A total institution is a place of work and residence where a great number of similarly situated people, cut off from the wider community for a considerable time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life.:44:855
The term is sometimes credited as having been coined and defined by Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman in his paper "On the Characteristics of Total Institutions", presented in April 1957 at the Walter Reed Institute's Symposium on Preventive and Social Psychiatry.:1 An expanded version appeared in Donald Cressey's collection, The Prison, and was reprinted in Goffman's 1961 collection, Asylums.:1 Fine and Manning, however, note that Goffman heard the term in lectures by Everett Hughes (likely during the late-1940s seminar, "Work and Occupations"). Regardless of whether Goffman coined the term, he can be credited with popularizing it.
- institutions established to care for people felt to be both harmless and incapable: orphanages, poor houses and nursing homes.
- places established to care for people felt to be incapable of looking after themselves and a threat to the community, albeit an unintended one: leprosariums, mental hospitals, and tuberculosis sanitariums.
- institutions organised to protect the community against what are felt to be intentional dangers to it, with the welfare of the people thus sequestered not the immediate issue: concentration camps, P.O.W. camps, penitentiaries, and jails.
- institutions purportedly established to better pursue some worklike tasks and justifying themselves only on these instrumental grounds: colonial compounds, work camps, boarding schools, ships, army barracks, and large mansions from the point of view of those who live in the servants' quarters.
- establishments designed as retreats from the world even while often serving also as training stations for the religious; examples are convents, abbeys, monasteries, and other cloisters.
David Rothman states that "historians have confirmed the validity of Goffman's concept of 'total institutions' which minimizes the differences in formal mission to establish a unity of design and structure.":xxix:101
Sociologists have pointed out that tourist venues such as cruise ships are acquiring many of the characteristics of total institutions. Tourists may not be aware that they are being controlled, even constrained, but the environment has been designed to subtly manipulate the behavior of patrons. These examples differ from the traditional examples in that the influence is short term.:106
- Disciplinary institution
- Mental asylum
- Psychiatric institution
- Psych ward
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- Fine, Gary Alan; Smith, Gregory W. H. (2000). Erving Goffman. Vol. 1–4. SAGE. p. 36. ISBN 0-7619-6863-6.
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- George Ritzer and Allan Liska, "'McDisneyization' and 'Post-tourism:' Complementary Perspectives on Contemporary Tourism," Tourism: The Experience of Tourism, ed. Stephen Williams, vol. 4, New Directions and Alternative Tourism (London: Routledge, 2004), 65-82.
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