Specialists without spirit: Limitations of the mechanistic biomedical model


This paper examines the origin and the development of the mechanistic model of the human body and health in terms of Max Weber's theory of rationalization. It is argued that the development of Western scientific medicine is a part of the broad process of rationalization that began in sixteenth century Europe as a result of the Reformation. The development of the mechanistic view of the human body in Western medicine is consistent with the ideas of calculability, predictability, and control — the major tenets of the process of rationalization as described by Weber. In recent years, however, the limitations of the mechanistic model have been the topic of many discussions. George Engel, a leading advocate of general systems theory, is one of the leading proponents of a new medical model which includes the general quality of life, clean environment, and psychological, or spiritual stability of life. The paper concludes with consideration of the potential of Engel's proposed new model in the context of the current state of rationalization in modern industrialized society.

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Hewa, S., Hetherington, R.W. Specialists without spirit: Limitations of the mechanistic biomedical model. Theoretical Medicine 16, 129–139 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00998540

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Key words

  • rationalization
  • biomedical model
  • medical history
  • biopsychosocial model
  • iron cage