It is undeniable that health issues have political repercussions. Disease outbreaks call for the implementation of policies of response and the allocation of resources. Sometimes, health problems are of such magnitude that they force states to alter their political priorities. In order to make decision-making easier and swifter, many states have established institutional and bureaucratic apparatuses – health authorities – that take up substantial responsibilities in health policymaking. In sum, health is an important component of the day-to-day of politics. This ‘unidirectional’ view of the relationship between health and politics takes the former as a given, a set of material events that confront decision-makers. But, what if health problems are seen as more than simple microbial or physical occurrences? Can the political impact of health, as well as the relationship between health and politics, be understood diﬀerently? The present chapter pursues the analysis of the politics of health by
exploring what the latter ‘does’ in the political sense. Rather than circumscribing its scope to the immediate eﬀects of health issues upon policy priorities, resource allocation or institutional arrangements, the argument takes a simultaneously broader and deeper view of the political work of health. It explores the constitutive eﬀects of health upon the political realm – that is, the ways in which politics is made through health understandings and practices. Health is not simply a set of technical or managerial problems and solutions that are extraneous to an already-deﬁned political sphere. Instead, and drawing on the conclusions of the previous chapter, the argument starts with health as an assemblage of perceptions and processes, an imaginary in which security – and in particular an anxiety over the integrity of the self – plays a prominent role. On the basis of this, the argument approaches health as an experience that
is profoundly implicated in the constitution of the political. Speciﬁcally, it unpacks the role of health considerations upon the mechanisms of power; it traces the impact of ideas and practices of health upon social relations, upon understandings of the subject and upon the meaning of political categories such as citizenship. Using the example of colonial relations, it illustrates how health has provided the occasion for the deployment of power in the
international realm, and shows that health is an important site for the negotiation of the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of political community.