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Centre for Investigating Contemporary Social Ills

CICSI is a new research initiative of academics and practitioners. It's cross-institutional and independent. Taking inspiration from the early Frankfurt School, its purpose is to study problems with society by conceptualising them in terms of social ills or pathologies; and to provide conceptual tools and a broader evidence base with which to address them. Our approach is interdisciplinary and ecumenical. It is guided by individuals and social movements who are struggling to end oppression, needless suffering, and injustice. 


We seek to explore a variety of concerns with and in society through the lens of asking 'what is ill here?': from the crises of (representational) democracy to rising inequality, from the climate emergency to other human-made ecological disasters, from the way we organise education or health care to the rising incarceration rates. Reflecting critically about the functions of society and what sustains social life in the long-run, we understand social pathologies as those social conditions that systematically harm individuals. Part of such conditions are the mechanisms which stand in the way of the social change that would address the social ills of our times, obscuring their enabling and causal conditions.


The starting focus of the Centre is on mental distress and its social context. Considering the socio-political environment and inner life of individuals to be deeply entangled, we can think of individual suffering as a kind of seismograph of the tremors occurring in society. Although we start with the distress individuals are suffering, we look for its conditions beyond the individual level. Indeed, we also go beyond researching social determinants of individual health and well-being by investigating the nature of our societies that give rise to such determinants.  


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