On illness and value: biopolitics, psychosomatics, participating bodies

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In its heyday, around the mid-twentieth century, psychosomatic medicine was promoted as heralding a new science of body/mind relations that held the promise of transforming medicine as a whole. Sixty years on, the field appears to have achieved no more than a respectable position as a research specialism within the medical status quo. This paper articulates the problematic of psychosomatics through a number of propositions that reconnect its promise of novelty to the present and to contemporary concerns. In contrast to classic approaches to ‘psychosomatic problems’, which typically set out by denouncing the conceptual inadequacy of mind/body dualism, the focus proposed is on the resilience of dualism as an empirical datum deserving closer analysis. The paper thus asks: what is the character of dualism considered under the aspect of what it achieves, and thus as an expression of value? Drawing on the thought of A N Whitehead, Michel Foucault and Viktor von Weizsäcker, the argument formulates a set of ‘psychosomatic problems’ informed by the concept of biopolitics and introduces their relevance in relation to the politics of participatory medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-115
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Humanities
Issue number2
Early online date7 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2022


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