Monday, March 19, 2012

Social Constructivism and Medicalization

Peter Conrad's Medicalization of Society was a truly enlightening read that clarifies a lot of questions on the origins of certain "diseases" prevalent in our society today which were virtually unheard of a few years ago. We touched upon the phenomenon of social constructivism in class today--the concept that social interactions breed awareness and shared cultures and values within microcosmic groups. This idea certainly seems to apply to Conrad's book, especially as he delves into the more recently publicized gender-specific "diseases."
It seems that the medical and pharmaceutical industries have taken on heavily capitalistic undertones, almost mimicking the economic system and values of the United States by providing "consumers" (formerly known as patients) with goods (medications.) Furthermore, many of these drugs, especially the most lucrative on the market, are provided to abate socially constructed "diseases" which undermine culturally defined norms of behavior and gender stereotypes. This concept definitely aligns itself with the social constructivist phenomenon in conceding that most societal values are not innately human but constructed and reflections of a specific culture. This idea is further justified in how familiar/common discussion has become surrounding these "diseases" which once went "untreated" because of their taboo like qualities (i.e- erectile dysfunction, PMS.) Nowadays, discussing menstruation, selling erection pills or advertising for the new and improved bionic penis surgery is common, strewn throughout newspapers, even. It seems as if modern medicalization conveys how society has evolved from one embracing privacy to a more liberal forum. After all, just a few decades ago seeking out and discussing the need for psychological/psychiatric help was unheard of and now it seems everyone has a shrink.
Throughout Conrad's book I found myself continuously asking the same questions. Does modern, evolving medicalization create a better quality of life for our society by utilizing capitalistic rituals within the healthcare system? Or does modern medicalization stigmatize natural occurrences which once went undiscussed for a reason? Is our medical system creating more insecurities for an already vulnerable society?

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