Veblen on medicine: a sociological analysis of the cultural and organizational development of medicine as a social institution
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The focus of this dissertation is to provide a cultural and organizational analysis of the development of medicine as viewed through the theoretical tenets of Thorstein Veblen, one of our most brilliant social and economic theorists. I trace the historical development, examine the current status, and project the future trends of our medical institution. I explore how our current medical system has evolved, both culturally and organizationally, along the same path that Veblen set forth in his social and economic theories of instincts, status emulation, ceremonial-technological dichotomy, and business and market capitalism. I include his thoughts on the development of institutions and the ways in which cultural lag impedes progress. To accomplish this, I rely heavily on theoretical discussion, interpretative analysis of secondary data, and qualitative analysis of current medical issues. As a result, I discover that the development of medicine as a social institution has followed a predictable course; one that reflects a cultural and organizational dilemma created by the profit motive, which restricts the implementation of technological advances and negatively impacts the health of our nation. I find that the ability to view a modern day social institution, such as medicine, through the lens of theories that were at the forefront of social and economic thought at the beginning of the twentieth century, provides us with a unique perspective; the insight to better understand exactly why that development occurred. With that understanding, we are better equipped to alter future development thereby improving structures, processes, policies, and procedures. This research focuses on exposing not only how the institution of medicine evolved but, more importantly, what we can do to improve the delivery of health care and the overall health of our nation’s population.
Hille, Kathy (2008). Veblen on medicine: a sociological analysis of the cultural and organizational development of medicine as a social institution. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from