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How do we understand health in relation to society? What role does culture play in shaping our experiences of, and orientation to, health and illness? How do we understand medicine and medical treatment within a sociological framework?

The Sick Role
The sick role
Mike BuryLee F. Monaghan

The concept of ‘the sick role’ was originally formulated over half a century ago in the work of American sociologist Talcott Parsons (1951). While Parsons recognized that health and illness have a biological basis, his account contributed to the early development of medical sociology by underscoring the sociological implications of illness and medical practice. For Parsons, ‘the sick role’ was central to this account, encapsulating in an ‘ideal typical’ or analytical sense those rights and obligations that surround illness when normal roles are relinquished or suspended. The concept emerged from the ...

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