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Healthy Skepticism International News

July 2008

Book review

Living under liberalism: The politics of depression in western democracies

Pam Stavropoulos
Universal Publishers
Boca Raton, Florida
ISBN-10: 1581129645
ISBN-13: 9781581129649
237 pages
US$25.95 paperback
US$12.00 eBook

According to Pam Stavropoulos, sociocultural, socioeconomic, and socio-political factors play a major role in the incidence, prevalence, diagnosis and treatment of depression. Liberalism and individualism are crucial concepts in Stavropoulos’s politics of depression: she argues that the liberalism so valued in western democracies is a risk factor for depression, and that individualism is ‘the bedrock of liberalism’.

The first part of Living under Liberalism focuses on socio-political analysis, the second on ‘practicalities of healing’, including self-help strategies. I think these two parts would probably appeal to quite separate readerships, each of which might be alienated by the other part (for example, I found the case vignettes in the first part rather jarring).

I liked Stavropoulos’s insistence that traditional conceptions of mental health are political, that the liberal norms of autonomy and self-reliance conflict with the reality that human identity is relational – we are who we are because of how we interact with other people – and that depression may be a legitimate response to a pathological social context. However, I think Stavropoulos’s important messages could have been conveyed more effectively. The book would have benefited from less repetition of ideas and themes, explanation of terms such as individualism the first time they were used, more detailed referencing, addition of an index, and careful proofreading.

Melissa Raven (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))



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