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“What most distinguishes Greenfeld’s model of the mind from so much else in the field is that  she brings together biological and cultural approaches to mental illness inclusively rather  than exclusively, in a way that enlarges rather than diminishes both. While accepting the biological reality of major mental illnesses, her analysis is focused not simply on the brain, in a reductive sense, but on the mind as a product of experience and learning as well as biology.”
—Harold J. Bursztajn, MD, Harvard Medical School

Nationalism and the Rise of Mental Illness
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 26.2% of the US adult population suffers from a mental disorder. Whether mental illness is played out on the silver screen in acclaimed films like A Beautiful Mind and Silver Linings Playbook, or examined as a possible motive for horrific tragedies like the Aurora shootings and the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, it has emerged as an individual and social affliction affecting millions of people, both directly and indirectly. Liah Greenfeld's Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experience (Harvard University Press | April 2013 | $45.00) contributes a bold new perspective to the understanding of mental illness. Greenfeld asserts that biologically real diseases, including schizophrenia, bipolar disease, and major depression, are culturally caused. Through a comprehensive socio-historical account, Greenfeld traces the first documentation of "madness" back to 16th century England, the birthplace of ambition, passion, and self-improvement, and reveals the correlation between the spread of nationalism and the rise of mental disease in Europe and North America over five centuries. Greenfeld enriches her theory with wide-ranging cultural references, from motifs of madness in Shakespeare's plays to the theories of sociologist Émile Durkheim, to 20th century case studies of John Nash, a Nobel Prize-winning schizophrenic, and Kay Redfield Jamison, a writer and clinical psychologist deeply influenced by her own struggle with bipolar disorder. Greenfeld asserts that nationalism, through granting the individual control of his or her destiny, places enormous psychic strain on individuals and can contribute to the malformation of identity, making people susceptible to schizophrenia, depression, and other mental illnesses. This illuminating text conveys how these illnesses are the manifestations of identity crises caused by society's overburdening demands for self-realization. Mind, Modernity, Madness is an important contribution to the understanding of modern culture and an essential intervention in the effort to understand and alleviate mental illness. Over for Author and Publication Information

Is Society Making Us Sick?

Mind, Modernity, Madness
The Impact of Culture on Human Experience
by Liah Greenfeld Published by Harvard University Press April 8, 2013 978-0-674-07276-3 688 pp. | $45.00 | 1 line illus. | 2 tables

Liah Greenfeld is University Professor and Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Anthropology at Boston University.

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