Parsons’ Notion of Illness

  • Uta Gerhardt
Part of the New Studies in Sociology book series


In the 1960s, Parsons recollects how he came to the field of medical sociology 30 years earlier. He insists that he was always predominantly interested in how modern capitalism works, and he claims that he focused on the medical profession precisely for this reason. He writes:

It is perhaps not irrelevant to remark, that at the time I became interested (in the middle 1930’s), the principal link between medicine and the social sciences was by way of ‘medical economics’, not medical sociology. The focus of this was the immense project of study of the costs of medical care, which was a rather typical foundation supported economic study in its attempt to bridge considerations of academic economics and of public policy. In the latter connection its report set off a storm in the relations between its proponents and the American Medical Association, being stigmatized by the latter’s Journal as socialistic, though by present standards it was very mildly so, if indeed at all … It gradually became clear to me that the principal theorists of capitalism, notably Marx and those in his tradition, tended to characterize the whole of modern industrial society in terms of this conception and to treat the business firm as the typical unit of its organization, beyond the family.


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Copyright information

© Uta Gerhardt 1989

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  • Uta Gerhardt

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