Pathologies of Power uses harrowing stories of illness, of life—and death—in extreme situations to interrogate our understanding of human rights. Paul Farmer, a physician and anthropologist with twenty years of experience studying diseases in Haiti, Peru, and Russia, argues that promoting the social and economic rights of the world’s poor is the most important human rights struggle of our times. A thoughtful memoir with passionate eyewitness accounts from the prisons of Russia and the beleaguered villages of Haiti and Chiapas, this book links the lived experiences of individual victims to a broader analysis of structural violence. Farmer challenges conventional thinking within human rights circles and exposes the relationships between political and economic injustice, on one hand, and the suffering and illness of the powerless, on the other.
Farmer shows that the same social forces that give rise to epidemic diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis also sculpt risk for human rights violations. He illustrates the ways that racism and gender inequality in the United States are mirrored in pathology, plague, disease and death. Yet this doctor’s autobiography is far from a hopeless inventory of human suffering. Farmer’s disturbing examples are linked to a guarded optimism that new medical and social technologies will develop in tandem with a more informed sense of social justice. Otherwise, he concludes, we will be guilty of managing social inequality rather than addressing structural violence. Farmer’s urgent plea to think about human rights in the context of global public health and to consider critical issues of quality and access for the world’s poor should be of fundamental concern to pathologists, medical students, and humanitarians in a world characterized by the bizarre proximity of surfeit and suffering.
About the Author
Paul Farmer is Professor of Medical Anthropology at Harvard Medical School and Founding Director of Partners In Health. Among his books are Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues (California, 1999), The Uses of Haiti (1994), and AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame (California, 1992). Farmer is the winner of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award and the Margaret Mead Award for his contributions to public anthropology. He recently held the Blaise Pascal International Chair at the College de France. Amartya Sen, whose work challenges conventional market-driven economic paradigms, is the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics. He teaches at Trinity College, Cambridge University.
“Farmer gives voice to the unheard poor around the world and challenges medical professionals to broaden the vision of medicine to include human rights.” — The Lancet
“There are many kinds of gifted physicians: clinicians, researchers, and those who build institutions. Paul Farmer is the rarest of all: a prophet. . . . Pathologies of Power is a profound work; it deserves the widest possible audience.” — New England Journal Of Medicine
“Pathologies of Power is a cry for those whose own shouts go unheard. It is a bitter dose of medicine doled out on behalf of the nameless, faceless millions who have no medicines of their own.” — The Boston Globe
“This is Farmer’s cri de coeur that those things not be forgotten in the quest for human rights.” — The Globe And Mail
“One of the world’s leading physician-anthropologists presents a passionate argument against the inequalities of healthcare.” — The Ecologist
"Paul Farmer is a superb physician, a penetrating anthropologist, and a prophet of social justice. He combines an unflinching moral stance—that the poor deserve health care just as much as the rich do—with scientific expertise and boundless dedication. He has saved the lives of countless destitute patients in Haiti, Peru, and Russia, and he has shown that effective health services, even complex medical regimens, can be put in place in impoverished communities. . . . Farmer’s moral philosophy, anthropological insights, and medical successes are described in his trenchant and timely new book, Pathologies of Power." — Natural History
“He challenges us to do better, and it would take a remarkably cynical or self-interested reader not to embrace his vision of human rights and social justice in which “public health and access to medical care are social and economic rights” on equal par with civil rights. Most important of all, he provides hope in the form of a very simple and easy to read moral compass, so that amidst the novel challenges and frustrations of health provision and analysis, one can begin to discern for herself a clear course of action.” — Journal of Medical Humanities
“It’s crucial that we confront the link Farmer reveals between social inequality and disease.” — Utne Reader
“Thoughtful and provocative.” — American Scientist
“This emotional book is an appeal for a struggle for equity in the field of health and human rights.” — British Medical Journal
“Farmer presents compelling evidence of how ‘the most basic right -- the right to survive -- is trampled in an age of great affluence’ . . .” — Psychiatric Services Journal
“Do not read Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power, now available in an updated paperback version, unless you want to be challenged. . . . It is a well-written medical anthropology [that] will challenge how you think about medical care.” — Family Medicine
“Farmer writes as a passionate advocate for global social justice. He makes a compelling case for the proposition that civil rights cannot be effectively defended if social and economic rights are not. As such, it is a significant contribution to the literature on public health. I would also recommend this book to physician readers in general, understanding that although they will find the case studies interesting, many may be annoyed by Farmer’s political stance. Health and human rights advocates will find in it a rich vein of material to support their efforts.” — Journal Of Nervous & Mental Disease
“Paul Farmer presents a disturbingly simple argument in this comprehensive and compelling analysis of the intersection between structural poverty and human health.” — National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly
“In vivid case studies taken from both North and South, Farmer shares with us his experiences with the violation of human rights. The case studies may be depressing, but overall they convey a message of optimism.” — Development Policy Review
“This is neither a gloomy nor an overly accusatory book, but rather an optimistic one.” — CHOICE