Dependency Theory in the Political Economy of Health: An Anthropological Critique


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The political economy of health is a multifaceted label that subsumes at least three separate theoretical perspectives: orthodox Marxist approaches, cultural critiques of medicine, and dependency theories. Anthropologists who advocate greater attention to the political economy of health have tended to overemphasize dependency theories, which have in fact been widely assailed in the sociological literature. In this article I examine some basic premises of dependency theories and analyze their contributions and limitations for the development of theory in the political economy of health. I also maintain that political economy must learn from anthropology as well as the other way around. Through this reciprocal integration of concepts, political economic approaches will enter into regular medical anthropology to provide a synthetic new perspective on sickness and health.