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Blind Spot

How Neoliberalism Infiltrated Global Health (California Series in Public Anthropology #30)

M.D. Salmaan Keshavjee, Paul Farmer (Foreword by)


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Neoliberalism has been the defining paradigm in global health since the latter part of the twentieth century. What started as an untested and unproven theory that the creation of unfettered markets would give rise to political democracy led to policies that promoted the belief that private markets were the optimal agents for the distribution of social goods, including health care.

A vivid illustration of the infiltration of neoliberal ideology into the design and implementation of development programs, this case study, set in post-Soviet Tajikistan’s remote eastern province of Badakhshan, draws on extensive ethnographic and historical material to examine a “revolving drug fund” program—used by numerous nongovernmental organizations globally to address shortages of high-quality pharmaceuticals in poor communities. Provocative, rigorous, and accessible, Blind Spot offers a cautionary tale about the forces driving decision making in health and development policy today, illustrating how the privatization of health care can have catastrophic outcomes for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Praise For Blind Spot: How Neoliberalism Infiltrated Global Health (California Series in Public Anthropology #30)

"An accessible summary of the rise of neoliberalism following World War II and its impact on global health and development programs into the late 20th century and beyond. . . . A valuable resource."

— American Journal of Human Biology

"Blind Spot provides much greater clarity in our understanding of the specific agendas promoted by neoliberalism, including the distinct forces involved and their relation to health delivery programs."

— American Anthropologist

University of California Press, 9780520282834, 288pp.

Publication Date: August 15, 2014

About the Author

Salmaan Keshavjee is a physician and anthropologist with more than two decades of experience working in global health.  He is the Director of the Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change in the Department of Global Health at Harvard Medical School, where he is also Associate Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine and Associate Professor of Medicine.  He also serves on the faculty of the Division of Global Health Equity (DGHE) at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, and is a physician in the Department of Medicine.

Paul Farmer is cofounder of Partners In Health and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His most recent book is Reimagining Global Health. Other titles include To Repair the World; Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor; Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues; and AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame, all by UC Press.