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Re-Thinking Therapeutic Cultures: Tracing Change and Continuity in a Time of Crisis and Change

Daniel Nehring Orcid Logo, Mariano Plotkin, Piroska Csúri, Nicolás Viotti

Sociological Research Online, Volume: 29, Issue: 2, Pages: 287 - 298

Swansea University Author: Daniel Nehring Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Across the last 25 years, scholars have devoted increasing attention to the ‘therapeutic turn’ in contemporary societies. A range of high-profile publications has analysed the growing prominence of psychologically and psychotherapeutically informed discourses and practices in everyday life (Madsen,...

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Published in: Sociological Research Online
ISSN: 1360-7804 1360-7804
Published: SAGE Publications 2024
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa66718
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Abstract: Across the last 25 years, scholars have devoted increasing attention to the ‘therapeutic turn’ in contemporary societies. A range of high-profile publications has analysed the growing prominence of psychologically and psychotherapeutically informed discourses and practices in everyday life (Madsen, 2018; Rose, 1998), the psychologisation and commodification of human emotions (Horwitz and Wakefield, 2007; Illouz, 2008), the development and everyday uses of hybrid, part psychological part religious or spiritual, therapeutic discourses (Purser, 2019; Salmenniemi, 2019), the concomitant commercial success of the ‘happiness industry’ (Davies, 2015), and the implication of therapeutic discourses and practices in the social organisation of power and governance (Klein and Mills, 2017; Yang, 2013, 2018). Theorising the intersections of technological change, scientific developments in psychology and the neurosciences, and the success of the latter in furnishing publics and policymakers with plausible explanations of personal troubles and public issues, research has moreover pointed to profound and accelerating transformations of subjectivation technologies, self-identities, and social relationships (Binkley, 2011; Rose, 2019). Along these lines of cross- and interdisciplinary research, a substantial body of scholarship has taken shape (Nehring et al., 2020).The present special section takes stock of and extends these lines of enquiry. This seems to us a worthwhile, analytically productive undertaking given the profound social, political, and economic crisis that has been for some years now re-making the world we live in (Walby, 2015). From deep economic crises with profound consequences in the form of lasting and deep socio-economic inequalities (Milanovic, 2016) to the gradual unmaking of neoliberal globalisation (Gerstle, 2022) to the rapid emergence of new information technologies – most notably AI, with deep implications for the ways we act, think and feel (Elliott, 2019, 2022) – societies around the world are changing at such a rapid pace that it seems necessary to re-examine past assumptions on which research in therapeutic cultures has been grounded. For quite some time now, this research has relied to a significant degree on the assumption that contemporary therapeutic cultures are closely bound up with neoliberal capitalism and associated forms of consumption, self-expression, and everyday experience, as well as with processes of individualisation and de-socialising atomisation (Binkley, 2011; Bröckling, 2015; Cabanas and Illouz, 2019; Gill and Orgad, 2018). In response, this special section explores the two questions:1.To what extent and in which ways does this assumption still hold in the world of the 2020s?2.What therapeutic discourses and institutionally situated forms of therapeutic experience and practice are salient today?The papers in this special section set out some initial answers to these questions and highlight some meaningful avenues for future research.In this introduction, we seek to construct a rationale for this re-examination of contemporary therapeutic cultures and the meanings and uses of the therapeutic in everyday life. Our attendant argument proceeds in three steps. First, we map the interdisciplinary field of research on therapeutic cultures, highlighting key axes of enquiry and their empirical and conceptual fundaments. Second, we introduce the papers of this special section and discuss how they speak to these questions and concerns. Finally, our conclusion summarises the case for the broader relevance of research on therapeutic cultures to sociology at large.
Item Description: Editorial
Keywords: Therapeutic culture; critical mental health; sociology of knowledge; sociology of culture
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Issue: 2
Start Page: 287
End Page: 298