On Loss and Losing: Beyond the Medical Model of Personal Distress

Transaction Publishers
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All people suffer instances of personal loss that cause distress. All too often, their discomfort is treated as a medical issue requiring treatment—usually through medication. Melvyn L. Fein argues for a broader understanding of loss and losing that offers another approach, which he characterizes as “resocialization.” Indeed, how a person thinks, feels, and acts may all need to be reorganized if personal distress is to be overcome. Fein urges that we distinguish between the loss of something we once possessed and losing something that never came to fruition. Thus, it is possible never to achieve vital social roles, social statuses, and/or personal bonds, despite our individual efforts. While some of these losses are not necessarily problematic, others are extremely painful. Unfortunately, rather than investigate the source of this discomfort, distraught individuals frequently seek refuge in simplistic solutions. As a consequence, one of the reasons the medical model remains dominant is that the alternative is imperfectly understood. Fein presents a compelling case for a sociological interpretation of personal distress. Although he acknowledges that some personal suffering derives from biological sources, and that mental illnesses can spill over to cause social dysfunctions, he argues that it is important to recognize the social causes of human suffering. In thereby recognizing the limitations of the human condition, most of us can do better than blindly accept an inherited dedication to the medical model. On Loss and Losing offers a legitimate option without denying the reality of human suffering.
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About the author

Melvyn L. Fein is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. In addition to being editor of the Journal of Public and Professional Sociology, he is the author of numerous books, including Human Hierarchies and On Loss and Losing (both published by Transaction).

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Publisher
Transaction Publishers
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Published on
Dec 31, 2011
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Pages
374
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ISBN
9781412845649
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Language
English
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Genres
Medical / General
Psychology / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Melvyn L. Fein
Human beings are hierarchical animals. Always and everywhere, people have developed social ranking systems. These differ dramatically in how they are organized, but the underlying causal mechanisms that create and sustain them are the same. Whether they are on the top or bottom of the heap, people attempt to be superior to some other persons or group. This is the root of Melvyn L. Fein’s thesis presented in Human Hierarchies: A General Theory. Fein traces the development of changes from hunter-gatherer times to our own techno-commercial society. In moving from small to large communities, humans went from face-to-face contests for superiority to more anonymous and symbolic ones. Societies evolved from hunting bands where the parties knew each other through big-men societies, chieftainships, agrarian empires, patronage chains, caste societies, estate systems, and market-oriented democracies. Where once small groupings were organized primarily by strong forces such as personal relationships, the now standard large groupings are more dependent on weaker forces such as those provided by social roles. Bureaucracies and professional roles have become prominent. Bureaucracies allow large-scale organizations to maintain control of people by limiting the potential destructiveness of unregulated tests of strength and by clarifying chains of command. Their rigidity and unresponsiveness requires that they be supplemented by professional roles. At the same time, a proliferation of self-motivated experts delegate authority downward, thereby introducing a more flexible decentralization. This analysis is a unique and significant advance in both the sociology and anthropology of stratification among humans.
Melvyn L. Fein
Liberalism is dying?despite its superficial appearance of vigour. Most of its adherents still believe it is the wave of the future, but they are clinging to a sinking dream. So says Melvyn L. Fein, who argues that almost none of liberalism's countless promises have come true. Under its auspices, poverty was not eliminated, crime did not diminish, the family was not strengthened, education was not improved, and universal peace has not been established. These failures are not accidental; they flow directly from liberal contradictions. In Post-Liberalism, Fein demonstrates why this is the case. Fein contends that an "inverse force rule" dictates that small communities are united by strong forces, such as personal relationships and face-to-face hierarchies, while large-scale societies are integrated by weak forces, such as technology and social roles. As we become a more complex techno-commercial society, the weak forces become more dominant. This necessitates greater decentralization, in direct opposition to the centralization that liberals celebrate. Paradoxically, this suggests that liberalism, as an ideology, is regressive rather than progressive. If so, it must fail.Liberals assume that someday, under their tutelage, these trends will be reversed, but this contradicts human nature and history's lessons. According to Fein, we as a species are incapable of eliminating hierarchy or of loving all other humans with equal intensity. As Emile Durkheim argued, humans cannot live in harmony without appropriate forms of social cohesion.
Melvyn L. Fein
Liberalism is dying?despite its superficial appearance of vigour. Most of its adherents still believe it is the wave of the future, but they are clinging to a sinking dream. So says Melvyn L. Fein, who argues that almost none of liberalism's countless promises have come true. Under its auspices, poverty was not eliminated, crime did not diminish, the family was not strengthened, education was not improved, and universal peace has not been established. These failures are not accidental; they flow directly from liberal contradictions. In Post-Liberalism, Fein demonstrates why this is the case. Fein contends that an "inverse force rule" dictates that small communities are united by strong forces, such as personal relationships and face-to-face hierarchies, while large-scale societies are integrated by weak forces, such as technology and social roles. As we become a more complex techno-commercial society, the weak forces become more dominant. This necessitates greater decentralization, in direct opposition to the centralization that liberals celebrate. Paradoxically, this suggests that liberalism, as an ideology, is regressive rather than progressive. If so, it must fail.Liberals assume that someday, under their tutelage, these trends will be reversed, but this contradicts human nature and history's lessons. According to Fein, we as a species are incapable of eliminating hierarchy or of loving all other humans with equal intensity. As Emile Durkheim argued, humans cannot live in harmony without appropriate forms of social cohesion.
Melvyn L. Fein
Liberalism is dying—despite its superficial appearance of vigor. Most of its adherents still believe it is the wave of the future, but they are clinging to a sinking dream. So says Melvyn L. Fein, who argues that liberalism has made countless promises, almost none of which have come true. Under its auspices, poverty was not eliminated, crime did not diminish, the family was not strengthened, education was not improved, nor was universal peace established. These failures were not accidental; they flow directly from liberal contradictions. In Post-Liberalism, Fein demonstrates why this is the case.

