Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge
Steven Epstein is a sociologist whose expertise lies in health care inequalities and research on human subjects. Published in 1995, Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge is a study of the politicized production of knowledge in the AIDS epidemic in the United States. This work shows Epstein’s interest in how expertise is constructed, the ways in which those who are considered “outsiders” can influence medicine, and how credibility is gained and lost. Epstein focuses on the question of how knowledge is produced through complex interactions among government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, scientists, medical people, and “treatment activists” to discover how knowledge about AIDS emerges out of what he calls "credibility struggles."
Epstein follows the “principle of symmetry”, a methodology for analyzing both mainstream and dissenting views in the same way; this differs from the usual approach which tends to accept a mainstream worldview as true, and then tries to explain other opinions as various kinds of errors. The principle of symmetry reads that the same types of conceptual tools ought to be used to explain both true and false beliefs.
For sources Epstein used medical journal articles, mass media news reports, articles in gay and lesbian press, activist documents, and government documents as well as extensive interviews with more than thirty researchers, activists, and government officials. He also attended many conferences, meetings, forums, demonstration, and other public events. He writes that his “fundamental analytical strategy has been to bring into critical juxtaposition contemporaneous records from different “s...
... middle of paper ...
...about the re-emergence of whether theses randomized clinical trials were ethical.
“Treatment activists have succeeded in establishing their scientific credibility and their cultural competence in biomedicine” (page 337). This factor led to their success in influencing both the scientists and pharmaceutical industry on AIDS treatments, drug regulations, and the ways in which clinical trials are carried out
His analysis of how powerfully well-informed, militant and organized advocates can affect the distribution of government money and influence the biomedical establishment in its strategies against a single disease
“Impure Science” proves definitively how consumers, armed with thorough knowledge, can influence public health policy, budget funding, and even academic research toward their own goals in combating the diseases that threaten their lives.
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