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On illness and value: biopolitics, psychosomatics, participating bodies
  1. Monica Greco
  1. Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, London SE14 6NW, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to Professor Monica Greco, Sociology, Goldsmiths College, London SE14 6NW, UK; m.greco{at}


In its heyday, around the mid-twentieth century, psychosomatic medicine was promoted as heralding a new science of body/mind relations that held the promise of transforming medicine as a whole. Sixty years on, the field appears to have achieved no more than a respectable position as a research specialism within the medical status quo. This paper articulates the problematic of psychosomatics through a number of propositions that reconnect its promise of novelty to the present and to contemporary concerns. In contrast to classic approaches to ‘psychosomatic problems’, which typically set out by denouncing the conceptual inadequacy of mind/body dualism, the focus proposed is on the resilience of dualism as an empirical datum deserving closer analysis. The paper thus asks: what is the character of dualism considered under the aspect of what it achieves, and thus as an expression of value? Drawing on the thought of A N Whitehead, Michel Foucault and Viktor von Weizsäcker, the argument formulates a set of ‘psychosomatic problems’ informed by the concept of biopolitics and introduces their relevance in relation to the politics of participatory medicine.

  • philosophy of medicine and healthcare
  • psychosomatic medicine
  • social sciences
  • politics
  • psychoanalysis

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Contributors Monica Greco is the sole author.

  • Funding Wellcome Trust (107428/Z/15/Z).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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