Social Theory & Health

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 109–128 | Cite as

Limitations in the bioethical analysis of medicalisation: The case of love drugs

  • Nathan Emmerich
Original Article


A number of articles concerning the idea of ‘love drugs’ have recently appeared in the bioethical literature. While, as yet, the idea is little more than science fiction, such drugs have been positioned as ‘neurotechnologies’ that will offer us the opportunity to enhance our marriages. Following a classically liberal approach, the strategy has been, first, to argue that there is no reason individuals should be prevented from using such drugs if they wish to use them, and, second, to adduce reasons why individuals might be morally motivated to do so. This work has been followed by a paper that considered whether such drugs will ‘medicalise’ love and, if so, whether any (bio)ethical implications follow from their potential to do so. In response, this article argues that traditional forms of bioethical analysis are ill placed to fully grasp the moral dimension of medicalisation. Using the concepts of biomedicalisation, theraputicisation and moralisation I attempt to show that bioethical scholarship can be considered part of these social processes, and, properly understood, they imply that our social, cultural and political norms, such as those that inform our conception of love and intimacy, are subject to change. As a result a more biopolitical approach is to be recommended.


bioethics medicalisation love drugs enhancement biopolitics social norms 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan Emmerich
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, Queen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

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