Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor

Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor

Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor

Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor


"This is an angry and a hopeful book, and, like everything Dr. Farmer has written, it has both passion and authority. "Pathologies of Power is an eloquent plea for a working definition of human rights that would not neglect the most basic rights of all: food, shelter and health. This plea has special potency because it comes from Dr. Farmer, a person who has proven that the dream of universal and comprehensive human rights is possible, and who has brought food, shelter, health, and hope to some of the poorest people on this earth."--Tracy Kidder, author of "The Soul of a New Machine and "Home Town

"Farmer's brilliance and charisma leap from the pages of his book. He challenges us to face the urgent theoretical and political challenges of the twenty-first century by linking structural violence to embodied social suffering and in the process calls for a new definition of human rights. Once this book is out, we will no longer be able to remain complacently--or rather, complicitly--on the sidelines."--Philippe Bourgois, author of "In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio

"A passionate critique of conventional biomedical ethics by one of the world's leading physician-anthropologists and public intellectuals. Farmer's on-the-ground analysis of the relentless march of the AIDS epidemic and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis among the imprisoned and the sick-poor of the world illuminates the pathologies of a world economy that has lost its soul."--Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of "Death without Weeping: the Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil

"In his compelling book, Farmer captures the central dilemma of our times--the increasing disparities of health and well-being within andamong societies. While all member countries of the United Nations denounce the gross violations of human rights perpetrated by those who torture, murder, or imprison without due process, the insidious violations of human rights


“Every man who lives is born to die, ” wrote John Dryden, some three hundred years ago. That recognition is tragic enough, but the reality is sadder still. We try to pack in a few worthwhile things between birth and death, and quite often succeed. It is, however, hard to achieve anything significant if, as in sub-Saharan Africa, the median age at death is less than five years. That, I should explain, was the number in Africa in the early 1990s, before the AIDS epidemic hit hard, making the chances worse and worse. It is difficult to get reliable statistics, but the evidence is that the odds are continuing to fall from the already dismal numbers. Having made it beyond those early years, it may be difficult for us to imagine how restricted a life so many of our fellow human beings lead, what little living they manage to do. There is, of course, the wonder of birth (impossible to recollect), some mother's milk (sometimes not), the affection of relatives (often thoroughly disrupted), perhaps some schooling (mostly not), a bit of play (amid pestilence and panic), and then things end (with or without a rumble). The world goes on as if nothing much has happened.

The situation does, of course, vary from region to region, and from one group to another. But unnecessary suffering, debilitation, and death from preventable or controllable illness characterize every country and every society, to varying extents. As we would expect, the poor countries in Africa or Asia or Latin America provide crudely obvious illustrations of severe deprivation, but the phenomenon is present even in the richest . . .

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