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By Thomas Rutten
Realizing how 'contagion' and 'infection' became strong metaphors calls for a old reconstruction of this semantic box within the past due nineteenth and early twentieth century, whilst those options bought a systematic that means. the quantity bargains an interdisciplinary method of the cultural background of contagionism among scientific bacteriology, the social sciences and literary diversifications. The symbolic implications of 'contagion' and high-profile contagious ailments are addressed, which mark the bounds among in poor health and fit, time-honored and alien, morally natural and impure.
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Stated pithily, levels of contagious discourse augur poorly for outcomes; the lower the level, the more rational and empirical the phenomena being described, as in 1998 versus 2007. Magisterial questions about the contagion of debt have been put, of course, to economists and policy makers since then, but few any longer invoke a reckless language of contagion without interrogation and reflection. Likewise, in philosophical and moral realms, as in my example from Enlightenment philosophy. Discourses of moral contagion may not be alien to us in the twenty-first century when every day, it seems, the news suggests the ‘infection’ of crime and violence; and when historians repeat- The Overlap of Discourses of Contagion: Economic, Sexual, and Psychological 43 edly document how we have survived waves of allegedly ‘contagious violence’ in which the contagious component is as noteworthy as the criminality of rioting and looting.
Aber wie geschieht diese Ausbreitung? Durch ‚Ansteckung’. Da sitzen wir fest. Was heißt hier Ansteckung? Es ist doch nur ein bildlicher Ausdruck! ] (Hellpach 1906, 29) What, then, might contagion mean when broken down for the social sciences? Would it be an infection of a material kind? Something like the materialistic, naturalistic transmission of nervous vibrations? In order to isolate his subject – spiritual epidemics – he delimits them as a special case in the field of socio-pathological phenomena and mass mental illnesses.
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