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Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients by Erving Goffman

By Erving Goffman

Asylums is an research of lifestyles in 'total institutions' - closed worlds like prisons, military camps, boarding faculties, nursing houses and psychological hospitals. It specializes in the connection among the inmate and the establishment, how the environment impacts the individual and the way the individual can care for lifestyles at the inside of.

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And just as an article being processed through an industrial plant must be foDowed by a paper shadow showing what has been done by whom, what is to be done, and who last had responsibility for it, so a himian object, moving, say, through a mental-hospital system, must be followed by a chain of informative receipts detailing what has been done to and by the patient and who had most recent re­ sponsibility for him. Even the presence or absence of a particular patient at a given meal or for a given night may have to be recorded, so that cost accounting can be maintained and appropriate adjustments rendered in billing.

29-30. 128 Hassler, op. , p. 116. ^^® This time is something its doers have bracketed off for constant conscious consideration in a way not quite fornid on the outside. 3i However harsh the conditions of hfe in total institu­ tions, harshness alone cannot account for this sense of Iffe wasted; we must rather look to the social disconnec­ tions caused by entrance and to the failure (usually) to acquire within the institution gains that can be trans­ ferred to outside Iffe—gains such as money earned, or marital relations formed, or certified training received.

We can there­ fore expect some spatial specialization, with one ward or ®o See S. F. Nadel, "Social Contiol and Self-Regulation," (1953), pp. 265-73. Social Forces, XXXI 52 CHARACTERISTICS OF TOTAL INSTITUTIONS hut acquiring the reputation of a punishment place for especially recalcitrant inmates, while certain guard assignments become recognized as punishments for staff. The privilege system consists of a relatively few com­ ponents, put together with some rational intent, and clearly proclaimed to the participants.

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