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Democratization, Elites, and the Expansion of Access to Health Care and Medicine

Democratization, Elites, and the Expansion of Access to Health Care and Medicine

Chapter:
(p.19) 1 Democratization, Elites, and the Expansion of Access to Health Care and Medicine
Source:
Achieving Access
Author(s):
Joseph Harris
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501709968.003.0002

Sociologists have rarely imagined elites as capable of delivering for society the promise of a better future. More frequently, labor unions and left-wing parties, or grassroots social movements, have been looked to as champions of social progress. This chapter explores the broader theoretical contributions of the book and situates the key concepts of “professional movements” and “heightened political competition” in the literature. First, whereas scholarship has emphasized the way in which democratization empowers the masses, this book turns conventional wisdom on its head by suggesting that democratization empowers elites. Second, it calls attention to the role that newly empowered (and public-minded) professionals play in expanding access to healthcare and medicine on behalf of the poor and those in need. Third, it highlights the importance of differences in the character of political competition in the wake of democratic transition in conditioning the possibilities for well-organized professional movements to institute such changes.

Keywords:   elites, professional movements, labor unions, power resources, mass movements, democratization, heightened political competition, Thailand, Brazil, South Africa

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