What is the Book is About?
That is basically the justification of Thanatology, the subject of this book. The writer covered a lot of her contemporary ground— briefly, but with some interesting insights.
The first of these insights, expounded well in Part I, is about the change of modes and methods of death and dying in modern, technologically advanced Western societies, and how it led us to a prolonged dying phase.
This change leads to changes regarding how a dying person (and people related) can choose (and the limitations on such choices by socio-economic conditions) to die, or live for the remaining of the days.
In Part III, she gave an overview of the then-contemporary movement to help people to die happily.
The writing is very much descriptive in nature. She tried her best to cast an impartial gaze on the situation. The subject, however, is a cross-school one. This adds some complexity.
Her exploration of modern craft of dying in Part I & Part II were sharp and to the point. It's a must-read, along with The Denial of Death by Earnest Becker, to understand the modern ideas about the death.
However, her portrayal of the happy death movement in the Part III shows the dismal state of affairs on that front. No modern person in their right mind can take Kübler-Ross's “Research” seriously:
This is a deal-breaker for me. Of course, Lofland is mostly a chronicler here, and she had her doubts too.
If I follow the advice of one such movement, I'll have a very unhappy death for sure. Instead, I would like to assume a dying role for me which is based on knowledge and emotional understanding of what it means to be dead:
The fortieth-anniversary edition of a classic and prescient work on death and dying. Much of today's literature on end-of-life issues overlooks the importance of 1970s social movements in shaping our understanding of death, dying, and the dead body. This anniversary edition of Lyn Lofland's The Craft of Dying begins to repair this omission. Lofland identifies, critiques, and theorizes 1970s death movements, including the Death Acceptance Movement, the Death with Dignity Movement, and the Natural Death movement. All these groups attempted to transform death into a “positive experience,” anticipating much of today's death and dying activism. Lofland turns a sociologist's eye on the era's increased interest in death, considering, among other things, the components of the modern “face of death” and the “craft of dying,” the construction of a dying role or identity by those who are dying, and the constraints on their freedom to do this. Lofland wrote just before the AIDS epidemic transformed the landscape of death and dying in the West; many of the trends she identified became the building blocks of AIDS activism in the 1980s and 1990s. The Craft of Dying will help readers understand contemporary death social movements' historical relationships to questions of race, class, gender, and sexuality and is a book that everyone interested in end-of-life politics should read.