In this short book that forms a worthy companion to his classic "Madness and Civilisation," Michel Foucault first traces the history of medical care from the days when people were usually treated at home by their families, to the early nineteenth century, when public health became a political issue. The outcome of this process was the "clinic," which Foucault defines a field of confinement where those labelled ill, the Other, were monitored and treated to further the reciprocally-linked goals of the health of society and the furtherance of medical knowledge.
Foucault's well-documented narrative concerning the evolving socio-political perception of health and medicine, however, pales in erudition and philosophical significance when compared to the primary thrust of the book ; namely, in detailing how the medical profession ordered and analyzed not only disease, but later the human experience itself. Both seeming to have pushed back the finality ! of death through conjoining to it to the experience of life, and isolating disease not as a phenomenon in itself, but like life and death, simply as a discursive manifestation of visible and invisible symptoms, the medical profession acquired for itself the mantle of positivism that is still basically unquestioned by the public even today.