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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  3 people act within the marketplace … do they act rationally, choose rightly, and make their wishes known transparently.” To question or contest the ethereal design and functionality of the market “is to surrender one’s very personhood, to put oneself outside the family of mankind” (p. xiii). The market itself, in all of its abstracted glory, has increasingly become the headless embodiment of purposive rational action. The market “works for all of us” … all on its own. In this way, according to Habermas (1969 p. 113) “the reified models of the sciences migrate into the sociocultural life-world and gain objective power over the latter’s self- understanding.” In a reciprocal fashion this defining set of rationale bounds present scientific pursuits – particularly in biotechnology. Out of these social and ideological matrices, “technology has,” as Marcuse (1964) observes, “become the great vehicle of reification – reification in its most mature and effective form” (p. 169). But this is not the mere technology of the new kitchen appliance or automobile; it is further embellished by the institution of medical science and its representative physicians. As we shall see, the continued and seemingly inexorable exertion of market imperatives on the research and development process of bringing biotechnology “to market” determines not only the mode and nature of drug development and approval, but also which projects will be pursued and which will be neglected. At its most extreme, the logical imperative of the market’s profit motive, most apparent in the elaborate strategies of marketing and advertising, has and will continue to bring about for the foreseeable future a willful transformation not only in how we perceive drugs as commodities, but also of the very symbolic and discursive nature of the meaning of disease itself. Historical Dimension One needn’t look very far for evidence to substantiate the accelerated

Authors: Tracy, James.
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people act within the marketplace … do they act rationally, choose rightly, and
make their wishes known transparently.” To question or contest the ethereal
design and functionality of the market “is to surrender one’s very personhood, to
put oneself outside the family of mankind” (p. xiii). The market itself, in all of its
abstracted glory, has increasingly become the headless embodiment of purposive
rational action. The market “works for all of us” … all on its own. In this way,
according to Habermas (1969 p. 113) “the reified models of the sciences migrate
into the sociocultural life-world and gain objective power over the latter’s self-
understanding.” In a reciprocal fashion this defining set of rationale bounds
present scientific pursuits – particularly in biotechnology. Out of these social
and ideological matrices, “technology has,” as Marcuse (1964) observes, “become
the great vehicle of reification – reification in its most mature and effective form”
(p. 169). But this is not the mere technology of the new kitchen appliance or
automobile; it is further embellished by the institution of medical science and its
representative physicians. As we shall see, the continued and seemingly
inexorable exertion of market imperatives on the research and development
process of bringing biotechnology “to market” determines not only the mode
and nature of drug development and approval, but also which projects will be
pursued and which will be neglected. At its most extreme, the logical imperative
of the market’s profit motive, most apparent in the elaborate strategies of
marketing and advertising, has and will continue to bring about for the
foreseeable future a willful transformation not only in how we perceive drugs as
commodities, but also of the very symbolic and discursive nature of the meaning
of disease itself.
Historical Dimension
One needn’t look very far for evidence to substantiate the accelerated


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