The Medicalization of Society by Peter Conrad

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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.
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Works Cited

Conrad, Peter. The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

Kleinman, Arthur M. “What Kind of Model for the Anthropology of Medical Systems?” American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 80, No. 3 (Sep, 1978), pp. 661-665.

Thoit, Link, Bruce G., and Jo C. Phelan. "Labeling and Stigma." Handbook of the sociology of mental health. Springer Netherlands, 2013. 525-541.

Christine M. Harrington, The Americans with Disabilities Act: The New Definition of Disability Post: Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 84 Marq. L. Rev. 251 (2000).

Oliver, Mike. 1996. Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillian.

Conrad, Peter, and Joseph W. Schneider. 1992. Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to Sickness. St. Louis: Mosby.

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