Marxism and Health Care

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How does one theoretical perspective discussed in chapter two contribute to a deeper sociological understanding of health and health care? For many years sociological approaches towards health were not adequately utilised as a means of gaining an enriched understanding of concurrent physical and social issues relating to health care. The application of theoretical perspectives in reference to health emerged during the 1950’s and was commonly perceived as being empirical rather then theoretical in nature (Gray, D. E. 2006). Theories are essentially an explanation of how things work and why they happen (Germov, J. 2009). In effect they provide us with answers through the application of concepts and hypothetical approaches that allow us to gain greater insight into issues relating to health across the holistic patient spectrum. As the conceptual development of sociological theory evolved many landmark theoretical perspectives were formed that eventually lead to the development of ‘health sociology’. Essentially health sociology utilises core ideologies in order to implement measures that will improve specific elements of health care and help to highlight the social determinants of health. The application of theoretical perspective being employed in regards to health can be further explored through the analysis of fundamental Marxist ideologies. The fundamental basis of Marxist theology has strong links to health as it is concerned with the distinction between the upper class and the lower class. In particular Marxism explores the working classes inability to exercise adequate control over the determinants of health. Through extensive analysis of Marxism’s various theories regarding health it becomes highly evident that when used as a theoretical perspective there is a level of contemporary resonance as it enables pivotal insight regarding a furthered sociological understanding of health.

The theoretical perspective Marxism is a result of the writings of Karl Marx and his colleague Frederick Engels in the 19th century. The Marxist theory is essentially a theoretical perspective that analyses the ways in which power and wealth are created within society. Marxism enumerates that although society is made up of many complex subdivisions in terms of social class, no society can escape that there is an upper class (the Bourgeoisie), and a lower class (the Proletariat). Marx and Engels saw the upper class as having control over the ‘forces of production’, meaning that they held control over the industries that were capable of generating large amounts of fortune. In effect ownership over the forces of production is viewed as the principal point of class division, and one that has significant consequences towards the life experiences of all members of society (Craib 1997). Thus Marxism perceives power as being crucial in the development of health inequities within a society (Solar & Irwin 2007). There are three core tenets of Marxist theory regarding health and illness that have ongoing significance within modern day society. Marxists main conviction in terms of health stems from their principal belief regarding the inequalities faced by the working class and their inability to exercise full control over their health. Marxist theoretical perspective draws valuable correlations between the socially disadvantaged and their quality of health. Another core belief of Marxists regarding health is the growing commodification of the health industry. Marxists theoretical perspective is that in recent years there has been a decline in the standard of treatment the individual receives due to more emphasis being placed upon the pursuit of wealth within the health industry. The final issue that Marxists are concerned with is the professional power of doctors who place profit-maximization above access to optimum health care within a self-regulatory environment (Germov, J. 2009).

At the time of Karl Marx writings there was a clear-cut...
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