Fein contends that an "inverse force rule" dictates that small communities are united by strong forces, such as personal relationships and face-to-face hierarchies, while large-scale societies are integrated by weak forces, such as technology and social roles. As we become a more complex techno-commercial society, the weak forces become more dominant. This necessitates greater decentralization, in direct opposition to the centralization that liberals celebrate. Paradoxically, this suggests that liberalism, as an ideology, is regressive rather than progressive. If so, it must fail.

Liberals assume that some day, under their tutelage, these trends will be reversed, but this contradicts human nature and history's lessons. According to Fein, we as a species are incapable of eliminating hierarchy or of loving all other humans with equal intensity. Neither, as per Emile Durkheim, are we able to live in harmony without appropriate forms of social cohesion.

Melvyn L. Fein
All people suffer instances of personal loss that cause distress. All too often, their discomfort is treated as a medical issue requiring treatment-usually through medication. Melvyn L. Fein argues for a broader understanding of loss and losing that offers another approach, which he characterizes as "resocialization." Indeed, how a person thinks, feels, and acts may all need to be reorganized if personal distress is to be overcome. Fein urges that we distinguish between the loss of something we once possessed and losing something that never came to fruition. Thus, it is possible never to achieve vital social roles, social statuses, and/or personal bonds, despite our individual efforts. While some of these losses are not necessarily problematic, others are extremely painful. Unfortunately, rather than investigate the source of this discomfort, distraught individuals frequently seek refuge in simplistic solutions. As a consequence, one of the reasons the medical model remains dominant is that the alternative is imperfectly understood. Fein presents a compelling case for a sociological interpretation of personal distress. Although he acknowledges that some personal suffering derives from biological sources, and that mental illnesses can spill over to cause social dysfunctions, he argues that it is important to recognize the social causes of human suffering. In thereby recognizing the limitations of the human condition, most of us can do better than blindly accept an inherited dedication to the medical model. On Loss and Losing offers a legitimate option without denying the reality of human suffering.
Melvyn L. Fein
Liberalism is dying—despite its superficial appearance of vigor. Most of its adherents still believe it is the wave of the future, but they are clinging to a sinking dream. So says Melvyn L. Fein, who argues that liberalism has made countless promises, almost none of which have come true. Under its auspices, poverty was not eliminated, crime did not diminish, the family was not strengthened, education was not improved, nor was universal peace established. These failures were not accidental; they flow directly from liberal contradictions. In Post-Liberalism, Fein demonstrates why this is the case.

Fein contends that an "inverse force rule" dictates that small communities are united by strong forces, such as personal relationships and face-to-face hierarchies, while large-scale societies are integrated by weak forces, such as technology and social roles. As we become a more complex techno-commercial society, the weak forces become more dominant. This necessitates greater decentralization, in direct opposition to the centralization that liberals celebrate. Paradoxically, this suggests that liberalism, as an ideology, is regressive rather than progressive. If so, it must fail.

Liberals assume that some day, under their tutelage, these trends will be reversed, but this contradicts human nature and history's lessons. According to Fein, we as a species are incapable of eliminating hierarchy or of loving all other humans with equal intensity. Neither, as per Emile Durkheim, are we able to live in harmony without appropriate forms of social cohesion.

Melvyn L. Fein
Human beings are hierarchical animals. Always and everywhere, people have developed social ranking systems. These differ dramatically in how they are organized, but the underlying causal mechanisms that create and sustain them are the same. Whether they are on the top or bottom of the heap, people attempt to be superior to some other persons or group. This is the root of Melvyn L. Fein's thesis presented in Human Hierarchies: A General Theory. Fein traces the development of changes from hunter-gatherer times to our own techno-commercial society. In moving from small to large communities, humans went from face-to-face contests for superiority to more anonymous and symbolic ones. Societies evolved from hunting bands where the parties knew each other through big-men societies, chieftainships, agrarian empires, patronage chains, caste societies, estate systems, and market-oriented democracies. Where once small groupings were organized primarily by strong forces such as personal relationships, the now standard large groupings are more dependent on weaker forces such as those provided by social roles. Bureaucracies and professional roles have become prominent. Bureaucracies allow large-scale organizations to maintain control of people by limiting the potential destructiveness of unregulated tests of strength and by clarifying chains of command. Their rigidity and unresponsiveness requires that they be supplemented by professional roles. At the same time, a proliferation of self-motivated experts delegate authority downward, thereby introducing a more flexible decentralization. This analysis is a unique and significant advance in both the sociology and anthropology of stratification among humans.
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