Category Archives: Books

Shock Therapy: Psychology, Precarity, and Well-Being in Postsocialist Russia

AHP readers may be interested in Tomas Matza’s recent book Shock Therapy: Psychology, Precarity, and Well-Being in Postsocialist Russia. Somatosphere is also featuring a book forum on Shock Therapy, with several featured commentaries.

Shock Therapy is described by the publishers as follows:

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia witnessed a dramatic increase in psychotherapeutic options, which promoted social connection while advancing new forms of capitalist subjectivity amid often-wrenching social and economic transformations. In Shock Therapy Tomas Matza provides an ethnography of post-Soviet Saint Petersburg, following psychotherapists, psychologists, and their clients as they navigate the challenges of post-Soviet life. Juxtaposing personal growth and success seminars for elites with crisis counseling and remedial interventions for those on public assistance, Matza shows how profound inequalities are emerging in contemporary Russia in increasingly intimate ways as matters of selfhood. Extending anthropologies of neoliberalism and care in new directions, Matza offers a profound meditation on the interplay between ethics, therapy, and biopolitics, as well as a sensitive portrait of everyday caring practices in the face of the confounding promise of postsocialist democracy.

Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs

Lucas Richert’s recently released Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs may be of interest to AHP readers. Richert’s book is described as follows:

Drugs take strange journeys from the black market to the doctor’s black bag. Changing marijuana laws in the United States and Canada, the opioid crisis, and the rising costs of pharmaceuticals have sharpened the public’s awareness of drugs and their regulation. Government, industry, and the medical profession, however, have a mixed record when it comes to framing policies and generating knowledge to address drug use and misuse.

In Strange Trips Lucas Richert investigates the myths, meanings, and boundaries of recreational drugs, palliative care drugs, and pharmaceuticals as well as struggles over product innovation, consumer protection, and freedom of choice in the medical marketplace. Scrutinizing how we have conceptualized and regulated drugs amid the pressing and competing interests of state regulatory bodies, pharmaceutical and for-profit companies, scientific researchers, and medical professionals, Richert asks how perceptions of a product shift – from dangerous substance to medical breakthrough, or vice versa. Through close examination of archival materials, accounts, and records, he brings substances into conversation with each other and demonstrates the contentious relationship between scientific knowledge, cultural assumptions, and social concerns.

Weaving together stories of consumer resistance and government control, Strange Trips offers timely recommendations for the future of drug regulation.

New Book: The Eclipse of the Utopias of Labor

AHP readers may be interested in Anson Rabinbach‘s new book The Eclipse of the Utopias of Labor. Rabinbach is the author of the now classic The Human Motor.His new book is described as follows:

The Eclipse of the Utopias of Labor traces the shift from the eighteenth-century concept of man as machine to the late twentieth-century notion of digital organisms. Step by step—from Jacques de Vaucanson and his Digesting Duck, through Karl Marx’s Capital, Hermann von Helmholtz’s social thermodynamics, Albert Speer’s Beauty of Labor program in Nazi Germany, and on to the post-Fordist workplace, Rabinbach shows how society, the body, and labor utopias dreamt up future societies and worked to bring them about.

This masterful follow-up to The Human Motor, Rabinbach’s brilliant study of the European science of work, bridges intellectual history, labor history, and the history of the body. It shows the intellectual and policy reasons as to how a utopia of the body as motor won wide acceptance and moved beyond the “man as machine” model before tracing its steep decline after 1945—and along with it the eclipse of the great hopes that a more efficient workplace could provide the basis of a new, more socially satisfactory society.

CONTENTS

ONE From Mimetic Machines to Digital Organisms: The Transformation of the Human Motor

TWO Social Energeticism in Fin-de-Siècle Europe

THREE Social Knowledge and the Politics of Industrial Accidents

FOUR Neurasthenia and Modernity

FIVE Psychotechnics and Politics in Weimar Germany: The Case of Otto Lipmann

SIX The Aesthetics of Production in the Third Reich

SEVEN Metaphors of the Machine in the Post-Fordist Era

The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science and Democracy in the 20th Century

A new edited volume, The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science and Democracy in the 20th Century, on the emergence of decision theory in twentieth-century social science may be of interest to AHP readers. The volume, edited by Daniel Bessner and Nicolas Guilhot, is described as follows:

In the decades following World War II, the science of decision-making moved from the periphery to the center of transatlantic thought. The Decisionist Imagination explores how “decisionism” emerged from its origins in prewar political theory to become an object of intense social scientific inquiry in the new intellectual and institutional landscapes of the postwar era. By bringing together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, this volume illuminates how theories of decision shaped numerous techno-scientific aspects of modern governance—helping to explain, in short, how we arrived at where we are today.

CONTENTS

Introduction: Who Decides?
Daniel Bessner and Nicolas Guilhot

Chapter 1. Reading the International Mind: International Public Opinion in Early Twentieth Century Anglo-American Thought
Stephen Wertheim Continue reading The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science and Democracy in the 20th Century

The Invention of Madness: State, Society, and the Insane in Modern China

AHP readers may be interested in a new book available from University of Chicago Press: Emily Baum’s The Invention of Madness: State, Society, and the Insane in Modern China. As described on the publisher’s website:

Throughout most of history, in China the insane were kept within the home and treated by healers who claimed no specialized knowledge of their condition. In the first decade of the twentieth century, however, psychiatric ideas and institutions began to influence longstanding beliefs about the proper treatment for the mentally ill. In The Invention of Madness, Emily Baum traces a genealogy of insanity from the turn of the century to the onset of war with Japan in 1937, revealing the complex and convoluted ways in which “madness” was transformed in the Chinese imagination into “mental illness.”

Focusing on typically marginalized historical actors, including municipal functionaries and the urban poor, The Invention of Madness shifts our attention from the elite desire for modern medical care to the ways in which psychiatric discourses were implemented and redeployed in the midst of everyday life. New meanings and practices of madness, Baum argues, were not just imposed on the Beijing public but continuously invented by a range of people in ways that reflected their own needs and interests. Exhaustively researched and theoretically informed, The Invention of Madness is an innovative contribution to medical history, urban studies, and the social history of twentieth-century China.