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The Medicalization Of Society By Peter Conrad

1673 words - 7 pages

Peter Conrad’s book, The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders, examined several cases of human conditions, once viewed as normal, now considered as medical issues. Conrad defined this transition of human problems to disorders that are medically defined, studied, diagnosed and treated as “medicalization”. Specifically, Conrad discussed certain conditions, such as adult ADHD, as age related phenomena that have been medicalized. Throughout, Conrad demonstrated how these issues became medically defined because of the current research and financing structure of medicine in the United States. Those newly defined illnesses changed people’s perceptions and expectations of health and old age, thus dramatically altering society’s expectations of medicine and subsequent life quality. Conrad’s ethnography is a good example of the ethnomedical approach to medical anthropology that addressed several health conditions that are prominent in the United States. He culminated his book by arguing medicalization primarily serves as a form of social control, solving problems with individuals and not society. While the book clearly explained a wide range of negative causes and effects of medicalization, Conrad only acknowledged a few examples of successful resistance briefly in his last chapter. In order to empower its readers beyond education, the book should have examined these instances of anti-medicalization to find similarities and derive productive countermeasures for individuals to follow. Conrad thoroughly outlined the history, examples and influencing factors that promote medicalization, but failed to offer any combative solution to the resulting problems of medicalization.
In order to fully understand and appreciate Conrad’s arguments, one must first correctly explain why Conrad’s approach should be classified as ethnomedical.
According to Arthur Kleinman, American psychiatrist and medical anthropology professor at Harvard University, medical beliefs and knowledge within the context of specific cultures form the basis of ethnomedicine. He denoted that biomedical categories such as disease, diagnosis, preventive measures and medical systems are not culturally unbound entities, but rather continuously changing, heterogeneous and plural aspects of dynamic medicine. For instance, Kleinman discussed two related sets of issues central to ethnomedicine and ethnomedical data, which he referred to as microquestions and macroquestions. Respectively, Kleinman’s microquestions seek to understand, “the influence of culturally constituted beliefs on lay attitudes toward health and normal bodily functions, on perception of symptoms, on illness experience, on the labeling and health-care- seeking processes, on clinical communication in health care relationships, and on lay and practitioner evaluations of (and conflicts over) therapeutic efficacy,” while macroquestions address the, “the sociopolitical and ecological...

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