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A Theory of Despair Among U.S. College Students

Joseph C. Hermanowicz (University of Georgia, USA)

Planetary Sociology

ISBN: 978-1-80043-509-4, eISBN: 978-1-80043-508-7

Publication date: 5 May 2023


The author argues that contemporary college culture is predicated on hedonism indicated by a use of predominantly social time in which parties, alcohol, casual sex, and lax academics pervade students' experiences. Coincident with this culture, however, is a deleterious pattern among students that has developed dramatically: their compromised mental health. The situation presents an apparent paradox: why are many students suffering when enveloped by fun? This chapter draws a connection between fun and suffering by treating each as conditions that spring from the sociohistorical context that situates institutions of higher education. In so doing, a theory is set forth to explain why despair is rendered applicable and how it is institutionally installed in the minds of modern-day college students.




The author acknowledges with grateful thanks the comments and suggestions provided by Erika Hermanowicz, Xavier Jones, Erika Nguyen, Barry Schwartz, and the anonymous reviewers on prior drafts of this article.


Hermanowicz, J.C. (2023), "A Theory of Despair Among U.S. College Students", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) Planetary Sociology (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 40), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 227-249.



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