Week 4

Structural violence refers to systematic or institutionalized violence which can indirectly harm marginalized people. It is a systematic way social structures harm otherwise disadvantaged individuals. “Structure in this sense is not a material thing, but rather an observable regularity in human social activity, that has become so firmly entrenched (though habits, social relations, economic arrangements, institutional practices, law, policy, etc) as to have taken on thing-like qualities” (Farmer). The concept of violence does not specifically identified as physical violence as we would consider in its more traditional definition. Violence in this context involves multifaceted forms of oppression “in which sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of social pathology frequently come together with economic exploitation and deprivation” (Sparke). “Structural violence is the natural expression of political and economic order that seems as old as slavery, with social inequality at the heart of the matter” (Farmer). In essence, Farmer’s idea of structural violence argues that people in positions of power “stack the deck” in their favor. The divide of power between the elites and marginalized is predominantly controlled by members of the elite groups and identities with their needs compromising the needs of the marginalized. Consider the idea that structural violence “encourages us to look for differences within large scale structures including differences of power, wealth, privilege and health that are unjust and unacceptable” (Farmer). One particular identified structure that is of particular interest is that of structural violence in the U.S. Healthcare system. I’m sure most in this class can remember the public outcry behind the proposed heath reform act more commonly known as “Obamacare”. I’m not here to debate politics, but I would like to address a primary example of structural violence within our own country. Consider the notion that research supports the human development process stating that roughly half of our health as adults is programmed from the time of conception to around the first 2 years of age” (Bezrucha). The United States is one of only 3 major countries that has not recognized the significance of “the first thousand days” of child development by identifying more accommodating maternity/paternity healthcare reform. The U.S. has significant infant death rates in comparison to other world leaders. Significant rates of death by violent crime are astronomically high within the United States. Consider the expense of healthcare for individuals within the United States. Often private health insurance companies require high deductible on tops of additional copays for rendered services. While there are government programs such as Medicaid that have recently become back up for individuals who may not otherwise be able to afford healthcare services, consider the barriers many Americans face in obtaining this government service. Consider citizens who struggle to read and write english, trying to navigate the often complicated and time consuming government healthcare forms. Another barrier for low income individuals may be accessibility to agencies providing services. How can services be rendered if the individual can not physical get to the services? Think about the amount of immigrants who have not been declared citizens or are considered illegal, should these individuals be subject to structural violence? These unjust inequalities should not be considered acceptable simply because those in power influenced by the major money making insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. Healthcare reform needs to continue to be a hot button issue to combat the unacceptable structural violence vessel that is healthcare in the United States.

Bezruchka, Stephen. 2014. “Inequality Kills”

Farmer, Paul. “An Anthropology of Structured Violence”

2 thoughts on “Week 4

  1. Response 4b
    The healthcare industry needs an extreme overhaul of its inner workings in able to reduce the subjected violence of it recipients. The greed of pharmaceutical companies, and health insurance providers has lead to severe structural violence within the healthcare industry. One group that was overlooked by recent healthcare reforms was people who are technologically illiterate or do not have access to technology. This was because the new healthcare reforms allowed for people to sign up for health insurance primarily online, the whole reform was based around this website. The issue with this is that people without access to computers or internet could not sign up immediately for health care when they needed it and proper information on how to sign up, without the website, was lacking. There are also people who have access to the internet but may not know how to use it efficiently enough to sign up for the government health insurance as the website was very confusing. This leads to structural violence against low income and less advanced communities restricting their equal availability to health care.
    I think that if the U.S. reformed the system to sign up for healthcare this structural violence could be reduced. The U.S. should allow people to sign up for the government health insurance from community health establishments. When people who are less literate become struck with health issues they go to the closest doctor in the community to them, this should also be the place they can sign up for the government health insurance. This would ensure anyone seeking health related concerns could have their demands met efficiently.

  2. Healthcare in the United States has proven to be affective to those who have money, and as I have read from previous comments, it’s greed that runs the industry. This structural violence is portrayed in many ways especially in something that I’ve noticed by those who do not understand medical jargon. When speaking to a doctor, most people in this country, especially minority groups, do not understand what the doctor is saying and in turn feel inferior so seem to just comply with whatever the doctor says. A lot of times this does not result in the best options for them nor does it mean it’s the something that they can afford. I feel like this is another firm of structural violence against those who feel unheard in the health care world and could be fixed if doctors made things clearer to patients or perhaps required translators during all visits.

Leave a Reply