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Health Care Under the Knife: Moving Beyond Capitalism for Our Health


Forthcoming in February 2018

“I’ve still got my health so what do I care?” goes a lyric in an old Cole Porter song. Most of us, in fact, assume we can’t live full lives, or take on life’s challenges, without also assuming that we’re basically healthy and will be for the foreseeable future. But these days, our health and well-being are sorted through an ever-expanding, profit-seeking financial complex that monitors, controls, and commodifies our very existence. Given that our access to competent, affordable health care grows more precarious each day, the arrival of Health Care Under the Knife could not be more timely. In this empowering book, noted health-care professionals, scholars, and activists—including coordinator Howard Waitzkin—impart their inside knowledge of the medical system: what’s wrong, how it got this way, and what we can do to heal it.

The book is comprised of individual essays addressing the “medical industrial complex,” the impact of privatization and cutbacks under neoliberalism, the nature of health-care work, and the intersections between health care and imperialism, both historically and at present. We see how the health of our bodies in “developed” countries is tied to the health of the bodies of the labor force in the Global South, and how the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are linked strangely, inextricably, to our physical well-being. But this analysis would not be complete without the book’s final section, which delivers invaluable guidance for how to change this system. Recounting case studies and successful efforts for creating a more humane community, this book ultimately gives us hope that our health-care system can be rescued and made an integral part of a new and radically different society.

This volume of essays by critical health professionals, sociologists and public health policy scholars shows how neoliberal capitalism has produced massively dysfunctional health systems in the United States and some other countries. The authors provide a valuable vision of how health care could be reorganized to serve the needs of the people of the world. This timely book clarifies the structural roots of health inequalities and proposes solutions requiring a major reorganization of power and institutions, which can only succeed if a capable and organized mass movement emerges to demand the needed changes.

—Christopher Chase-Dunn, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director, Institute for Research on World-Systems, Department of Sociology, University of California, Riverside

Bravely calling out capitalism as a key obstacle to health equity in the U.S. and globally, this timely volume by Waitzkin and colleagues offers fresh insights into the multi-generational struggle for economic and political democracy, public accountability, and human rights, which together inextricably bind the ties between social justice and the people’s health.

—Nancy Krieger, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

This analysis of health care in the USA gives a deep understanding of what is happening under neoliberal globalization. This book shows how medical care has turned into a privileged field of capital accumulation and super profits at the expense our health. The urgent answer is to resist and struggle for the right to health.

—Asa Cristina Laurell, Former Secretary of Health, Mexico City

The health care system in the United States is an international scandal, with per capita costs far higher than comparable countries, relatively poor outcomes, and tens of thousands with no guaranteed health care at all. What is worse still, the current Republican wrecking-ball is aimed at ruining it even more. The core problem is the severe inefficiency of privatization and the immense political power of private capital, which repeatedly overrides popular will and legitimate needs. The incisive essays included here unravel the deep institutional roots and serious flaws of this failing system and indicate directions that can lead to establishing decent health care as a fundamental human right.

—Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Laureate Professor, University of Arizona

It takes courage to challenge core concepts that everyone around you accepts as a given. This book does exactly that. Health Care Under the Knife forces us to ask whether better health care and better health are possible within a capitalist system that prizes market-based solutions above all else. Reading this book pushed me to challenge my assumptions and ask fundamental questions that I probably should have asked a long time ago. I am grateful to the authors for putting this volume together and pushing me to think.

—Sandro Galea, Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor, School of Public Health, Boston University

This excellent and powerful book written by physicians and health professionals who have labored in hospitals, clinics, and related institutions, rests upon certain fundamental ‘core principles,’ including ‘the right to health care … water and other components of a safe environment’ and the ‘reduction of illness-generating conditions such as inequality.’ It is a must-read, given the capitalist assault on the public’s health and well-being.

—John Marciano, Professor Emeritus, SUNY Cortland; author, The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

Reflecting decades of scholarship and activism that have challenged both neoliberal and neoconservative policies, Health Care under the Knife pinpoints how contemporary contradictions of capitalism straightjacket health professionals as much as patients—as well as those struggling to access care. At a time when there often seems to be no escape from nightmares, this tour-de-force opens up space to forge new dreams.

—Charles Briggs, Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley; author, Making Health Public

Waitzkin and colleagues provide a trenchant analysis of health care and population health under neoliberal capitalism. The breadth of coverage and the depth of analysis are excellent. The analysis is oriented towards action; not answers and blueprints but inspiration. It is a book to engage with: read, absorb, criticise, develop and apply; from anguish to hope to action. A must-read for public health students and practitioners; a light bulb for health care workers looking for new directions.

—David G. Legge, People’s Health Movement, Australia

This is a book that needs to be read. It shows in a very clear and very convincing way what is ignored so frequently in the conventional wisdom. The current social class, race, gender, and international relations of dominance are the major obstacles for the achievement of health, quality of life, and well-being of populations. The evidence is overwhelming that putting the interests of capital over all other considerations leads to an authentic disaster, which is what is happening today. It is time for that to change. This book will help end the silence that has existed for too long.

—Vicente Navarro, Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University-Pompeu Fabra University Health Policy Center

Critical analysis of the highest order—and a radical cure for our failing, for-profit medical system. Howard Waitzkin and his team of progressive doctors and health-care experts dissect and expose the workings of big capital that dominate every element of medicine, nutrition, and health-care delivery, including the so-called ‘nonprofit’ philanthropic control of medical education and global aid programs through behemoths like the Gates Foundation. Their analysis is indispensable for understanding how we, participating in political and social networks at the grassroots level, can outflank the capitalists, whose grossly inefficient medical system is a gargantuan failure. The diagnosis of these good doctors and experts? Put the system out of its misery; create new, non-capitalist networks of good health, through community organizations and national programs that advocate free and comprehensive health care for all.

—Steve Brouwer, author, Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba Are Changing the World’s Conception of Health Care

Praise for Howard Waitzkin’s Medicine and Public Health at the End of Empire:

Health-care reform is a lively and contentious topic, but, as Waitzkin shows in this informative study, our debates on reform are too narrowly framed. His thoughtful analysis raises important questions about conventional assumptions of doctrine and practice, scrutinizing alternatives—among them notably the record of social medicine in Latin America.

—Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Howard Waitzkin is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of New Mexico and Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Illinois. He has been active for years in the struggles for national health programs in the United States and Latin America. He is the author of Medicine and Public Health at the End of Empire, among other books.

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SKU: mrp6745 Categories: , , Tag:
Filed in: Forthcoming Books Topics: Health Places: United States

eBook ISBN: 978-1-58367-676-9

Publication Date: Feb-18

Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58367-675-2

Number of Pages: 336

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-58367-674-5