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Asylums ia 1961 collection of four essays written by sociologist Erving Goffman. Based on participant observation field work by him (he had himself employed at a state mental institution), the book details Goffman's theory of the "total institution" (principally in the example he gives, as the title of the book indicates, mental institutions), and the process by which they take efforts to maintain predictable and regular behavior on the part of both "guard" and "captor", suggesting that many of the features of such institutions served the ritual function of ensuring that both classes of people knew their function and social role, in other words of "institutionalising" them. The essays also examine ways in which individual persons may both adapt to this social environment and find loopholes and advantages in the system as part of an effort to make it conform to their own needs. The book concludes that adjusting the inmates to their role has at least as much importance as "curing" them.
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