Bissell, Paul, Traulsen, Janine Morgall and Haugbølle, Lotte Stig (2002) Sociological Theory and Pharmacy Practice Research: (4) The contribution of interactionist sociology to understanding the experience of health and illness. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 10 (3). pp. 213-224. ISSN 0961-7671

So far in this series, we have explored the relevance of the work of Talcott Parsons and Karl Marx to pharmacy practice research. Both these writers placed an emphasis on the ways in which human actions and, moreover, human consciousness are shaped by the requirements of the social system. Such perspectives came under fire, often from sociologists within the US, during the 1950s and 1960s. These sociologists were concerned to place the activities, experiences and understandings of human beings at the centre of the sociological endeavour. In doing so, they have provided some highly insightful examples of sociological research, especially as applied to health, illness and health care. It is this reaction against the “dehumanising” aspects of Marxist, functionalist and other sociological theories that we now turn to in our consideration of the emergence of symbolic interactionist sociology. Symbolic interactionist sociology has been partially responsible for the rise of a set of research techniques and theoretical concepts that will be familiar to many readers — the use of “naturalistic” methods of social research (observational or ethnographic work) and grounded theory, both of which figure increasingly within health services and pharmacy practice research. In this paper, we will look at the origins of interactionist sociology and comment on its relevance and application to the research agenda of pharmacy practice.

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