Midwifery practice and the crisis of modernity: implications for the role of the midwife
Almost since its inception, the concept of modernity was found to display tensions between its emancipatory potential to liberate the human subject from the manacles of tradition, and the application of reason to co-ordinate and control the natural world through scientific knowledge. This paper presents a qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with 12 midwives about their role in the Irish maternity services and argues that, in a period of late modernity, these tensions continue to manifest themselves in the context of the midwife's role. Although the contemporary period is marked by a loss of faith in scientific truths, widely contested obstetric knowledge and practices continue to exercise mastery over nature while undermining a central feature of the midwife's role--the liberation of the autonomous subject. Drawing on the theory of communicative action developed by the critical theorist Jürgen Habermas, it is argued that the midwife's role in facilitating the autonomous choices of women through communicative action is impeded by the colonization of the lifeworld of labour and childbirth by the technocratic system of obstetrics. Although participants reported that their role involved empowering women and facilitating choices through dialogue congruent with communicative action, data also suggested that participants used strategic communication with clients aimed at achieving particular ends. The use of strategic communication was linked to the way in which the midwife's role is determined to a large extent by the practices and protocols of obstetrics, and also to the notion of client passivity. The instrumental rationality of obstetrics is linked to an outcome orientation to power and money, and a political economy perspective of medicine. It appears that communicative action between midwives and obstetricians is important in bringing about structural changes to facilitate the conditions for communicative action between midwives and their clients.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Volume (Year): 58 (2004)
Issue (Month): 12 (June)
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/315/description#description |
|Order Information:|| Postal: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/supportfaq.cws_home/regional|
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:58:y:2004:i:12:p:2613-2623. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.