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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  2 social science, decried “abstracted empiricism” and “grand theory.” Members of the Frankfurt School, however, proved relentless in their skepticism on the possibility of a meaningful scientific project beneficial to humankind within a socioeconomic system where profit is the underlying rationalization of all thought and social activity. Communication scholars would be remiss to forget their observations and contributions which are arguably more relevant today than ever. Max Horkheimer (1999) observes how the practical use of scientific knowledge “is sharply disproportionate to its high level of development and to the real needs of mankind” (p. 4). (Indeed, Mills’ critique of social science smacks of a pragmatically tinged Marxist inclination.) There are few, if any, ways in which a scientifically informed and independently inclined project may easily reconcile itself within the beguilingly rational machinations of monopoly capitalism. In this way, it shows a double contradiction. First, science accepts as a principle that its every step has a critical basis, yet the most important step of all, the setting of tasks, lacks a theoretical grounding and seems to be taken arbitrarily. Second, science has to do with a knowledge of comprehensive relationships; yet, it has no realistic grasp of that comprehensive relationship upon which its own existence and the direction of its work depend, namely, society” (P. 8). Horkheimer’s account of the chasm between scientific pursuits and the compellingly obvious needs of humankind has proven hauntingly prophetic. Indeed, today science’s “setting of tasks” is defined almost sheerly by the dictates of the market. Thomas Frank (2000) sums up the functioning of the market as constituting the equation of conscious activity and rationality. “Only when

Authors: Tracy, James.
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social science, decried “abstracted empiricism” and “grand theory.” Members of
the Frankfurt School, however, proved relentless in their skepticism on the
possibility of a meaningful scientific project beneficial to humankind within a
socioeconomic system where profit is the underlying rationalization of all
thought and social activity. Communication scholars would be remiss to forget
their observations and contributions which are arguably more relevant today
than ever. Max Horkheimer (1999) observes how the practical use of scientific
knowledge “is sharply disproportionate to its high level of development and to
the real needs of mankind” (p. 4). (Indeed, Mills’ critique of social science
smacks of a pragmatically tinged Marxist inclination.) There are few, if any,
ways in which a scientifically informed and independently inclined project may
easily reconcile itself within the beguilingly rational machinations of monopoly
capitalism. In this way, it
shows a double contradiction. First, science accepts as a principle that its
every step has a critical basis, yet the most important step of all, the
setting of tasks, lacks a theoretical grounding and seems to be taken
arbitrarily. Second, science has to do with a knowledge of comprehensive
relationships; yet, it has no realistic grasp of that comprehensive
relationship upon which its own existence and the direction of its work
depend, namely, society” (P. 8).
Horkheimer’s account of the chasm between scientific pursuits and the
compellingly obvious needs of humankind has proven hauntingly prophetic.
Indeed, today science’s “setting of tasks” is defined almost sheerly by the dictates
of the market. Thomas Frank (2000) sums up the functioning of the market as
constituting the equation of conscious activity and rationality. “Only when


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