those who could be classed within the autistic spectrum. The Metamorphosis of Autism seeks to clarify this through a detailed historical account of how legal, institutional and educational changes in the UK affected the diagnosis of autism.

It shows how autism has been shaped through the business of British social administration. I argue that this is a particularly important dimension to the global understanding of autism as it was primarily researchers in Britain, drawing from unique social-science research methods developed at the Institute of Psychiatry and related Medical Research Council units, who provided the first thorough methodological frameworks for identifying, measuring and calculating autism via their input to international classification and diagnostic tools.

Their influence has become even more important in recent times. What was once, in the s, a necessity for the critique of individualistically minded psychoanalytic theories, such as those of Melanie Klein and Susan Isaacs, has become a psychological model in and of itself. In fact, it is the seemingly atheoretical nature of current models of autism that have been the secret to their success.

No one can criticise the concept because it is essentially based on an absence of information about child thought, into which various concepts of impairment, deficiency and lack have been placed. This book explores early theories of social and intellectual development in infants and children and looks at the connections established between psychological researchers and government administrators, It argues that these networks help to frame and understand changes in the meaning of autism.

The Metamorphosis of Autism argues that the concept of autism was crucial to the formation of child psychiatry as a discipline from the late s to the s, and that it was accorded a central role within wider psychological theory during this period. In doing so, psychologists of the s and s rewrote the theory of social development, socialisation and the significance of play in infants and children. This book is divided into two parts. The outbreak of the Second World War had forced psychologists, psychiatrists, social scientists, anthropologists and others to challenge theories of human instincts in child development and to clarify the nature of socialisation in children.

The theory of autism was critical to the reconstruction of instinct theory in the light of war and this led to many disagreements and debates. These controversies were silenced when the war drew to a close and psychologists shifted their attention to buttressing and reinforcing the aims of the welfare state in its provisions for children. Although controversies about autism were then brushed under the carpet, they had not disappeared and would later re-emerge in new forms. The clinic had sympathies with radical critiques of the adult asylum system and of the unhealthy tie that existed between the law and psychiatry, which were then causing a stir within critical thought and public policy.

It was not until deficiency institutions began to be closed down, following the Mental Health Act, that psychologists started to develop new models of autism. These united previously disparate services.

PSYCHOTHERAPY - Sigmund Freud

The legal changes of the s and s thus supported the efforts of the new autism psychologists and enabled them to establish the psychology of the autism spectrum as the dominant model for understanding child development and its variations. This has happened primarily via the engines of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the International Classification of Diseases. Autism is currently a global phenomenon, yet has very specific conceptual roots.

Many of the most popular global diagnostic instruments for autism were developed by researchers trained at the Institute of Psychiatry and related institutions in Britain, hence the importance of understanding the historical context described in this book. With these instruments, many epidemiological studies have been conducted worldwide, building on the original UK study. The emergence of the Internet in the early s has also driven international collaborations between research groups, as well as parent groups and self-advocacy groups.

It argues that studies of autism have almost become status symbols, and demonstrations of advanced approaches to child rights, within the developing world. The main premise of this book is that autism is not, and has never been, a concept or an idea that is easy to pin down, and that it is only possible to understand the phenomenon of autism if it is explored in relation to a wider history of childcare and education and a wider history of theories of child development and child psychology.


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It thus seeks to rethink the meaning of autism through its historical past. The definition, diagnosis and meaning of autism are important topics that affect the people diagnosed and their families; the structure of health, education and social care services; and neuroscientific research agendas and the money that is spent on them. The rise of autism is partly a story of how psychologists have employed testing methods in order to manipulate the organisation of educational, health and welfare services for children.

Piotrowska and Tyrer have curated a cracking compendium, one that seduces and challenges in equal measure, and one that will surely become essential reading for anyone interested in the riches of psychoanalytic enquiry. The event is currently booked out , but please email the organizer Mathew Barrington mbarri02 mail.

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Both are discussed briefly in the Black and White monograph, but will not be screened at the 18 th November event.