Sunday, 22 August 2010

Pharmaceuticalization & Biopower

Other commitments have kept me away for a while, but I couldn't resist posting the abstracts of these two pieces, given how much they have to do with the themes of this blog. What we have here are some critical tools that can be used to qualify the characterization of modern societies in terms of the life sciences. If you have institutional access, these are essential reading:

Pharmaceuticalization of Society in Context: Theoretical, Empirical and Health Dimensions

  1. John Abraham
    1. University of Sussex,
    2. Sociology August 2010 vol. 44 no. 4603-622


Sociological interest in pharmaceuticals has intensified, heightening awareness of ‘pharmaceuticalization’. It is argued that pharmaceuticalization should be understood by reference to five main biosociological explanatory factors: biomedicalism, medicalization, pharmaceutical industry promotion and marketing, consumerism, and regulatory-state ideology or policy. The biomedicalism thesis, which claims that expansion of drug treatment reflects advances in biomedical science to meet health needs, is found to be a weak explanatory factor because a significant amount of growth in pharmaceuticalization is inconsistent with scientific evidence, and because drug innovations offering significant therapeutic advance have been declining across the sector, including areas of major health need. Some elements of consumerism have undermined pharmaceuticalization, even causing de-pharmaceuticalization in some therapeutic sub-fields. However, other aspects of consumerism, together with industry promotion, medicalization, and deregulatory state policies are found to be drivers of increased pharmaceuticalization in ways that are largely outside, or sub-optimal for, significant therapeutic advances in the interests of public health.

Life, Science, and Biopower

  1. Sujatha Raman
    1. Institute for Science and Society (ISS), Law & Social Sciences Building West Wing, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom,
  1. Richard Tutton
    1. Centre for the Social and Economic Aspects of Genomics (CESAGen), Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom
  2. Science Technology Human ValuesSeptember 2010 vol. 35 no. 5 711-734


This article critically engages with the influential theory of ‘‘molecularized biopower’’ and ‘‘politics of life’’ developed by Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose. Molecularization is assumed to signal the end of population-centred biopolitics and the disciplining of subjects as described by Foucault, and the rise of new forms of biosociality and biological citizenship. Drawing on empirical work in Science and Technology Studies (STS), we argue that this account is limited by a focus on novelty and assumptions about the transformative power of the genetic life sciences. We suggest that biopower consists of a more complex cluster of relationships between the molecular and the population. The biological existence of different human beings is politicized through different complementary and competing discourses around medical therapies, choices at the beginning and end of life, public health, environment, migration and border controls, implying a multiple rather than a singular politics of life.

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