Abstract

American physicians are increasingly concerned that they are losing professional control. Other analysts of medical power argue that physicians have too much power. This essay argues that current analyses are grounded in a structuralist reading of power. Deploying Michel Foucault's “care of the self” and rhetorician Raymie McKerrow's “critical rhetoric,” this essay claims that medical power is better understood as a way that medical actors take on power through rhetoric rather than a force that has power over medical actors. Through a close reading of an essay by Senator Bill Frist, this paper argues that physicians experience a process of “subjection” wherein they are both agents of and objects of medical power as it is combined with state and corporate power in the American “war on terror.” This alternative mode of analyzing medical power has implications for our collective understanding of its operations and the means by which we propose alternative enactments of medical power.

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