APPROPRIATION AND ACCULTURATION IN THE FRENCH DEBATE ON MENTAL HEALTH AT WORK OF ANGLO-SAXON CLINICAL CATEGORIES (STRESS, BURN OUT AND MOBBING)

Abstract : There has been renewed interest in France in the concepts of suffering and ill-being at work since the late 1990s. A rising number of claims have been filed in this area. The media have often reported on people committing suicide at their workplace, on new legal mechanisms in this field, and on related issues. Many terms and names of clinical categories used when discussing suffering and ill-being at work are in fact foreign terms (mainly from North America) taken over into French (for instance "stress", "burn out", and the Japanese "karochi"). Importing foreign words is neither automatic, nor a simple "copy/paste". Some categories such as the American "chronic fatigue syndrome" or the Japanese karoshi are regarded as exotic labels which seldom concern the French. Other labels, such as stress or burnout, became popular much later than in Anglo-Saxon countries. When smuggling in these "illnesses" defined in other countries, French researchers sometimes tried to leave their own mark on nosography, especially by suggesting a new name they thought would be more appropriate. For example, Pierre Jannet turned neurasthenia into psychasthenia, and more recently the French rheumatologist Marcel Francis Kahn replaced fibromyalgia with the Diffuse Idiopathic Polyalgic Syndrome (DIPS, SPID in French). This chapter contains three case studies on stress, burnout and the concepts of psychological harassment, mobbing and bullying, and will look at the way French researchers and social actors took hold of, translated, and adapted for the purposes of French national concerns, terms and concepts which were coined in other countries. On each occasion, these terms and concepts were "sneaked in" by actors, organisations or mediation forums which acted as vectors or supported the new terminology. They sometimes acted as veritable "moral entrepreneurs" in Becker's sense of the term, by popularizing and supporting the idea of a new pathology, even that of a new social ill, whether in symposiums, conferences, articles in scientific journals or popular science articles, and when advising and training social actors and policy-makers. However, for a term or a clinical category to be successful, doctors, psychologists, patients, managers or workers should be able to identify with it or recognize the illnesses of the people they are to deal with. The terminology and the implicit or explicit theories conveyed by it must be meaningful to these various actors. Its meaning, and the interests underlying it, may be heterogeneous or may even diverge. Relatively implicit or vague compromises, and an evolving balance of power will reflect the success and outcome of the different terms. The acclimatisation of these terms to the French context, their legitimization by various players (unions, the media, politicians, the scientific community), and their linguistic and social translation, lie at the heart of this chapter.
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Submitted on : Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 12:24:43 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, July 4, 2018 - 11:14:03 PM

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Marc Loriol. APPROPRIATION AND ACCULTURATION IN THE FRENCH DEBATE ON MENTAL HEALTH AT WORK OF ANGLO-SAXON CLINICAL CATEGORIES (STRESS, BURN OUT AND MOBBING). Stéphanie Cassilde, Adeline Gilson. Psychosocial Health, Work and Language: International Perspectives towards their Categorizations at Work, Springer, pp.93-111, 2017. ⟨halshs-01474947⟩

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