The Therapeutic State / Edition 1

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The United States has always been profoundly conflicted about the role and utility of its government. Simmering just beneath the surface of heated public discussions over the appropriate scope and size of government are foundational questions about the very purpose of the state, and the basis of its authority. America's changing and diversifying cultural climate makes common agreement about the government's raison d'ĂȘtre all the more difficult.

In The Therapeutic State, James Nolan shows us how these unresolved dilemmas have coalesced at century's end. Today the American state, faced with a steady decline in public confidence, has embraced a therapeutic code of moral understanding to legitimize its very existence.

By ranging widely across education, criminal justice, welfare, political rhetoric, and civil law, Nolan convincingly illustrates how the state increasingly turns to the therapeutic ethos as a justification for its programs and policies, a development that will profoundly influence the relationship between government and citizenry. In a tone refreshingly free of polemic, Nolan charts the dialectic relationship between culture and politics and, against the backdrop of striking historical contrasts, gives example after example of the emergence of therapeutic sensibilities in the processes of the American state.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...Nolan argues that America's therapeutic culture has recently moved from the cultural realm of "symbols and codes" to penetrate the institutions of the modern American state. By delineating sharply between the culture of the therapeutic and therapeutic poicymaking, Nolan's probing work provides an important new methodological frame with which to study the therapeutic."

-American Studies International

An analysis of the commingling of the therapeutic and political cultures in America. Nolan (anthropology and sociology, Williams College) supplies his background by looking at trends such as the emotivist ethic, the pathologization of human behavior, the rise of a new priestly class, and the legitimization of the state. He then looks specifically at emotionally and psychologically based personal injury cases, public education from the colonial period through the progressive era to what he calls "therapeutic education," welfare policy, and presidential election debates from Lincoln-Douglas through Clinton-Bush-Perot. Nolan concludes with an examination of the "therapeutic state" itself, discussing therapeutic utilitarianism, postmodernism, and coercion. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814757918
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 410
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

James L. Nolan, Jr. is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Williams College and editor of The American Culture Wars: Current Contests and Future Prospects.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables
1 The Therapeutic Culture 1
The Emancipated Self 2
The Emotivist Ethic 5
A New Priestly Class 7
The Pathologization of Human Behavior 9
Victimization 15
The Therapeutic Ethos 17
2 Legitimation of the State 22
Theoretical Considerations 23
Older Sources of Legitimation 27
State Expansion 38
Public Disenchantment 40
The Therapeutic Alternative 45
3 Civil Case Law 46
Personal Injury Law 46
The Doctrinal History of Emotional Damage Cases 55
Recovery of Emotional Damages in the New Legal Climate 62
Psychologists as Expert Witnesses 68
Litigation Reform: Therapeutic and Utilitarian Defenses 72
4 Criminal Justice 77
Drugs and Crime 78
The Historical Antecedents to Therapeutic Justice 80
Courtroom Therapy 83
Prison Therapy 112
5 Public Education 128
The Colonial Period 129
Universal Free Education 132
Compulsory Education 138
The Progressive Era 140
The Cosmopolitan Era 146
Therapeutic Education 150
School Counselors 151
In a State of Esteem 172
6 Welfare Policy 182
Congress and the Well-Being of Children 183
Child Labor Laws and the Children's Bureau (1906-1912) 184
The Sheppard-Towner Act (1921) 191
Social Security and Emergency Wartime Aid to Children (1939-1945) 199
Head Start and Operation Good Start (1965-1970) 207
Head Start and Child Abuse Bills (1985-1990) 213
Welfare Reform: Rejection or Extension of Therapeutic Welfare? 220
Excursus: The Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill Hearings 226
7 Political Rhetoric 235
The Therapeutic President 235
Political Oratory 241
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates 244
The Kennedy-Nixon Debates 252
The Reagan-Mondale Debates 259
The Clinton-Bush-Perot Debates 266
The Talk Show Debate 269
The Therapeutic Candidate 273
The Triumph of Therapeutic Discourse 275
Summary 279
8 The Therapeutic State 280
Therapeutic Utilitarianism 283
A Postmodern State? 286
An Assessment of the Continuing Dialogue 291
Therapeutic Coercion 292
Legitimation Reconsidered 297
The Problem of Consent 300
The Paradox of Unintended Consequences 304
Appendixes 309
Notes 329
Selected References 383
Index 391
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