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Dog Pounds and Mental Hospitals

10 November 2019

Commenting on Asylums By Erving Goffman (1961)

An Auschwitz survivor I interviewed told me that there were two kinds of places to which she could never go: dog pounds and mental hospitals. The former is a killing center, and both are examples of what the venturesome sociologist Erving Goffman calls a “total institution,” a place where “a large number of like-situated individuals . . . together lead an enclosed, formally administrated round of life.” Goffman did his field work in 1955-56 at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., at the time a 7,000-patient mental hospital, where he investigated the ways in which inmates developed “a life of their own that becomes meaningful, reasonable, and normal once you get close to it.” Prisons are also prominent in his examples, as are a wide variety of military, religious and political organizations. He views all total institutions as “forcing houses for changing persons.”

~ Robert Jay Lifton

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (sorry if you hit a paywall)

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One Comments to “Dog Pounds and Mental Hospitals”

  1. They’re only “killing centers” because people don’t take care of their pets.

    Ahem. Sorry. Animal Control officer trying to get her shelter to no-kill status here.

    Which would be easy if people would take care of their pets.

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