Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Theories of Marginality and Precarity

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Michael SAKS, University of Suffolk, United Kingdom
Joana ALMEIDA, School of Law, Criminology and Sociology, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners have long been regarded theoretically as occupying a position of marginality in Western healthcare, particularly in face of the power of the medical profession. The contours of this marginality, based in part on the exercise of professional self-interests, are outlined in this paper from a neo-Weberian perspective as they have developed in particular socio-historical circumstances. Here it is acknowledged that there are differences in the standing of specific CAM therapies, ranging from subjugated medical incorporation to total exclusion, and that their situation has been subject to change over time and variability across different socio-political milieu. CAM has not been analysed as yet, though, in terms of the interlinked precarious position that some constituent groups of its practitioners can be seen to occupy. With illustrative reference primarily to Britain in the context of other Western societies, this paper also considers in novel fashion how far CAM therapists fulfil aspects of precariousness alongside parallel members of a putative precariat working in health and other public and private services – such as low pay, short-term contractual positions and high rates of part-time employment. In so doing, it further examines theoretically and empirically how far CAM practitioners might develop a common consciousness as recent neo-Marxist theorists on the precariat have suggested – as part of a new class of workers involved in regime challenge and change.