How Holistic is Complementary and Alternative Med-icine (CAM)? Examining Self-Responsibilization in CAM and Biomedicine in a Neoliberal Age

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Ana M. Ning


This review paper adds to recent social science interrogation of common boundaries between CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) and biomedicine, by examining an unquestioned dichotomy often ascribed to them: holism vs. individualism. Drawing from social scientific literature review, this paper draws attention to the individualistic focus of CAM by situating contemporary CAM developments within a neoliberal climate that emphasizes individual responsibility for health care. Focusing on the individualistic features of CAM helps rethink commonly held assumptions regarding the holistic features of CAM, which tend to gain the most attention in popular and scholarly representations of CAM as distinct from biomedicine. As well, the individualistic features of CAM shed light on the significant role of CAM in health care as a form of individual consumptive choice rather than as a collective responsibility on the part of the state to complement national health care systems.

Keywords: Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Biomedicine, Individual Responsibility, Neoliberal Governance

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How to Cite
NING, Ana M.. How Holistic is Complementary and Alternative Med-icine (CAM)? Examining Self-Responsibilization in CAM and Biomedicine in a Neoliberal Age. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 5, may 2018. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 july 2024. doi:
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