Surviving Identity: Vulnerability and the Psychology of Recognition, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Surviving Identity

Vulnerability and the Psychology of Recognition, 1st Edition

By Kenneth McLaughlin


160 pages

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pub: 2011-10-24
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Today, political claims are increasingly made on the basis of experienced trauma and inherent vulnerability, as evidenced in the growing number of people who identify as a "survivor" of one thing or another, and also in the way in which much political discourse and social policy assumes the vulnerability of the population. This book discusses these developments in relation to the changing focus of social movements, from concerns with economic redistribution, towards campaigns for cultural recognition. As a result of this, the experience of trauma and psychological vulnerability has become a dominant paradigm within which both personal and political grievances are expressed.

Combining the psychological, social, and political aspects of the expression of individual distress and political dissent, this book provides a unique analysis of how concepts such as "vulnerability" and "trauma" have become institutionalised within politics and society. It also offers a critical appraisal of the political and personal implications of these developments, and in addition, shows how the institutionalisation of the survivor identity represents a diminished view of the human subject and our capacity to achieve progressive political and individual change.

This book will be of interest to researchers, postgraduate and undergraduate students of critical psychology, sociology, social policy, politics, social movements and mental health.


"Surviving Identity provides a compelling and troubling account of the social demand for affirmation and recognition. Paradoxically the turn towards validating identity has intensified our sense of vulnerability." - Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, UK

"Surviving Identity provides an incisive analysis of victim culture and the growing tendency to seek therapeutic solutions to the problems of everyday life." - David Wainwright, Senior Lecturer, School of Health, University of Bath, UK

"This book must be read by teachers, social workers, mental health professionals, charity workers, trade unionists and all who do not want to see their professional work reinforcing and celebrating a ‘survivor’ mentality." - Dennis Hayes, Head of the Centre for Educational Research, University of Derby, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Social Movements Old and New 2. Recognising Identity 3. Surviving Trauma 4. Surviving Psychiatry 5. The Rise of Therapeutic Identity 6. The Imposition of a Vulnerable Identity 7. Conclusion

About the Author

Kenneth McLaughlin is a senior lecturer in social work at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has extensive experience in social work and social care as a support worker for homeless families and as a social worker in a local authority statutory mental health team.

About the Series

Concepts for Critical Psychology

Disciplinary Boundaries Re-thought

Developments inside psychology that question the history of the discipline and the way it functions in society have led many psychologists to look outside the discipline for new ideas. This series draws on cutting edge critiques from just outside psychology in order to complement and question critical arguments emerging inside. The authors provide new perspectives on subjectivity from disciplinary debates and cultural phenomena adjacent to traditional studies of the individual.

The books in the series are useful for advanced level undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers and lecturers in psychology and other related disciplines such as cultural studies, geography, literary theory, philosophy, psychotherapy, social work and sociology.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Social Psychology