Mental Retardation: Its Social Context and Social Consequences

Mental Retardation: Its Social Context and Social Consequences

Mental Retardation: Its Social Context and Social Consequences

Mental Retardation: Its Social Context and Social Consequences

Excerpt

While many books have been written about the mentally retarded from the viewpoints of biology, psychology, and education, few have regarded the retarded individual as presenting a social problem for study by sociologists or anthropologists.

In the past, books on mental retardation have been based on the premise that the retarded are somehow psychologically different from the rest of the population. Professor Farber, however, regards the mentally retarded as part of a surplus population and therefore a social phenomenon. Given the organization of modern industrial society, the presence of the mentally retarded in a surplus population is the logical outcome of the selection processes in its educational, political, and economic institutions. According to Professor Farber, each of these institutions requires a surplus of personnel in a constant sifting to obtain a good fit between a person and position in social organization. The label of "mentally retarded" is a means for making legitimate the designation of these people as a surplus population.

Professor Farber examines the kinds of labels applied to the retarded and the factors which account for variations in prevalence figures. He goes on to deal with the effects of the mentally retarded on social relationships. These relationships include: family life, the school, the community, and life in residential institutions.

Because of its sociological perspective, this book covers topics that have been either treated very briefly or ignored entirely in other works on mental retardation. These include a discussion of techniques for determining prevalence, social factors in prevalence, consequences of labeling persons as mentally retarded, social movements -- including parent groups -- and the social organization of residential institutions. In this way, Professor Farber's treatment broadens our understanding of mental retardation and its implications.

Perhaps more significant are the solutions implied by Professor Farber's analysis. Inasmuch as the problems deriving from mental retardation are based in the social structure, only a profound change in society can be effective in solving them. Professor Farber does not . . .

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