The Intimate State: How Emotional Life Became Political in Welfare-State Britain

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


The Intimate State explores how state-supported mental health initiatives made emotional intimacy both politically valued and personally desired during a crucial period of modern British psychiatric and cultural history. Focusing on the transformative decades following World War II, Teri Chettiar narrates the surprising story of how individual emotional wellbeing became conflated with inclusive democracy and subsequently prioritized in the eyes of scientists, politicians, and ordinary citizens. This new model of emotional health promoted nuclear families and monogamous marriage relationships as fundamental for individual and political stability and fostered unexpected collaborations between British mental health professionals and social reformers who sought to resolve the Cold War crisis in political and moral values. However, this model also generated backlash and resistance from communities who were excluded from its vision of idealized intimacy, including women, queer people, and adolescents. Ultimately, these communities would foster a new generation of activists who would turn the state agenda on its head by demanding political recognition for marginalized citizens on the basis of emotional health.

Through new archival research, The Intimate State traces the rise of a modern psychiatric view of the importance of intimate relationships and the resultant political culture that continues to inform identity politics--and the politics of social equality--to this day.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages328
ISBN (Electronic)9780190931230
ISBN (Print)9780190931209
StatePublished - 2023


  • history of the human sciences
  • modern Britain
  • history of childhood
  • welfare state
  • the sexual revolution
  • history of the family
  • gender and sexuality
  • mental health
  • intimacy
  • psychiatry


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