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Doctor-Patient Relationship Theories

104-120), or an increasingly fragmented society, Durkheim believes that "The division of labor . . . served as principal source of cohesion needed for the society's survival" (Douglas, 1973, p. 210).

Parsons extended Durkheim's work to "what he calls the personality system and the social system":

The minimal social system (the social relationship) becomes the intersection of two personality systems, in which the actors are taking account of one another. This is based on mutual need gratification and the complementarity of expectations and rewards; each actor meets needs of the other (Douglas, 1973, p. 212).

Unlike Marx, Durkheim and Parsons do not believe that the division of labor should be eliminated to right the individual and social wrongs created by such a division, for such elimination would also eliminate the glue which holds society together.

Marx's views on the division of labor and its effects on individuals and social relations are particularly apt for understanding the doctor-patient relationship. Marxism holds that one class, rising up through controlling means of production and imposing division of labor upon those in their employ, gather unto themselves the wealth and power in the society. The other class, increasingly alienated by an ever-increasing division of labor, and struggling to merely survive, is inevitably placed in an inferior position to the first class. It does not require much analysis to see which class the physician fits into and which the patient fits into.

To extend the Marxist perspective, the doctor is the property-owner, the capitalist, and the patient is the worker, or less--the property itself, the "machine" which needs maintenance in order to continue its work so that its labor will bring the owners more profits. Insofar as this parallel is appropriate, it is no wonder that the patient enters the relationship in a position of fear and dependence, just as a worker enters the relati...

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Doctor-Patient Relationship Theories. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 17:57, August 18, 2017, from
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