Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates


One of most influential social scientist of the twentieth century examines the meaning of the asylum

'Psychiatric staff share with policemen the peculiar occupational task of hectoring and moralizing adults'

This groundbreaking work of social science explores life in 'total institutions': the closed, regimented systems of prisons, boarding schools, nursing homes and, most importantly, mental hospitals, which cut individuals off from society. Focusing on the relationship between an inmate and the institution that contains them, Goffman unpicks how lives are managed 'on the inside', the loss of selfhood experienced by those held there, and the ways in which they try to regain their identities.

'One of the most distinguished and provocative of social scientists' The Times

About the author

Erving Goffman

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