I acknowledge, that Alexander and his colleagues raise the topic of the growing importance of trauma in our societies. Being a German myself I totally agree to the importance of the task. Furthermore I appreciate the normative dimension of Alexander's work. I think it is great, that Alexander does not only theorize trauma but tries to show us a way towards responsibility and solidarity.
However great his claims I cannot accept Alexander's theory. There is a great critique by Hans Joas in the European Journal of Social Theory. I do not want to repeat this critique here. I could not formulate it any better nor shorter, so please have a look at it yourself.
Yet I want to give a short outline of what I think Alexander's fallacy is: Orthodox Theories conceptualize trauma as an experience that cannot be grasped and integrated into our understanding of the world. Therefore this experience disturbs, injures and haunts us. Alexander criticizes these approaches by saying, that it is not the events but their meaning, which shock and frighten us. These meanings of course have to be mediated and constructed first. I think with this critique he gets it all wrong.
The basic characteristic of a trauma is, that it has no meaning within our every day lives!
Therefore it cannot be understood nor talked about. This incoherency between horrible experience and normal every-day-life causes anxiety, phobia and so on and so forth. First it was recognized that homecoming soldiers had mental and physical problems. Then it was thought about an explanation and scientists came up with ideas like "shelter shock" or "post traumatic depression". If Alexander was right, we first would need the definition and then people would show the symptoms.
Am I confusing the individual and the collective level? Then let me ask the following question: Did it really need the experience of a failed emancipation and reconstitution for African Americans to be traumatized by slavery? (see Eyermans chapter)
What Alexander calls the "Trauma Process" does not establish the trauma but its cure and its cultural memory. The "Trauma Process" makes it possible for people to integrate their experiences into their everyday life.
The field of trauma research is too well established to just revolutionize it with one such book by people who have not worked in this area before.
As Joas sais, Alexander fails to differentiate between cultural and personal trauma. If such a differentiation was introduced, the cultural trauma could be acknowledged as a special case of a cultural memory, which might even help to cure (collectivities of) personal traumatized people.