Problemet utan namn?: Neuroser, stress och kön i Sverige från 1950 till 1980
2011 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Problem that had no Name? : Neurosis, Stress and Gender in Sweden 1950-1980 (English)
Focusing on Sweden between 1950 and 1980, this doctoral dissertation analyzes and problematizes the process in which a discourse about neurosis and nervous troubles gradually evolved into a discourse about stress. The thesis aims to show how the medical and general discussion about diffuse or vague symptoms transformed and rearticulated ideas and views on society and man, citizenship, gender roles, and medicine. It shows how the discourse on neuroses tended to locate sickness and deviance in the individual, whereas its subsequent transformation into a discourse on stress located the pathological in an external, societal sphere.
A particularly prominent issue in the study concerns the role that gender, and in particular female gender, has played in these discourses, and how the place of the feminine can be understood in relation to stress and neuroses. The dissertation shows that female gender was not central to the discourse on neuroses and stress during the studied period. On the contrary, gender was subordinated to ideas about man and citizenship within the greater context of society and culture.
The dissertation takes its starting point in the Swedish 1950’s, often characterized as the era of ”The Strong Society” or ”The People’s Home”. During this period, the neurosis discourse was fixed and remained unchanged. In practice, neurosis was a diagnosis that provided such symptoms that were otherwise difficult to measure and assess with a theory of origin. Neuroses were believed to principally affect a certain category of individuals, who, due to their constitution or disposition, were held to be particularly susceptible to neurotic sufferings.
During the 1960s the belief in The Strong Society and its notion of ideal citizenship began to crumble. It was against this background that the Swedish medical profession started discussing ”stress”. Stress, in contrast, could afflict anyone and everyone, according to “the father of stress” Hans Selye and Swedish stress researchers. Stress was assumed to be a potential cause of ”nervous troubles” and disease, but was never considered to be a disease in itself. The concept of the individual as a citizen now gave way for the notion of the individual as a primarily biological organism. Within the stress discourse in the 1960s, the primacy of the universal normal (male) man was a recurring focal point.
In the 1970s, the stress researchers distanced themselves from Selyes’ concept of stress by focusing on individual factors. In the discussion about stress during the 1970s, the ”constitutionally weak” individual of the 1950s and the biological organism of the 1960s blended into a hybrid construction of a unique, biological individual.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2011. , 306 p.
Uppsala Studies in History of Ideas, ISSN 1653-5197 ; 43
Neuroses, neurosis, stress, health, illness, vague symptoms, history of medicine, housewives, women, gender, modernity, welfare state, medicine, citizenship, man, Woman, psychiatry, psychosomatic, symptoms, Hans Selye, Lennart Levi, Gunnar Lundquist, health care, social medicine, mental hygiene, public medicine, patients charts, sex roles.
History of Ideas
Research subject History of Sciences and Ideas
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-151608ISBN: 978-91-554-8079-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-151608DiVA: diva2:410701
2011-06-01, Sal IV, Universitetshuset, S:t Olofsgatan/ Öfre Slottsgatan, Uppsala, 10:15 (Swedish)
Eklöf, Motzi, docent
Johannisson, Karin, professorBondestam, Maja, docent