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Book cover: Advances in Gender Research

Advances in Gender Research

ISSN: 1529-2126
Series editor(s): Professor Vasilikie Demos, Professor Marcia Segal

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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Author(s):Elianne Riska
Volume:7 Editor(s): Marcia Texler Segal, Vasilikie Demos, and J.J. Kronenfeld ISBN: 978-0-76231-058-6 eISBN: 978-1-84950-239-9
Citation:Elianne Riska (2003), GENDERING THE MEDICALIZATION THESIS, in Marcia Texler Segal, Vasilikie Demos, and J.J. Kronenfeld (ed.) Gender Perspectives on Health and Medicine (Advances in Gender Research, Volume 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.59-87
DOI:10.1016/S1529-2126(03)07003-6 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item

The medicalization thesis derives from a classic theme in the field of medical sociology. It addresses the broader issue of the power of medicine – as a culture and as a profession – to define and regulate social behavior. This issue was introduced into sociology 50 years ago by Talcott Parsons (1951) who suggested that medicine was a social institution that regulated the kind of deviance for which the individual was not held morally responsible and for which a medical diagnosis could be found. The agent of social control was the medical profession, an institutionalized structure in society that had been given the mandate to restore the health of the sick so that they could resume their expected role obligations. Inherent in this view of medicine was the functionalist perspective on the workings of society: the basic function of medicine was to maintain the established division of labor, a state that guaranteed the optimum working of society. For 20 years, the Parsonian interpretation of how medicine worked – including sick-role theory and the theory of the profession of medicine – dominated the bourgeoning field of medical sociology.

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