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The Meaning and the Most Important Practical Implications of the Social Discourse of Health and Illness

University of Zagreb, faculty of Law, Study centre for Social Work; [email protected]
Publication Date
  • Načelo “Dvostrukog Diskursa”
  • Biomedicinski Diskurs
  • Socijalni Diskurs
  • Implikacije Socijalnog Diskursa
  • Demokratizacija Zdravstva
  • Bolesnikova Prava
  • The Principle Of Double Discourse
  • Bio-Medical Discourse
  • Social Discourse
  • The Social Discourse Implications
  • Democratisation Of Health Care
  • The Patient'S Rights
  • Linguistics
  • Medicine
  • Political Science
  • Social Sciences


The aim of this paper is to refute the positivistic understandings, not only in the natural but also social sciences, on the basis of which the technical contents of the modern medical science – its concepts, facts and methods – are 'purely' empirical, scientific. Contrary to this dominating attitude, the starting point is that the important methodological principle of 'the double discourse' should be applied in the study of health and illness. It includes the scientific and the social discourse with equal value. Only within the substantially and disciplinary different, but essentially complementary manners of study (one scientific and one social), the numerous paths for fruitful and manifold research of health and illness are opened. The obligation to discuss health and illness within the social referential system and not only within the bio-medical referential system is determined by at least two substantial facts: man is by his nature 'unnatural'; a large part of man's existence is subject to constant social interference, which means that the 'existential' foundations of health and illness lie outside medicine. The concluding part of the paper mentions some structural characteristics and functions of the social discourse of health/illness, which make it essentially different from the scientific one. Unlike the scientific discourse, the social discourse of health/illness opens space for the affirmation of the needs of the majority of people outside the mainstream of medical-professional and/or political decision-making i.e. leads to the democratisation of the sphere of health. The most important implications of the social discourse should be expected in the increased 'productivity' of contemporary physicians: it is certain that a contemporary physician, starting exclusively from the bio-medical discourse, is no longer sufficiently competent in understanding, and even less in curing many illnesses that dominate the world today. Due to that, it is extremely important that contemporary physicians understand the intellectual value of the social discourse in their everyday activities as soon as possible.

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