The expansion of health care provision in Europe and North America in the decades after WWII is widely recognised as a crucial shift in the character of social relations. Where before health care was considered mainly a private aff air, public policies and programmes increasingly recognised that health care was an important dimension of social and political life. As it became a matter of public discourse, experts of various kinds were invited to look into the processes and mechanisms of health care provision, access, etc. This included political scientists, organisational scientists, economists, social administration researchers and sociologists. Although the realisation that a sociological perspective was necessary to understand the complexity of illness and health can be dated back to the 19th century (Porter, 1997), a mainstream sociological concern with health care and its institutions emerged only in the 1950s and became established only in the 1960s through funding programmes led by the US National Institute of Mental Health or the UK’s Medical Research Council. Academic journals such as the Journal of Health and Human Behaviour (1960) and Social Science and Medicine (1967) helped make this fi eld of research recognised amongst fellow social scientists, health care practitioners and policy-makers. Sociological research focused on issues such as medical education, the supply of medical labour or the organisation of health services, so that from the mid-1970s onwards, when a variety of policy proposals emerged that attempted to control the cost, improve the quality and enhance the organisation of health care systems, sociologists were in a position to attend to these processes.