• Nicolaj Riise Clausen
4. semester, Sociologi, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
The purpose of this thesis “The genealogy of depression – A genealogical analysis of the diagnostic practice
and treatment of depression in Denmark” is to offer an alternative to the generalized narrative of the history of
contemporary treatment of depression in Denmark, as rooted in the history of psychiatry. In light of this
objective, the thesis seeks to answer why the practice of diagnosing and treating depression has assumed such
a dominant role in the social work of Denmark. This thesis suggests that to uncover the relevant forms of
knowledge, that shape the contemporary understanding and treatment of depression in Denmark, one must
look at the history of social work in the years immediately predating the proliferation of depression in the
A central element of the thesis’s methodological foundation is the particular definition of depression that it
applies, which is made possible by the strictly symptomatological and descriptive nature of the diagnosis itself.
This centers the effort of the thesis so that the historical practice, whose traces I strive to uncover, is the
treatment of individuals with the specific set of symptoms that would be interpreted as depression in
contemporary social work in Denmark. This particular adaptation expands the analytical focus to the history of
the structural and political demands that the social work exists within, while also implying the criticism of the
search for origins in particular regimes of knowledge. The thesis therefore stands in opposition, or as an
alternative to, historically based sociological studies with an exclusive focus on psychiatry and/or psychology.
The thesis is structured around a genealogical analysis, which seeks to implement a wide range of different
sources from around 1960 and on. The application of the genealogical framework in the analysis naturally
owes a great debt to Michel Foucault, but also contemporary Danish sociologist Kaspar Villadsens work has, to
a large extend shaped the analytical approach. The empirical foundation of the analysis can be loosely divided
into two primary types of sources, one that seeks to relay what can be considered official, dominant and
significant points of view, in the debate over regimes of knowledge and technologies of welfare. The other
variety seeking to convey the coinciding debate, within the community of social workers, primarily through a
reading of an extensive volume of the Danish social workers union magazine.
The analysis is presented in two parts, the first of which proposes a reading of the overall social work and
context in the period of analysis, seeking to contextualize the interpretation of depression as an element of
social work. The second portion of analysis seeks to trace psychiatry and psychologies coinciding
developments, and focuses on tracing relevant cardinal changes in the development of these regimes of
The conclusion of the thesis highlights a few major elements to the success of depression in contemporary
Danish social work, among these the etiologically agnostic understanding of illness implemented by psychiatry,
in the wake of the development of efficient psychopharmaceuticals. This particular understand ings
implementation of elements and rationalities from different preceding technologies and regimes of knowledge
that dominated the field of social work is highlighted as an important aspect as well. Another disclosed
element are the shifts that occurred in general social politics, both in developing the large welfare state that
we know today, and in dismantling its implicit production of knowledge. This thesis thusly proposes a historical
reading of the development of the diagnostic practice and treatment of depression as an element of social
work, predominantly established to pursue the goals and logics of the labor market.
Udgivelsesdato14 dec. 2015
Antal sider102
ID: 221561333