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Philippe Le Moigne

Sociologist, Research Fellow, Inserm

Contact: philippe.le-moigne(at)



After a series of research projects on the prescription and consumption of psychotropic drugs, my work has been directed toward a historical sociology of health issues. Why? In France, psychotropic drugs (anxiolytics, hypnotics, antidepressants) are prescribed to nearly 10 million persons every year, primarily by general practitioners. These prescriptions are linked to organic medicine, care related to aging, pain, and mental suffering, while drugs for psychiatric diseases are rarer. Hence the need for a greater understanding of why, despite this, in the eyes of care actors these prescriptions succeed in being justified by a health issue.

Health here is not only measured by the absence of disease; rather, it refers to a right as much as to a duty of wellbeing. This perception of vitality is unquestionably related to the promotion of what I have called the personal cause, in both senses of the term: 1) as an ethics of the defense of self, this cause fed the social movement of the 1960s that led to deep changes in the practice of care; 2) as a mode of explanation in agreement with individual causality, this principle has nourished theoretical claims that have found a large outlet in science since the very beginning of psychology.

To substantiate this characterization, I rely on a historical sociology of US private mental clinics, the cradle of this cause. This work aims to restore the relationship between this clinical practice with science and social movements from the birth of psychopathology in the USA until the publication in 1980 of the world standard of psychiatry, the DSM.

Thesis supervision in progress

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