The Word as Scalpel: A History of Medical Sociology

By Samuel W. Bloom | Go to book overview

10
From Ad Hoc Committee to
Professional Association

The Section on Medical Sociology,
1955–1980

The Section on Medical Sociology of the ASA is the first and most widely known professional association for social scientists with interests in problems of health and illness. The Section was formally created in 1959, but it developed from an unaffiliated organization, the Committee on Medical Sociology, started in 1955. The Committee was founded by sociologists but included the full range of social scientists, anthropologists, social psychologists, social workers, and physicians. Even after it evolved into an official Section, it continued as a multidisciplinary group.

According to the Ben-David model of the institutionalization of an intellectual activity, 1 such professional organization was the fourth and final step. Medical sociology needed first to be differentiated in subject matter and method from other fields; second, to move from a peripheral position to become a meaningful part of sociology; and third, to follow an increasing pattern of recruitment, gaining in numbers, resources, and stature. The fourth stage 2 consists of “the successful consolidation of a distinct scientific community with its own subculture, a broad operational base, a communications network, publications, and scientific associations. ” 3 In earlier chapters, the first three stages were described in detail. How was this final step achieved?


The Sociology of Medical Sociology

The Ben-David model is misleading in its orderly structuring of reality. The stages of institutionalization do not occur in succession, each waiting its turn. In the period from 1946 to 1960 there was such intense intellectual turmoil and growth that medical sociology, much the same as sociology more generally, grew in all the different ways that intellectual activity can. It is only after the fact that rational

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