Doctor Distrust: Pragmatism, Intersectionality, and the Confluence of Expertise and Interests

Lawrence H. Williams


The idea that only experts can be privy to knowledge about the world has been strongly contested throughout recent history. Using interviews with 39 British seniors tasked to discuss the role of doctors in matters of life and death, I argue that distrust for expert knowledge stems largely from the belief that knowledge is deeply shaped by personal experience. However, such distrust is not absolute as respondents still hold some faith in medical expertise due to their own perceived lack of medical knowledge and experiences with the medical field. As such, I assert that respondents demonstrate ambivalence towards medical expertise due to the confluence of expertise and interests that they find in the role that doctors play in assisting individuals with their health. I connect my findings to the theoretical traditions of American pragmatism and intersectionality to demonstrate how the ambivalence demonstrated by respondents signals their tacit use of a combination of these theories or what I term pragmatic intersectionality.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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