Health in the Marketplace: Professionalism, Therapeutic Desires, and Medical Commodification in Late (BOK)
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Much like consumers today, late-19th-century Londoners lived in a mass culture of commodified abundance and conspicuous consumption. Their consumer fetishism was fully represented by their avid pursuit of health-related services and medicinal goods--the market was rife with brand-name patent medicines such as Dr. Scott's Little Liver Pills and Dr. William's Pink Pills for Pale People, and city-dwellers frequently bought patented medico-electrical appliances such as Pulvermacher's Electric Chains or Harness' Electropathic Belt. In this highly original book Takahiro Ueyama recounts a vivid narrative--populated by long-forgotten entrepreneurs and charlatans--that accounts for the way in which socioeconomic and professional interests came into conflict among medically trained doctors, electrical engineers, manufacturers of patent medicines, and quack physicians. Thoroughly grounded in research into health commodification in the late 19th century, this book demonstrates that Victorians had issues very much like ours today. Like us, they wrestled with ambiguities about drug effectiveness and regulation. Like us, they worried about the uncertain boundaries between science and quackery. They, too, were baffled by the competing claims of orthodox and alternative medicine. They, too, went in for massage therapy and erotic quasi-medical services. Such was reality in late-19th-century Britain, and it was the root of what we observe in our highly capitalized modern world, where profit-driven commercialism ubiquitously intrudes into the medical domain. Takahiro Ueyama is professor of the history unit in the Faculty of Economics, Sophia University, Tokyo.