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An Introduction to the Sociology of Health & Illness

An Introduction to the Sociology of Health & Illness

Second Edition
  • Kevin White - Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

216 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
This is a new edition of the best-selling textbook for students in the Sociology of Health & Illness. The First Edition was widely praised for its clarity, accessibility, and comprehensive coverage. All of these features are retained in the new edition.

New to the Second Edition  
  • Systematic updated empirical references to the material covered in the First Edition
  • More challenging elements in the theory section to facilitate comprehension and enhance study
  • Consideration of the 'new public management' philosophy in hospital and health care administration
The result is a book that academics and students in the sociology of health and illness will use as a 'first stop' to study. Free of jargon, intuitive about student needs and well versed in course requirements, the new edition will refresh old readers and delight new ones.
Sociology, Genetics, Social Mobility and Lifestyle
The Sociological Perspective
Postmodernity and Sociology
Sociological Approaches to Health and Illness
Political Economy and Marxist Approaches

Parsonian Sociology of Health

Foucault's Sociology of Health

Feminist Approaches

Bringing the Approaches Together

Making Reality Problematic: The Problem of the Medical Model of Disease
Medical Knowledge Mediates Social Relations
Masturbatory Insanity


The Technical Realm of Medical Practice
Medical Technology and Social Relations
The Sociology of Medical Knowledge
Fleck and Representations
Fleck's Sociology of Medical Knowledge

Anatomical Drawings

Fleck, Foucault and Kuhn
Applying Fleck
The Relationship Between Sociology and Medicine
Medical Bias in the Sociology of Health
Challenging Medicine
Social Aspects of Disease - The Critique of the Medical Model
Key Concepts in the Sociology of Health
The Concept of Medicalization
Disease: Nature or Society?

Medicalization and Women

The Social Functions of Medical Knowledge and Practice
The Development of Medicalization
Case Study: Gambling

Case Study: Alcoholism

Developments in the Medical Profession
Characteristics of the Medicalization of Society
Case Study: Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and the Medicalization of the Classroom

Assessing Medicalization
Liberalism and the Development of Neo-Liberalism in Health Policy
The Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

The Dismantling of Welfare and the Resurgence of Neo-Liberalism

Epidemiology: The Early Foundations
Limitations of the Risk Factor and Lifestyle Explanations
Developing a Sociological Model of Disease: Disease Classified by Social Cause
Epidemiology and Statistics
Psycho-social Perspectives on Social Inequalities in Health
Social Support
The Social Drift Hypothesis
Talking About the Diseased Self
Community, Social Capital and Inequality
Social Capital

Social Capital or Income Inequality?

What Causes Disease: The Materialist Explanation



Case Study: Transformations in the Social Structure of Eastern Europe
Class as Occupational Position
Untangling Class and Socio-economic Status
Structural Position as Socio-economic Status
The Classical Marxist Approach
The Political and Economic Functions of Medicine
The Medical Profession in a Marxist Analysis
Modifications of Classical Marxism and Changes in Capitalism
Changes in Class Theory and the Sociology of Health
Transformations of the Medical Profession: The Australian Example
Technological Change


Corporate Medicine

Diagnostic Variations

Prescribing Activities

Parsons: People Act Rather Than Behave
The Sick Role
In Defence of the Sick Role
Sickness and American Values
The End of the Golden Age of Doctoring
Foucault: The Most General Picture
Foucault's Sociology of Health
Disciplines of Knowledge, Disciplines of Power: Power/Knowledge
Foucault's History of Medicine
The Body
Historical and Metaphorical Representations of the Body
Foucault's Body
The Anatomico-Metaphysical Register of the Body

Technico-Political Register of the Body

Why are There More Women Patients?
Are Women More Depressed than Men?
Different Forms of Feminism
Liberal Feminism

Radical Feminism

Marxist Feminism

Patriarchal Science and Medicine
Feminism and the Critique of Technology
Case Study: Foucault and Feminism and the Body

Bringing Out the Foucauldian-Feminist Position: Screening
Men, Gender and Health
Aboriginality, 'Race' and Disease
Racist Bias in Drug Trials
Problems with the Appropriation of Ethnicity in Medical Explanations
The Genetic Explanation
The Appeal of the Genetic Explanation
The Sociological Critique of Genetics

'Kevin White guides us through the many reasons for the centrality of health showing clearly that health and illness are the products not just of our biology but of the society into which we are born. He expertly draws on the works of Parsons, Marx, Foucault and feminist writers to provide an authoritative analysis of the social nature of health' - Ray Fitzpatrick, University of Oxford

'The overall arguments being made are thoroughly sociological, and the chapters provide great overviews and insights that even those in the field will find useful. The chapters in the text are very stimulating, and White calls on a variety of perspectives to flesh out the arguments he makes. I would certainly recommend the text for introductory courses. The invigorating style should be attractive to students' - eSocHealth

Very good book with accessible text.

Mrs Marcia Louise Dewar
health and social science, Bradford College
October 17, 2015

This is an excellent book which I use during semester 1 of a 2 semester module called "The Sociology of Health and Illness." During semester 1, I focus mainly on the theories of the Sociology of Health and illness. I have used this book for many years because it is so well written, and it is easy for the students to understand.

Dr Julianne Law
School of Social Sciences, Bangor University
August 28, 2013

Quite a comprehensive book that my students stated ‘was difficult to work through’. However, they felt it was valuable to their learning. Covers all major theorists and applies these theories to the subject of ill health in society. Good comparative literature throughout.

Mrs Sunray Heap
General Education , Cardiff and Vale College
April 27, 2012

would have liked inclusion of salutogenesis and health promotion. this would be ideal as a lecturer in both nursing in adult and mental health as well as social work.
nevertheless, it is an essential text for those involved in the health and social care arenas as well as those working in the private, voluntary and charitable sectors

Mrs Karen Wild
Nursing , Keele University
October 28, 2011

A very easy read - makes sense of matters. A good book for health students

Mrs Karyn Richardson
Dental, University of Teesside
August 7, 2011

An excellent introductory text to help the students to begin to critically analyse different perspectives on health.

Mrs Debbie Chittenden
Faculty of Wellbeing & Social Sciences, University of Bolton
June 23, 2011

A sound intoductory text which covers the main perspctives related to health and illness. The style is accessible and the volume is of a manageable size.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE, Bournemouth University
October 20, 2010

Good as an introduction outlining the background of issues and salient theories related to the particular topics covered. Written in an accessible and clear style. Good as a revision aid.

Dr Linda Perkins-Porras
Dept of Community Health Sciences, University of London
September 15, 2010

Does not meet the learning outcomes of the module.

Mrs Susan Skipper
Social Science, East Lancashire Institute of HE at Blackburn
July 12, 2010

New to the Second Edition:

• Systematically updated empirical references to the material covered in the first Edition.

• A revision of the more challenging elements in the theory section.

• A consideration of the 'new public management' philosophy in hospital and health care administration.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter One PDF

Kevin White

Kevin White is Reader in Sociology at the Australian National University, Canberra. He has held appointments at Flinders University, Wollongong University and Victoria University, Wellington New Zealand. He has published widely in the sociology of health and in the social history of medicine. At ANU he lectures the large introductory class, Introduction to Social Psychology, The Sociology of Health and Illness, Classical Social theory and Qualitative Methods. More About Author