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Devereux, G. (1939). A Sociological Theory of Schizophrenia. Psychoanal. Rev., 26(3):315-342.

(1939). Psychoanalytic Review, 26(3):315-342

A Sociological Theory of Schizophrenia

George Devereux, Ph.D.


“I never realized there were so many things in our culture.”

(Mbrieng, my best Indochinese informant.)

It has been stated by the great mathematician and physicist, Henri Poincaré, that if a phenomenon admits of one explanation, it will also admit of any number of other explanations, all equally satisfactory. It is the purpose of this paper to examine the problem of Schizophrenia, exclusively from the sociological viewpoint, and to offer a sociological theory of this psychosis. We have said a sociological theory and not the sociological theory, because it may be possible to find other sociological theories of this psychosis.

In examining a problem from a restricted viewpoint, we may lose sight of certain important details. On the other hand, we are almost certain of bringing to light a number of hitherto unsuspected details and correlations which would not be apparent to him who studies the topic under investigation from the so-called ‘normal’ viewpoint. Anyone familiar with camera angles will realize that this contention is well founded. Furthermore, by restricting our field of vision, we also decrease the number of (necessarily) undefined basic concepts, the multiplication of which often leads to a not wholly coherent and compendious set of postulates. Last of all, the philosopher Emile Meyerson has justified partial explanations by stating that a complete explanation of a phenomenon implies denying that phenomenon—no doubt by reducing it to other phenomena.

In extenuation of this slightly philosophical excursus, we would like to point to the important works of Professor Hull and others, which show that considerations concerning scientific method and the philosophy of science are not useless in psychology.

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