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Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality (Biopolitics, Medicine, Technoscience, and Health in the 21st Century) Paperback – November 23, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Biopolitics, Medicine, Technoscience, and Health in the 21st Century
  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; 1 edition (November 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814795935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814795934
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“[T]his collection of essays reexamines the definition of ‘health,’ particularly as a mechanism for moral judgment... Lots of food for thought- this highly philosophical book... will be of interest to those wanting to stretch their views on health care.”-Library Journal,

“A powerful group of essays, and the topics addressed in the respective chapters are interesting, insightful, and thought-provoking.”
-David Serlin,author of Replaceable You: Engineering the Body in Postwar America

"From obesity to mental health to pharmacology, the essays explore the ways in which "public" health translates increasingly as a moral judgement of behavior."
-Society Magazine,Society Magazine

"These essays are well-researched and supported, and this volume is suitable for academic study—in sociology, bioethics public health and public policy. It is also remarkably well written and engaging, and makes its sophisticated theoretical premises readily accessible to a wide audience."-Lisa Bellatoni,Metapsychology Reviews

"This book provides a strong antidote to the common notion that health is an unqualified good and often an individual responsibility."-Peter Conrad,Sociology of Health & Illness

About the Author

Jonathan M. Metzl is Associate Professor in the Women’s Studies Department and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, where he also directs the program in culture, Health, and medicine. He is the author of Prozac on the Couch: Prescribing Gender in the Era of Wonder Drugs and Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease.

Anna Kirkland is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood(NYU Press).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kecia Ali on July 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
The fifteen thought-provoking essays in Against Health treat topics ranging from the seductive but dangerous promise of race-based drug development to the impact of potential nuclear annihilation on American concepts of "health." Two chapters survey the invention of particular diagnostic categories (passive-aggressive personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder) and another reveals how pervasive drug company involvement in academic research on diseases and their treatment is. One consistent theme is the ways in which individual responsibility for "healthy" (read: morally good) behavior increasingly obscures larger patterns by which social inequalities in access to good food, medical care, and recreation are created and sustained. (For instance, people "run for a cure" and celebrate cancer survivorship but do not organize against widespread carcinogenic environmental contaminants.) Though some of what emerges is scary, the book is not fear-mongering. The essays are relatively short but based on serious research and careful analysis. They also build on each other and play off each other in interesting ways. Accessibly and clearly written, without a great deal of jargon, this book will forever alter the way one thinks about the rhetoric and reality of health.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Snow on April 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rather than a fact-based critical appraisal of the use and misuse of health, this collection is riddled with anti-scientific rants and anecdotes masquerading as faux-intellectualism.

Perhaps the worst chapter, "Against Global Health" takes an inexplicable stance against the "empirical tyranny" of properly powered studies and statistically valid results in the field of global health. Another offender, "Against Breastfeeding (Sometimes)", nonchalantly dismisses the entire robust literature supporting the benefits of breastfeeding as "weak" and "contradictory" while later citing "expensive research" as proof for her pet theories. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of epidemiological and biostatistical techniques by these sociologists.

Some chapters were worth a read, such as "The Social Immorality of Health in the Gene Age" and "Pharmaceutical Propaganda" which did problematize our modern conception of health as morality. However, these few oases can not save the overwhelming disregard for basing critical analysis on reality.
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