• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

The Universal Fear of Death and the Cultural Response
The universal fear of death and the cultural response

Is the fear of death universal? Anthropologist Ernest Becker (1973) seems to think so, arguing that “the idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is the mainspring of human activity—activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man” (p. ix). There is much about death to fear: Whether by accident, disease, or intentional infliction by another human, the path to death for all but a few fortunate humans is accompanied by pain. Death can also be a lonely and isolating experience (Feder 1976). Humans ...

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