French psychiatry and the search for a professional ...

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Title French psychiatry and the search for a professional identity: The Société Médico-Psychologique, 1840-1870
Author(s) Ian R. Dowbiggin
Journal Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Date 1989
Volume 63
Issue 3
Start page 331
End page 355
Abstract The Societe Medico-Psychologique, which emerged in 1852 under the Second Empire, served as a means of professional identity for asylum psychiatry. It was the first alienist learned society in French history and psychiatry's first attempt at association. Designed as a medical specialist organization, it aimed at reconciliation between medicine and psychology. This position was adopted to placate philosophical, clerical, and imperial interests, by establishing that organized medicine was not atheistic in conceding the existence of a metaphysical and rational soul. There is evidence that this official view was not shared by all members, many of whom remained fiercely republican, anticlerical, and wedded to purely physiological views. The society pursued a policy of conciliation and cooperation with the state and its bureaucracy to secure state support for its members. Alienists had embraced secular medical science more for its capacity to make them appear apolitical than for its capacity to depict them as anticlerical ideologues.

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