Birth of the Clinic, The: An Archaeology of Medical Perception Paperback – 1994
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Top Customer Reviews
The Birth of the Clinic, MF's most accessible work, is a well-researched, brilliantly interpreted account of the development of the clinical "gaze" in the wake of modern medical knowledge and practice. Foucault problematises the institution of the clinic, showing how clinical perception is the result of a historically specific constellation of knowledge and power. His ultimately emancipatory analysis is substantiated every step of the way with textual and historical examples. No metaphysics here, just a radical questioning of the nature of knowledge within institutional practice.
So, sorry (Objectivists!) if this is too much to handle. It's good research, plain and simple. Don't dismiss Foucault as a lightweight postmodernist - try to see him where he would situate himself, in the tradition of reflexive historical sociology.
Reviewer: A reader from California May 17, 1998 "Again, Foucault shatters our illusions.This book examines our cultural tendency to elevate the authority of the physician..." This reviwer's summary of the book is incorrect because the work is not a study of power or "authority" (themes which would be important in Foucault's later works). In "The Birth of the Clinic" we see how Foucault MIGHT HAVE made a crticism of clinical medicine as an authoritarian institution, but in fact this is NOT the focus of the book. This book is not the attempt to dispel a "myth", it is a description of the reality of the development of the clinical gaze as a discursive formation distinct from its historical predecessors.
Reviewer: firstname.lastname@example.org from Barbaraville, Manitoba (Canada) July 21, 1998. "Structures of Perception and Positivism Questioned". This review is much closer to the mark than the first one. In particular, in the second paragraph the reviewer touches on the implications of the development of anatomo-clinical medicine for "the human experience itself". In the conclusion to the book Foucault himself stated that "the experience of individuality in modern culture is linked to the experience of death" and that is one reason why we should be interested in this work.
Reviewer: Dr. W Y Wan from Hong Kong "A book with special insight-- one that you cannot miss. I agree that this book can be of value to physicians who are genuinely interested in human welfare, and it's unfortunate that most physicians never study the humanities during their educations.
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.