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The cult and science of public health: a sociological investigation

Pearson, Georgina (2013) The cult and science of public health: a sociological investigation. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 19 (2). pp. 422-423. ISSN 1359-0987

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1467-9655.12042_17


By exploring the evolving role of public health, this book argues that it has come to function as Durkheim's ‘cult of humanity’. The ‘cult of humanity’ refers to a belief in ‘the unity of society’ (p. 7) and a shared humanity despite increasingly differentiated individuals and roles in society. In this perspective, public health not only is a science, underpinned by ‘rationality’ and strict methodologies, but functions as a religion as it relies on the belief that all individuals deserve access to health by virtue of their unity and shared humanity. It acts as a moral force aimed at alleviating uncertainty and suffering and constraining other selfish forces. Rather than a Foucauldian analysis, this book offers a perspective on the function of public health not just as a site of power and control, but as a moral force and a means of resistance in itself. In doing so, the book explores tensions both within public health and between public health, the state, and the population, and contrasts both its positive and negative functions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 Royal Anthropological Institute
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2017 11:34
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2021 00:13

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