Desperate and Raging Minds: The Negative Consequences of Individualization?

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Lars Geer HAMMERSHOJ, Aarhus University, Denmark
What is remarkable is not only the significant decline in the mental health of young people, but also that conventional psychological and sociological explanations apparently cannot account for these developments (Due 2014). Hence, there exists a need for other kinds of explanations.

This paper attempts to understand the decline in mental health in children and adolescents as negative consequences of today’s shift in individualisation. In sociology there exists a long tradition of such attempts to diagnose the social pathologies of the times (Honneth 1994).

The paper builds on Ehrenberg’s (1999) diagnosis of depression as a consequence of individualization and Ziehe’s (2004) diagnosis of the ‘normal difficulties’ of young people in school. The paper however attempts to apply a different perspective on the problematic. Instead of focusing on common, but ambiguous disorders and difficulties, the paper attempts to diagnose less common, but spectacular ones, such as anorexia and school shootings, as these appears to be more distinct pathological phenomena.  

The idea is that they are keys to understanding the negative consequences of individualization (Hammershøj 2009). The hypothesis is that the desperate mind of the anorectic and the raging mind of the school shooter are exemplary for the pathological states of the modern individual. The findings of the paper are that is possible to distinguish four ideal types of social pathologies: Exhausted desperation (e.g. depression and stress), frantic desperation (e.g. anorexia and cutting), grandiose rage (narcissism and road rage), and defiant rage (e.g. school shootings).