World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Total institution

Article Id: WHEBN0000471600
Reproduction Date:

Title: Total institution  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Asylums (book), WikiProject Sociology/Cleanup listing, Boarding school, Role engulfment, Social phenomena
Collection: Social Phenomena, Social Philosophy, Social Psychology, Total Institutions, Types of Organization
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Total institution

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.[1]:44[2]:855[3]

In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault discussed total institutions in the language of complete and austere institutions.[4]:231


  • Term origins 1
  • Typology of total institutions 2
  • Facts 3
  • Tourism and the total institution 4
  • Estimations 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8

Term origins

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.[5]:1 An expanded version appeared in Donald Cressey's collection, The Prison,[6] and was reprinted in Goffman's 1961 collection, Asylums.[1][3][5]: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").[7] Regardless of whether Goffman coined the term, he can be credited with popularizing it.[8]

Typology of total institutions

Total institutions are divided by Goffman into five different types:[3][9]

  1. institutions established to care for people felt to be both harmless and incapable: orphanages, poor houses and nursing homes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


According to S. Lammers and A. Verhey, some 80 percent of Americans will ultimately die not in their home, but in a total institution.[2]:853

Tourism and the total institution

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.[11][12]:106


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."[13]:xxix[14]:101

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^

Further reading

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.