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Crackpots and basket-cases : a history of therapeutic work and occupation.

Laws, Jennifer (2011) 'Crackpots and basket-cases : a history of therapeutic work and occupation.', History of the human sciences., 24 (2). pp. 65-81.


Despite the long history of beliefs about the therapeutic properties of work for people with mental ill health, rarely has therapeutic work itself been a focus for historical analysis. In this article, the development of a therapeutic work ethic (1813–1979) is presented, drawing particular attention to the changing character and quality of beliefs about therapeutic work throughout time. From hospital factories to radical ‘antipsychiatric’ communities, the article reveals the myriad forms of activities that have variously been considered fit work for people with mental health problems. While popular stereotypes of basket-weaving paint a hapless portrait of institutional work, a more nuanced reading of therapeutic work and its political and philosophical commitments is advanced. The article concludes by arguing that the non-linear and inherently contested development of therapeutic work is less the effect of paradigmatic shifts within the therapeutic professions, but rather evidence of a broader human struggle with work.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Michel Foucault, History of psychiatry, Moral treatment, Occupational therapy, Work.
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Publisher statement:The final definitive version of this article has been published in the journal, History of the human sciences, 24/2, 2011 © SAGE Publications Ltd by SAGE Publications Ltd at the History of the human sciences page: SAGE Journals Online:
Record Created:29 Aug 2012 15:05
Last Modified:04 Sep 2012 11:05

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