|Preface to the Fifth Edition|
When the first edition of the Handbook of Medical Sociology was published in 1963, medical sociology was in emergent sub-specialty in the discipline of sociology. Roughly once every decade the Handbook was revised, reflecting changes in the knowledge and focus of medical sociology. Sol Levine and Howard Freeman were involved in editing the first four editions; sadly, both have passed on since the last editions. It has been eleven years since the fourth edition of the Handbook was published, and medical sociology has continued to grow and diversify.
When Sol Levine approached each of us to work on the fifth edition, he sought to assemble a new Handbook for the millennium that would reflect the breadth and changes in medical sociology. Sol was involved in the early stages of planning this edition, but he passed away before the whole shape of the volume could be realized. As his students, colleagues, and friends, we endeavored to capture the spirit of Sol Levine in this edition. It was Sol's intention - and it is ours - that this edition represent a broader range of sociological research than was covered in the earlier editions. All 29 chapters are new pieces especially written for this edition of the Handbook.
Virtually everyone we approached to write a chapter for the fifth edition agreed to contribute and was enthusiastic about the project. We presented the authors with a difficult assignment. We asked them to write the chapters as critical discussions rather than comprehensive reviews and to cover their topic in an interesting and lively fashion. Moreover, since we wanted to cover a broad array of topics, we had to limit the authors' space; we asked the authors to write chapters that were short, pithy, and tightly focused. We dialogued with all during the revision process and are delighted with the high quality of the contributions.
Several changes in this edition are noteworthy. We include some of the core areas of medical sociology that have appeared in previous editions, albeit with a different angle (e.g., professions, social factors, and illness, medical education, and doctor-patient relationships). But we also include chapters on topics and areas that have emerged as critical in recent years: gender, race and ethnicity, environment, disability, the experience of illness, managed care, alternative medicine, medicalization, and bioethics. Unique to this edition is an entire section on research and perspectives from related disciplines whose work parallels that of medical sociology, including medical anthropology, health psychology, social epidemiology, and bioethics. The role and impact of social scientific studies of health and health care are changing, and it is clear that while we need to keep our feet firmly planted in sociology, our arms need to stretch out to other disciplines. It is in this spirit we organized Part VI of the book. We also have taken a few small steps toward making this book more international, including contributions by a few of our British colleagues. Finally, in the spirit of the new millennium, we have set up a web page to complement the Handbook. Among other features, the web page (www.brandeis.edu/conrad/handbookmedsoc) offers interested readers additional updates provided by chapter authors.
While all of the editors believe that our discipline is better defined as the Sociology of Health and Illness than as Medical Sociology, we have chosen to keep the traditional title because it lends continuity to previous editions. We hope that neophytes and established scholars alike will find resources and ideas in these pages that will enrich and challenge their own thought and work around health and illness. To the extent we have succeeded in providing this, we dedicate this edition to Sol Levine.
Chloe Bird, Peter Conrad, and Allen Fremont