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Editorial: Where Did All the Flowers Go?: Contradictions in world economies

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Editorial Health Politics: Taking up the challenge WENDY HARCOURT I have always been interested in the politics of health, beginning with my university studies when I explored the medicalization of the female body as gynaecology and ob- stetrics were established. I traced the growing power of the medical profession at the turn of the 20th century in Australia that, frommy secondary reading, mirrored similar processes in other parts of the western world. I looked at how the medical profession in the1870s to the1910s built a newknowledge and set of practices based on the scienti- fic gaze (in the Foucauldian sense).1 In the process, they redefined what had been seen as the natural processes of child birth as a medical event and developed a series of prac- tices to treat newly observed diseases of the female sexual organs. My interest was two-fold: one to understand how the female body became a particular subject of the medical gaze, and two, I wanted to understand how the status of medical practitioners shifted from little better than quacks to becoming one of the most influential and respected professions in the modernworld. To a great extent, I would argue nothingmuch has changed in most medical practices in the westernworld, some100 years later. Doctors continue to be among the most well paid and respected professions and are highly organized to keep it that way. Their con- tinued power comes from highly specialized and stratified knowledge that demands rig- orous training in the scientific method and which focuses on disease rather than the patient, who is cured through access to specialized knowledge, drugs and allopathic treatment. There is a whole edifice of powerful wealthy institutions, from universities, public and teaching hospitals, to specialized clinics and journals to pharmaceutical drug companies and related marketing and insurance companies that promote globally the importance of medical science and the medical profession. Whereas undoubtedly scientific medicine has saved

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