Date of Award

8-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Sociology

Major Professor

Harry F. Dahms

Committee Members

Michelle S. Brown, R. Scott Frey, Lynne E. Parker

Abstract

Subjects of advanced modern societies are burdened by increased feelings of anxiety as their lives become functions of the totalizing logics that structure their minds as well as their social environments. Sociology has historically left the problem of anxiety to the field of psychology, which has predominantly treated it as a biological problem with a psychopharmaceutic solution. Building on the tradition of critical theory and its comparative historical approach, I trace how anxiety has shifted from a predominantly individualized affect to one with social roots, thus making it a problem that demands a sociological intervention. I proceed to explain how anxiety developed and transformed throughout the history of modern (and postmodern) societies, as well as how the critical method has historically adapted within these changed material circumstances, especially the shift to mass society, to diagnose the resulting psychosocial symptoms that effect the subjects of those societies. This requires a framing of the roles that political economy and technology play in the spread of anxiety as they shape social and identity structures by claiming to offer avenues to individual ecstasy. Building on these foundations, I propose a method to improve the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety. I call this method critical socioanalysis. It shares common elements with psychoanalysis, including a foundation in talk therapy which places the onus for defining the ailment on those who suffer from it, while creating a space and time for guided conversations with the self, designed to unblock anxiety by developing an individualized understanding its positive and negative effects in the given socio-historical nexus of modern society. Critical socioanalysis provides a format for its analysands to learn how to focus on the psychosocial structures that shape thoughts and actions throughout the life course as direct consequences of the logic of capital and the technologization of reality. It builds on the theories developed by Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Freud, the first-generation of the Frankfurt School, and French social and psychoanalytic theories, and provides a framework to begin work as a socioanalyst.

Orcid ID

http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8719-3698

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