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Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

Key insights from Michel Foucault's

Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason


Key insights from Michel Foucault's

Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

ratings:
Length:
8 minutes

The evolution of Western attitudes on mental illness, sanity, and morality.

The history of madness is relevant to contemporary discussions about many societal issues, including criminality, incarceration, power dynamics, and societal evolution. In this Snapshot, you’ll learn how Western definitions of insanity have changed throughout human history, from the Middle Ages into the 20th century. In addition, you’ll explore how changing conceptions of madness illustrate shifting collective fears and the human desire for power.

Read this Snapshot if you:

  • Are interested in the history of society’s views on mental illness
  • Want to know how the definition of madness has changed over time
  • Are curious about how discussions of madness intersect with religion, politics, and power
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Introduction

Today, society has little connection to those who live with severe mental illness. Instead, doctors bear the primary responsibility of healing and understanding patients. As a result, the mentally ill have no choice but to allow the doctor to function as the sole intermediary between the supposedly distinct worlds of sanity and insanity.

However, the history of madness is far more complex than these oversimplified medical and social binaries might suggest. Mental illness wasn’t always regarded with the same suspicion as it is today. Although madness remains a largely invisible...

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