Complimentary and alternative medicines and the state: a tale of contradictory narratives

Peter Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The popularity of CAM’s arose partially as a rejection of biomedicine for person-centred treatments and therapies. Reflexive modernity articulates this as the erosion of traditional structures and opening of new possibilities for a critically informed cliental (Giddens, 1991). The narrative of ‘life’ and ‘system’ worlds
Habermas (1987), suggests another reading. The growing popularity of CAMs saves biomedicine from relative unpopularity – its tendency to function within a systems world uncoupled from a life world – is thwarted by its re-coupling with the values and practices associated with the life world of CAMs. Both narratives are far from fictions, hence CAMs relationships with biomedicine is one of contradiction, tension and partial resolution, revealed most clearly in state policy towards regulating medicines. This paper addresses these contradictory narratives. It argues that when system imperatives of costcutting, efficiency drives and administration are uppermost, the state leans towards attempting to
impose abstract managerial discourses upon and across CAMs, taking less account of the particularities of their individual practices and skill sets and more account of the need to mirror the administrative contours of biomedicine. However, this process is attenuated by ‘life world’ imperatives that also compel
the state in genuinely searching for professional codes of conduct and training that are sensitive to the specifics of CAMs they are designed to regulate and so sensitive to recognising the underpinning philosophy that comes with CAMs, rather than expunging its holistic philosophy for a reworked Cartesian dualism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011


  • complementary medicine
  • alternative medicines


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