Sociology Gold: The sociology research of Goldsmiths, University of London

Illness as a Work of Thought: A Foucauldian Perspective on Psychosomatics (1998)

Monica Greco

Illness As a Work of Thought adopts a historically reflexive approach to the study of psychosomatics as a distinctly modern space of problematisation. From medicine and psychiatry to psychoanalysis and the social sciences, Monica Greco explores how the history of these disciplines and their encounters has shaped the meanings of the term 'psychosomatic' for modern individuals. The title, Illness As a Work of Thought, points at once in two directions. One is the direction of the forms of knowledge that have come to investigate the 'work of thought' as a pathogenic factor. The other is the direction of social constructionism, where these forms of knowledge appear contingent and embedded in a field of power relations: concepts of illness are by definition, in this second sense, the work of thought. The two meanings of 'illness as a work of thought' imply each other in an uncanny way. What can social constructionism make of a medical thought that acknowledges the role of thought itself, in all its historical contingency, in producing disease? What can medical thought make of a social constructionism that regards the propositions of psychosomatics as manifestations of power/knowledge? What must each side relinquish to be able to acknowledge itself in the other? The two meanings of 'illness as a work of thought', in their mutual implication, point to the specifically modern quality of psychosomatics as a form of problematisation, and this modern quality is the object of this book. Stepping back from the polemics that often characterise discussion in this field, Illness As a Work of Thought examines how discursive relations that are specific to modernity frame the problem of psychosomatics and hence the forms that solutions can take. With a focus on propositions that unsettle and transform the way we think of illness, subjectivity and sociability, it examines how the discourse of psychosomatics invites us to reimagine the terms in which we discuss the ethical and political dimensions of health.

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