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(2018) Schizophrenia and common sense, Dordrecht, Springer.

"negative symptoms," common sense, and cultural disembedding in the modern age

Louis Sass

pp. 73-95

In this essay I offer a novel interpretation of the so-called "negative symptoms" of schizophrenia (symptoms characterized by diminishment of overt behavior or expression, including flat affective expression, restricted speech, and apparent apathy), and I consider these symptoms in relation to key aspects of modern culture and consciousness. Contrary to standard assumptions, many "negative-symptom" experiences in schizophrenia actually involve forms of subjectivity characterized by hyperreflexivity and alienation – namely, by exacerbation of various kinds of self-consciousness, often involving disengagement from the grounding frameworks, assumptions, and bodily dispositions that would normally serve as the taken-for-granted background of practical action and experience. Many of these features show a remarkable resemblance to key aspects of modern culture and society – which itself is marked by a "wholesale reflexivity" (Anthony Giddens) and associated detachment from shared, common-sense reality. After discussing these affinities between modernity and madness, I consider various ways in which modern society might actually contribute to, or at least exacerbate, certain characteristics of schizophrenia, and also how it might be especially problematic for persons with this style of being. The person with schizophrenia seems an anomalous yet also an exemplary figure: a person who fails to adopt the social practices or internalize the cultural frameworks essential to normal existence, yet who, in this very failure, typifies some of the most distinctive features of the modern age.

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Full citation:

Sass, L. (2018)., "negative symptoms," common sense, and cultural disembedding in the modern age, in I. Hipólito, J. Gonçalves & J. G. Pereira (eds.), Schizophrenia and common sense, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 73-95.

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