Debating Biology: Sociological Reflections on Health, Medicine, and Society

Debating Biology: Sociological Reflections on Health, Medicine, and Society

Debating Biology: Sociological Reflections on Health, Medicine, and Society

Debating Biology: Sociological Reflections on Health, Medicine, and Society

Synopsis

Combining contributions from biologists and sociologists, Debating Biology takes a look at the relationship between biology and society as it is played out in the arena of health and medicine.

Excerpt

Simon J. Williams, Lynda Birke and Gillian A. Bendelow

Why debate biology? Has biology been 'neglected' or downplayed in past/ present sociological theory - as the title of this book implies? Does this matter? Can new non-reductionist positions be recovered or developed here, for instance? And what issues does this raise for contemporary debates on health, medicine and society and the challenges of the twenty-first century? These are some of the questions which contributors to this volume have addressed, starting from the premise that bridging the gap between sociology and biology does indeed matter.

'Biology' may be viewed as both a subject of scientific study and set of living processes and animating principles, with complex relations between the two. As a body of knowledge, clearly demarcated from the 'human sciences', biology emerged late in the nineteenth century. For various reasons, those boundaries have since been carefully maintained, leading to schisms that bedevil any attempt to think through them. So, 'biology' has come to mean the study of processes largely internal to bodies, while 'human sciences' have focused on behaviour and practices of humans. Nonhumans, however, remain in the sphere of the biological. These divisions, which reinforce cultural separations of (human) culture from nature, and mind from body, are thus maintained by the disciplinary boundaries themselves. As a result, the living processes called 'biologica' do not seem to have a place in the study of human societies, or are seen only in terms of discursive construction. Where, then, does (the/a) sociology of health or a sociology of the body stand? And where, too, lies lived experience of those living processes, especially when they are going awry in disease?

Just as 'biology' is problematic, so too are appeals to 'nature'. It is quite possible nonetheless, as Soper rightly argues, to recognize that there is 'no reference to that which is independent of discourse', yet to 'dissent from any position which appeals to this truth as a basis for denying the extra-discursive reality of nature' (Soper 1995:8). Nature, from this latter (realist) standpoint, refers to the 'structures, processes and causal powers that are constantly operative within the physical world, that provide the objects of study of the natural sciences, and condition the possible forms of human intervention in biology or interaction with the environment. It is the nature

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.