New materialisms and the (critical) micropolitical economy of health

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In this chapter, I explore what the ʼnew’ materialisms now emerging in the contemporary social sciences, arts and humanities offer to the political economy of health, illness and healthcare. This ‘turn to matter’ is neither a return to the earlier historical materialism of Hegel and Marx, nor simply a re-booted post-structuralism, though both these moments in social theory are - in different ways - avatars of the new materialisms. The chapter first identifies three key aspects of the new materialisms: relationality, monism and post-anthropocentrism, and illustrates these with studies of personal health technologies, obesity and the production of dis/advantage in the workplace. It then turns to a new materialist analysis of capitalism in terms of the affective flows within a production assemblage and market assemblage. Building on this, the chapter concludes with an assessment of how capitalism produces myriad ‘tiny dis/advantages’ and how these contribute to health and ill-health. This analysis draws upon insights from the recent COVID-19 pandemic. This analysis demonstrates the opportunities supplied by the new materialisms in establishing a critical micropolitical economy of health.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Health and Healthcare
EditorsDavid Primrose, Rodney D. Loeppky, Robin Chang
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781003017110
ISBN (Print)9780367861360
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2024

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