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The Age of StressScience and the Search for Stability$
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Mark Jackson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199588626

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588626.001.0001

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Adaptation and Disease

Adaptation and Disease

(p.56) 2 Adaptation and Disease
The Age of Stress

Mark Jackson

Oxford University Press

During the inter-war years, it became increasingly common for clinicians and social commentators to regard the rise of organic and psychological disease in Western societies in terms of faulty adaptation or adjustment to the environment. As a result, scientific interest focused on understanding the internal physiological processes of adaptation more clearly, an approach that was evident most explicitly in Hans Selye's formulation of the `general adaptation syndrome’. Studies of the `diseases of adaptation’ drew on physiological notions of the stability of the internal environment articulated by Claude Bernard, on studies of homeostasis, emotion and shock carried out by Walter Cannon and George Crile, and on formulations of psychosomatic medicine, according to which disease was the product not only of external socio-economic conditions, but also of complex interactions and imbalances between mind and body. Chapter Two argues that inter-war discussions of adaptation and disease were also framed by anxieties about social stability, economic depression, failing international relations, and the spectre of renewed global conflict.

Keywords:   adaptation, disease, stress, physiology, social stability, psychosomatic disease, psychosocial medicine, hans selye, homeostasis

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