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Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 397–423 | Cite as

Birth of the Allostatic Model: From Cannon’s Biocracy to Critical Physiology

  • Mathieu ArminjonEmail author
Article

Abstract

Physiologists and historians are still debating what conceptually differentiates each of the three major modern theories of regulation: the constancy of the milieu intérieur, homeostasis and allostasis. Here I propose that these models incarnate two distinct regimes of politization of the life sciences. This perspective leads me to suggest that the historicization of physiological norms is intrinsic to the allostatic model, which thus divides it fundamentally from the two others. I analyze the allostatic model in the light of the Canguilhemian theory, showing how the former contributed to the development of a critical epistemology immune to both naturalist essentialism and social constructivism. With a unique clarity in the history of physiology, allostasis gives us a model of the convergence of historical epistemology and scientific practice. As such it played a key role in codifying the epistemological basis of certain current research programs that, in the fields of social epidemiology and feminist neuroscience, promote what we name here a critical physiology.

Keywords

milieu intérieur Homeostasis Allostasis Heterostasis Physiological norms Politics 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de psychiatrie, Faculté de médecineUniversité de GenèveGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Fondation AgalmaGenevaSwitzerland

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