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Cultural Enthusiasm, Resistance and the Societal Embedding of New Technologies: Psychotropic Drugs in the 20th Century

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The societal embedding of new (medical) technologies involves not only market success, but also regulation and public acceptance. Cultural enthusiasm about their benefits and social concerns about their risks and dangers are in this respect important. Conceptualizing interactions between product championing, cultural enthusiasm and resistance, the article analyses three patterns of societal embedding: (1) hype-cycle, (2) contested embedding, and (3) controversy and stalemate. A fourth pattern of waves of enthusiasm and concern is proposed for technologies with unexpected side effects. This pattern is explored and elaborated with a longitudinal case study of the introduction of a particular form of medical technology: psychotropic drugs such as Veronal and Valium in the period 1900-2000.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Eindhoven University of Technology, 2: Department of Medical Humanities (Metamedica), VU Medical Center Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: March 1, 2007

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