The new medical sociology. Social forms of health and illness – Bryan Turner Introduction
“Sociology is the scientific study of social institutions” (p. xiii), and these social institutions are cluster of roles, norms, power, and knowledge which determine how we experience the social life, this means that social institutions mark how we have to behave and think. In this way, medicine is a social institution (p. xiii). Moreover, medicine is a social institution of normative coercion, and medical sociology studies not only the subjective experience of health and illness but also the social, economical, and political context within those experiences take part. We said that medicine is coercive since doctors regulate our lives through medical treatments and conceptualizing society (for example crime and rebellious acts). Thus, we can talk about a “medical regime” and a “medical government” (p. xiv). Historically speaking, from the creation of medical sociology as a specific subfield of sociology (in the 1950's), it has been focus on the study of the relation between doctor-patient with vital importance of the “sick role” (Parsons). But it must study beyond that relation; social class, ethnicity, gender, age, demographical issues, epidemiology, globalization... all these elements become relevant nowadays (p. xvi). Chapter 8 – The new medical sociology
Our world has witnessed a huge international change called globalization. It has changed social and economical relations, and also political. Health issues such as HIV/AIDS have been spread by globalization (the increase of tourism, more flights, migration, trade... so on). “Globalization has integrated world health into a single, highly interconnected system” (p. 270). Thus, globalization spreads diseases (97 million people travelled by air from the States to other countries by the mid-1990s). Medical sociology has studied health and illness and medicine as a social institution, also, it has created a complete body of knowledge, but we need to make a greater emphasis in other elements like economics, politics, rights, and citizenship, all of them key elements in the contemporary society. In few words, we need a new medical sociology since we have a new medical economy, which is based on the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, research and development in genetics, microbiology, information science, management of life processes (reproduction, aging, death...) (p.271). “In more direct terms, the medial economy is based on the production, reproduction, and management of the human body” (p. 272). The modern context of medicine
The medical profession used to rest on political powers and on the trust of the public. This statement entails the existence of a medical dominance and the existence of a consulting ethic. But these elements have changed because of the globalization (a global and corporate medical system) and the commercial potential of health and illness, changing the relations between doctors and patients. However, not always doctors have got such a great social prestige; medical discoveries like immunization, or improvement in surgery like anaesthesia, electrolyte physiology, or cardiopulmonary physiology in the 20th century, had established medicine as a scientific authority and a prestige profession. Nevertheless, medical technology has advanced and it ruined medicine's autonomy, but these technological advances entail risks and dangers for social rights (p. 273). All these things have challenged the trust in medicine and doctors as professionals (p. 274). “Any understanding of medicine in contemporary society will have to examine the economics of the corporate structure of medical practice and locate that corporate structure within a set of global processes” (p. 274). The new medical economy has spread diseases and old pandemics, panicking society in specific cases like AIDS (Hollywood's films have reflected that panic/fear). In this way,...
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