Between social and organic norms: Reading Canguilhem and 'somatization'

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Contemporary accounts of somatization tend to imply that the 'biological' and the 'social' are competing and mutually contradictory epistemological perspectives. This situation ismirrored by the alternative between biomedical objectivism and sociological relativism in accounting for the reality (or, indeed, the non-reality) of this phenomenon as a pathological condition. This paper reads the debate on somatization through Canguilhem's writings. Cnaguilhem's vitalism sees the 'social' and the 'organic' as perspectives pertinent to the living subject, before and beyond being perspectives of the subject of knowledge. As such, they do not represent mutually exclusive choices but rather norms that interact in and through their difference, bearing on the quality of life as healthy or pathological. On this basis, the paper offers an account of how the reality of somatization might be envisaged so as to avoid the implications of both positivism and relativism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomy and Society
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 1998


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