Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Keshet, Y., Popper-Giveon, A.
The undisciplined patient in neoliberal society: conscious, informed and intuitive health behaviours
(2018) Health, Risk and Society, pp. 1-18. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1080/13698575.2018.1432757

Applying Foucault’s theoretical concept of discipline, the present article uses the term undisciplined patients to describe those who resist medical authority, defy conventional medical interpretations concerning health risks and adopt non-normative health behaviours. There is considerable scholarly literature available on non-normative health behaviours, such as out-of-hospital birth, refusal to vaccinate or homoeopathy. While differentiating each such issue from the others has its merits, we argue that these health behaviours have much in common and ought to be perceived as a social phenomenon characteristic of Western neoliberal societies, in which health consumers are expected to assume responsibility for their own health behaviours and to avoid health risks. The objective of the research on which this article is based was to explore the common attitudes underlying the health behaviours of undisciplined patients, or, using Foucault’s terminology, determining which technologies of the self they implemented. We conducted in-depth interviews with 10 Jewish Israeli undisciplined patients during 2016. We identified four different practices that undisciplined patients implement: critical awareness of the medical hegemony; willingness to challenge by asking questions, collecting information and involvement in a continuous process of inquiry; using intuition in making health-related decisions and possessing a powerful internal locus of control; and willingness to control their fear and anxiety. Their health behaviours varied widely, including non-normative and normative practises alike, rendering it impossible to address them as one coherent discipline. Situating the social phenomenon of undisciplined patients is of importance to researchers who study risk, as well as to health policy experts. It will also benefit those who study specific non-normative health attitudes and behaviours. © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Author Keywords
Foucault; health behaviour; neoliberalism; risk; undisciplined patients

Index Keywords
adult, anxiety, article, attitude to health, awareness, clinical article, continuous process, female, health care policy, human, interview, intuition, locus of control, male, nomenclature, scientist

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