Foucault on the Case: The Pastoral and Juridical Foundation of Medical Powertti

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Publication Date

Winter 2004


This paper employs Foucault’s concept of “governmentality” to examine critically the efforts by medical humanists to reform the medical case. I argue that these reform efforts contribute to the individualizing dimensions of medical power through the development of a “pastoral” technique that medicine has taken over from religious authority. Clinical experiences at this NEH Institute also revealed a juridical dimension of the medical case that treats a patient’s statements as suspect and in need of corroboration by evidence provided by the patient’s body. The combination of these pastoral and juridical dimensions of the case contributes to the normalizing power of modern medicine, and medical humanists need to be aware of their own contribution to this form of power as they reform the case.


Sociology and Anthropology

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