Talcott Parsons, the Sick Role and Chronic Illness

(originally titled “Chronic Parsons: the obsolescence and persistence of the sick role in the face of chronic illness and chronic health”)

now published in Body & Society


Parsons’ sick role concept has become problematic in the face of the increased significance of chronic illnesses and the growing emphasis on lifestyle-centred health promotion. Both developments de-limit the medical system so that it extends into the world of health, fundamentally changing the doctor-patient relationship. But as the sick role is firmly based on the reciprocities of a resiliently capitalist achievement society it still informs normative expectations in the field of health and illness. The precarious social position of chronic patients between being governed by and being consumers of medicine, I will argue, can only be adequately understood if one involves, as Parsons did, the moral economy surrounding health and illness.

open access pre-publication accepted manuscript

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