The Resourceful Patient

1.3 The four dimensions of medical decline

The brooding power of Max Weber dominated sociology for most of the twentieth century, and rightly so. Weber's writing is dense and sometimes difficult, even when translated into English, but the clarity of thought and analysis requires no sociological training for its appreciation; experience of life is sufficient to endorse at least some of Weber's theories, notably his theory on authority. Weber, and several other twentieth century sociologists who followed, identified a number of different types of authority:

  • moral
  • bureaucratic
  • sapiential
  • charismatic

Medical authority has declined in all four of those domains, and the range of powers which doctors had for a few decades in the twentieth century are also waning. This trend is, perhaps surprisingly, neither lamented by all clinicians nor welcomed by all patients, some of whom might wish to continue to believe that their doctor was omniscient.