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Soc Sci Med. 2004 Jan;58(2):321-30.

A sociological perspective on public participation in health care.

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Centre d'Analyse des Politiques Publiques (CAPP), Laval University, Quebec, Canada.


This paper presents conclusions drawn from a comparative analysis of three qualitative case studies of participation processes at the regional level in Quebec's healthcare system in Canada. Our objective is twofold: primarily, to draw on our observations to elaborate and discuss a sociological framework for the analysis of public participation; and secondarily, to use our data to criticize many pervasive but questionable preconceptions in the scientific literature on public participation. The framework used applies the social theory of P. Bourdieu in conjunction with the representation framework of H.F. Pitkin to demonstrate how any form of participation will imply some implicit or explicit delegation. The significance of the analysis is its focus on the social operations implied in these acts of delegation and in the use of the concept of symbolic struggles to understand the conflicts arising when the intrinsic legitimacy of the public is appropriated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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