syllfall170

syllfall170 - Fall Quarter 2007: Sociology 170: Medical...

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Fall Quarter 2007: Sociology 170: Medical Sociology Where: Haines 220 When: Tuesday and Thursday 2pm -3.15 pm Instructor: Professor Nicky Hart Office Hour: Wednesday 10-11 Syllabus This course examines one of the major institutions of modern industrial society - Medicine. As a social institution, medicine includes a specific body of social beliefs and knowledge ; a specific health care division of labor headed by a powerful occupational group, the medical profession ; a distinctive type of physical plant, the hospital , and a highly profitable sphere of the capitalist economy, the health care sector - pharmaceuticals, health insurance, health care corporations, medical technology and equipment corporations. Many of the foregoing are taken for granted components of daily existence, which we do not question or even think of as suitable material for sociological analysis. Medical knowledge and those who create and control it, enjoy so much prestige in our society that we tend to think of them as above criticism. Indeed the medical profession has been likened to a kind of modern priesthood and the esoteric knowledge they purvey viewed as inherently true and legitimate. Taking the analogy further, we may like to consider the modern hospital as a kind of contemporary temple, like its equivalent in the ancient world, a revered place dedicated to healing and human welfare. One has only to walk down Westwood Boulevard from ASUCLA past the site where the new medical facility is still rising upwards to get a sense of the validity of this analogy. Look at the claims on the hoardings which screen the ugly building works from the street - this is a place that makes special claims for itself as a center of human well being in the 21 st century. Our job in the class is to develop a skeptical and searching look at everything that medicine stands for in modern societies. This means challenging our own preconceptions and thinking critically about what we take for granted. Modern medicine has notched up some fantastic, even miraculous, achievements in the 20 th century and we need to give credit where credit is due. Nevertheless, medicine is a fabulous topic of sociological enquiry and one, which can teach us a great deal about the nature of modern society and modern human experience. Lynn Payer’s book, Culture and Medicine, is an excellent starting point for this purpose of challenging assumptions. It compares the practice of medicine in the US, Britain, France and Germany. Payer shows how far medicine is embedded in its cultural environment and how far what we think of as scientific truth is actually socially constructed. This is the first topic I want you all to think and write about. One of the most fruitful and exciting ideas in sociology is the
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syllfall170 - Fall Quarter 2007: Sociology 170: Medical...

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