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Thinking with the living body: the biopsychosocial model and the cosmopolitics of existence
  1. Michael Schillmeier
  1. Sociology, University Of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Michael Schillmeier, Sociology, University Of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK; m.schillmeier{at}


This paper argues that the ‘biopsychosocial’ model of the body highlights the importance of the psychosocial dimension for a better understanding of health and illness. Most importantly, by emphasising the fundamental relevance of values in the make-up of living systems, the biopsychosocial model radically challenges the common sense operation of evidence-based biomedical operations that bifurcate the body into the subjectivities of human perceptions and the non-subjective qualities of the nature of bodies. The biopsychosocial model protests against the manner by which only non-subjective qualities gain explanatory power in analysing, diagnosing and treating somatic and mental health issues. To accentuate the explanatory importance of values in understanding embodied human life, I will introduce Émile Durkheim’s seminal work about human society as a reality sui generis that introduces the scientific realm for a ‘special psychology’ (Durkheim) to analyse ‘values’ as an emergent accomplishment of human social life. Still, as important Durkheim’s account is in understanding societal values, it is only partially valid for the biopsychosocial model since it iterates the common sense operation of bifurcation by dismissing individual perceptions as valid sources to gain knowledge about the realities of human social values. To avoid bifurcation and to give importance to the subjectivities of every mode of existence, I will introduce Tarde’s monadology that emphasises the value-laden psychosocial processes and societal organisation in understanding all bodies and things—human and non-human alike. A monadological reading of the body universalises the ‘biopolitics’ of human affairs and unfolds what I call the ‘cosmopolitics of existence’. With the shift from the biopolitics of human affairs to the cosmopolitics of existence this paper wishes to contribute to novel ways of thinking the biopsychosocial body beyond bifurcating mind and nature.

  • biopsychosocial model
  • bifurcation of mind and nature
  • value experiences
  • cosmopolitics of existence

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it first published online. There have been formatting amendments made to the main text and Notes and Bibliography section.

  • Contributors MS has solely created the lines of argument by discussing relevant authors and controversies.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data sharing statement There are no data in this work.