Jan 12, 2018 in Analysis

"In Market Magic: Getting Rich and Getting Personal in Medicine after Mao"

"In Market Magic: Getting Rich and Getting Personal in Medicine after Mao" by Judith Farquhar is an article regarding the issues of primary healthcare and economic liberalization that took place after the death of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. As the author notes, after the death of the two leaders, the Gang of Four was arrested and prosecuted for the use of Chinese herbs. The Chinese state launched a program of economic liberalization and modernization that was meant to ensure that China would become a market socialist economy. The author refers to excerpts such as the Barefoot Doctor Manual that was widely used as the main tool for training doctors for primary care in  China, for nearly a decade. The second excerpt used is from extensively distributed autobiographies that underscored the importance of the historical archive of medicine and personal authority of individual senior Chinese doctors in the early 1980s (Farquhar, 1996).

The author states that the privatization and commodification of medical practice in China is highly advanced. However, new economic ‘individuals’ have emerged and do not replicate the individualism of Euro-American capitalism in liberalizing the economy and China’s embracing of capitalism. The author distinguishes two cultural modes characteristic of small entrepreneur doctors. The modes include representation that is understood as a state-encouraged technology that favors mass emulation and embodiment that is understood as a magical condensation of local powers. The author suggests that embodiment has taken shape in China as medicine has become privatized and state regulation moved from the realms of personal issues of illness and fortune  (Farquhar, 1996).

The author relies on the field research he conducted in 1993 on small entrepreneurial (getihu) medical practices that appeared in the town of rural Shandong Province. He states that the getihu phenomenon is not related to medicine only. Other small businesses are coming up to transform the most rural settings in China (Farquhar, 1996).

Concerning the modeling of new people of socialism, the author states that Lei Feng died but was not forgotten. He states that Lei Feng was introduced to the Chinese people by the mass media and the expansion of political study (Zhengzhi Xuexi). This was in the early 1960s shortly after the famine called ‘the three difficult years. Lei Feng had lost his parents to depredations of capitalism and suffered torture that left scars on his hand and back. His perception of the visage and institution of the model worker is still in the official representations of reform-era China. Before Lei Feng’s symbolic presence became extremely zombie-like, all value could be expressed in individual models that were politically plausible as opposed to the times after the Cultural Revolution. Medicine was configured to be  the noble service to the people, and barefoot doctors were expected to exemplify the values that Feng had introduced. The author states that, in the market-oriented setting of small-scale medical services, only few medical practitioners embody Feng’s humble virtue qualities because people are money as well as product-centered (Farquhar, 1996).

The author suggests that the term getihu means single-family businesses in the market socialist state. The term has become one of the most important words in the socialist market economy. Hardworking proprietors who have their family support and open up market for products have become the new heroes of modern China. The getihu doctors are members of the new entrepreneurial class and take advantage of a free market climate. Many traditional doctors who got their skills from senior relatives obtained licenses, and other practitioners who have diplomas have acquired licenses, as well. These have seen more than 40 getihu clinics open since 1983. Most health care services in the country are provided by village health stations in township hospitals and two full-service county hospitals. One provides biomedical care while the other provides Chinese medicine (Farquhar, 1996).

The author states that the commodity being sold for money in storefront clinics is drugs. While practitioners are allowed to charge a few Yuan for consultation, examination and prescription services, only a few of them bill these services. The author suggests that clinic proprietors worry about competition because they are always ready to attract patient loyalty. Certain current practices and the commodities associated with them comment on the market character of medicine. The author also states that the clinics do advertising even on telephone poles. However, the getihu clinics do not advertise too much because they do not want people to suspect quackery. The term Chinese medicine talks of the efficacy of a good doctor using traditional religious language of Ling and Linghuo. In Linghuo practice, one was not allowed to appear more effective than other colleagues did (Farquhar, 1996).

The author notes that the flowering interest in divination has a special connection to medicine in China. The author gives an example of Dr. Yang who uses a medical and a changes technique to improve on patient confidence and loyalty and decrease his uncertainty. The author states that intellectuals in China adopt an individualizing course in their westernizing and modernizing agendas. Important questions come up from the author’s analysis. Is individualism based on Chinese culture or personal issues? Can the modern socialist state manage to achieve a collective personhood in the face of the deeply rooted individualism? Does the difference between individualism in China and Euro-American individualism reflect an aspect of contextual or geographical influence?

The author states that diverse forms of individualism are in opposition of collective personhood imagined by the modern socialist state. He observes that if individualism is being constructed then it is not similar to the one seen in Euro-American cultures.

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