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The Medicalization of Society

Paperback
, 224 pages
ISBN:
9780801885853
April 2007
$24.00

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The Medicalization of Society

On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders

Over the past half-century, the social terrain of health and illness has been transformed. What were once considered normal human events and common human problems—birth, aging, menopause, alcoholism, and obesity—are now viewed as medical conditions. For better or worse, medicine increasingly permeates aspects of daily life.

Building on more than three decades of research, Peter Conrad explores the changing forces behind this trend with case studies of short stature, social anxiety, "male menopause," erectile dysfunction, adult ADHD, and sexual orientation. He examines the emergence of and changes in medicalization, the consequences of the expanding medical domain, and the implications for health and society. He finds in recent developments—such as the growing number of possible diagnoses and biomedical enhancements—the future direction of medicalization.

Conrad contends that the impact of medical professionals on medicalization has diminished. Instead, the pharmaceutical and biotechnical industries, insurance companies and HMOs, and the patient as consumer have become the major forces promoting medicalization. This thought-provoking study offers valuable insight into not only how medicalization got to this point but also how it may continue to evolve.

Peter Conrad is the Harry Coplan Professor of Social Sciences at Brandeis University. He is the coauthor of Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to Sickness and coeditor of The Double-Edged Helix, also published by Johns Hopkins.

"An accessible yet nuanced introduction to a fascinating and important topic. Readers do not need any background in medicine or academic sociology to appreciate Conrad's inquiry, and the experience of living in the 21st century United States is enough to understand what he's talking about."

"Conrad's fine work investigates and illuminates this baleful phenomenon."

"This is an enjoyable and thought-provoking book."

"The text is useful, especially for medical students."

"Recommended reading for practicing physicians, or better yet, for physicians in training. The so-called gatekeepers need to be reminded (or initially trained to understand) that reductionist medical perspectives are problematic and that the best solutions account for the social complexity that is inherent in the human condition."

"An invaluable synopsis of 30 years' scholarship... Clearly written and presented so that it should be accessible to students in both sociology and health studies... An immense contribution to medical sociology."

"Conrad's accomplishment is significant. The Medicalization of Society is simply the most lucid treatise on the patterns and consequences of medicalization to date. It is also a much needed warning about the darker side of medicalization."

"From masculinity to underperformance, from the surge in psychotropic drugs for children to the rise of adult ADHD and more, Peter Conrad takes readers on a welcome and necessary tour of the spread of medicalization. His cogent analysis of changing objects of knowledge and transformed identity is an essential guide to shifting ideas about normal and pathological, health and disease."

"A lucid overview of a complex field that astutely recounts and analyzes the latest twists and turns in the long saga of our love/hate relationship with the health professions, the pharmaceutical industry, and the corporate organization of health care. I prescribe this book for anyone who has ever seen a doctor or popped a pill."

"Peter Conrad is one of the leading scholars of medicalization today. He mines a deep, rich vein of modern American society; his efforts yield pure sociological gold. This engaging and comprehensive book will endure not only as the intellectual foundation on which future generations of sociologists will build but also as a shining exemplar of lucid theory and the highest sociological craft."

"No one in America brings more insight to the thorny issue of medicalization than Peter Conrad. The Medicalization of Society is a deeply impressive summation of more than thirty years of work."

"This is an extremely interesting, timely and thought-provoking book, which will have a wide appeal amongst academics. Medical sociologists will welcome the opportunity to see Conrad's various writings brought together in one volume, and will appreciate the way he has revisited and updated his own work."

"The issues raised by this monograph are important, complex, and increasingly relevant for all of us who live in the modern world."

"Peter Conrad’s book is largely comprised of a series of case studies used to illustrate the changing nature of medicalization... With his 30-year history of studying this topic, Conrad is just the right person to take on the task, and this book represents a significant contribution to the area."

"Peter Conrad is the doyen of studies in medicalization. From his work on hyperactivity in the 1970s to his more recent research on 'geniticization' Conrad has documented the twists and turns of medical involvement in an ever increasing range of human problems. In this new book he does more than offer a reprise of his work or of the field. Rather, he sets out an illustrated framework for understanding and studying medicalization, with a view to future possible developments as well as current debates."

"This short, tightly written, highly readable book deals with issues, often previously regarded as normal aging or personality flaws, that have moved under the domain of medicine... An important book that will find many readers among the general public as well as among physicians... highly recommended as required reading for medical school courses."

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