You can probably guess my answer to the title question. I wouldn’t ask whether social scientists had properly understood crisis-related relationships if I’d thought they had. I’m especially concerned about the care given to crisis victims, both during and after crises. Too many caregivers seem to act on social science information in ways that misunderstand the vital import of human relationships in crisis. To get a handle on these issues, I begin with a few of the many differences between atomist and holist (not collectivist) perspectives on the world. I then apply these differences to their implications for personhood and human relationships, especially through individualism and relationality. I try to make the case that many in the social sciences are ultimately tied to individualism, including some types of “systems” theory. Finally, the bulk of the presentation explores the practical ramifications of individualism and relationality for three basic questions in caring for crisis victims: 1) what is the major goal of this caring, 2) what are the coping skills needed for the losses of crisis, and 3) how should victims deal with the suffering and despair that many crises bring?
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