Understanding Health and Medicine: A Critical Examination of Governance, Surveillance and Control within Contemporary Culture

  • Alyssa Hartwell Mount Royal University
Keywords: abnormal/normal binary, control, Foucauldian analysis, governance, medical discourse, panopticon, surveillance


Within contemporary western society, health and medicine understandings are often taken for granted, left unquestioned and undisturbed. However, the author of this paper looks to uproot and critically examine much of what medical professionals, scientists, and patients alike have come to understand as ‘normal’. Thus, an assessment of the ways in which the neo-liberal model, the creation of the abnormal/normal binary and social discourses combine in order to enact control, surveillance and governance, will be considered. Then, through the use of Foucauldian theory, a discussion of the implications of such ubiquitous and omnipresent social processes such as surveillance, control and governance will be considered. Furthermore, the neo-liberal model will be presented in greater detail to illustrate the ways in which privilege is cast unto those who embody that of the archetypal citizen. Additionally, social theorists Giddens and Beck will be considered as they offer critical key concepts – such as that of the risk society – which will help to better contextualize the larger theoretical frameworks that exist and pertain to health and medicine. In conclusion, Foucault’s concept of the panopticon will exemplify the ways in which surveillance, control and governance are irrevocably intertwined at a variety of levels to ultimately create citizens whom conform to government beliefs and ideals.

Author Biography

Alyssa Hartwell, Mount Royal University
Student, Department of Sociology


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