How society deals with human suffering

February 11, 2016

Millions of people experience social suffering in their everyday lives. But how should we venture to understand these brute facts of modern existence? How do they impact upon our cultural beliefs, political outlooks and moral behaviours?

In a new book, entitled A Passion for Society: How We Think About Human Suffering, Dr Iain Wilkinson, of the University of Kent, and co-author Professor Arthur Kleinman, of Harvard University, examine the moral experience and public portrayal of human suffering and how these have changed through modern times.

The authors go on to investigate how the knowledge people acquire of the suffering of others holds the potential to inspire caring acts of compassion.

Taking an historical perspective, A Passion for Society further considers the development of social science, with a particular focus on how this has been shaped in response to problems of social suffering. The authors argue that social science's original concern with social suffering and its amelioration gave way to a professionalisation that espoused dispassionate enquiry above the pursuit of humanitarian social reform.

Dr Wilkinson and Professor Kleinman then chart the more recent recuperation of this lost tradition and explore some of the ways in which social inquiries coupled with caring actions for others are currently revitalising and remaking the discipline of social science.

The authors conclude by arguing for what they describe as an engaged social science that connects critical thought with social action and operates with a commitment to establish and sustain humane forms of society.

Iain Wilkinson is Reader in Sociology within Kent's School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. Arthur Kleinman is Professor of Medical Anthropology within Harvard Medical School's Department of Social Medicine. A Passion for Society: How We Think About Human Suffering, was published in January 2016 by the University of California Press. See:
For further information or interview requests with Dr Wilkinson, contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227-823581/01634-888879


News releases can also be found at

University of Kent on Twitter:

Note to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent -- the UK's European university -- now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

University of Kent

Related Sociology Articles from Brightsurf:

A new battle: Veterans more likely to have heart disease
After the war is over, veterans face a new threat.

The revolt of the Rust Belt may explain Trump's election
A new British Journal of Sociology article explains that Donald Trump's victory was less about the candidate himself and more about a rejection of the Democratic Party by white and black working-class voters across the Rust Belt.

How birthplace and education influence marriage choices in China
Many people choose their spouse based on shared values and interests.

Climigration? UNH expert explores threat of climate change on populations
Climigration refers to migration caused by climate change. The term was coined to describe the predicament of northern Alaska populations who live on the 'front line of climate change,' facing immediate threats from erosion and flooding.

Childhood poverty, parental abuse cost adults their health for years to come
Growing up in poverty or being abused by parents can lead to accumulated health problems later in life, according to research from Purdue University.

Georgia State: Health provider awareness can curb prescription drug abuse
Increasing health care providers' level of concern about prescription drug abuse in their communities may be an effective public health tool in fighting America's prescription drug abuse epidemic, according to a study by researchers from the School of Public Health and the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University.

American Sociological Association launches new open-access journal, Socius
The American Sociological Association has launched Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, a new open-access journal, which published its inaugural articles earlier this month.

Racial makeup of labor markets affects who gets job leads
The racial composition of a labor market plays a significant role in whether workers find out about job leads -- regardless of the race of the worker, according to new research from Rice University and North Carolina State University.

New book argues that social sciences are critical to climate change
Pope Francis recently made an impassioned plea for a 'cultural revolution' to combat climate change, calling for collective action and 'a conversation which includes everyone.' Thus far, the climate conversation has often neglected the contributions of one key group: social scientists.

ASA task force releases new book on climate change
Edited by Riley E. Dunlap and Robert J. Brulle, the forthcoming book, 'Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives,' breaks new theoretical and empirical ground by presenting climate change as a thoroughly social phenomenon, embedded in behaviors, institutions, and cultural practices.

Read More: Sociology News and Sociology Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to