“Anarchism for Health”

The Radical Nurse begins the new academic year by featuring an article published in the most recent issue of Perspectives, a journal published by the Institute for Anarchist Studies. This article was chosen because it clearly demonstrates the value of applying radical thought to health care issues and challenging the capitalist organization of the health care system. It was also chosen because it provides a concrete example of what an anarchist response to HIV and Hepatitis C could look like.

Written by Canadian activists Alexander McClelland and Zoë Dodd, this article is a must read for all nursing students and nurses. As you start reading, you will quickly realize that many anarchist principles are already active in your daily personal and professional lives and in your communities: i.e., fighting for equitable access to medical knowledge and life-saving medications, protecting bodily autonomy, ensuring participation decision-making, making sure that interventions are informed by lived experiences and grassroots knowledge, striving for emancipation from all forms of oppression, and defending the right to dignity and social justice for all people[1]. As McClelland and Dodd point out, we are often “not aware that the above stated goals are exactly what anarchists strive to achieve. Those who do not understand anarchist theory often equate it with violence and destruction, which is the opposite of what anarchism intends to make possible: to jointly build a non-coercive society, free of oppression and exploitation”.

Read the article here and/or watch the video here.

We want to draw your attention to the conclusion. McClelland and Dodd ask us to “imagine for a minute what our responses to health and HIV and Hepatitis C could look like if we did not have to constantly battle against massive state, institutional, and private sector apparatuses to get access to the means for our survival. The war on drugs, harm reduction, treatment access, criminalization, citizenship status, wealth inequity–these are all issues related to hierarchical decision-making, the liberal nation-state, and the capitalist organization of society. Now imagine what we could get done if we didn’t have those systems in place? If people were able to access what they needed without a higher authority? How can we work to interrogate and provide deep philosophical reflection on how and why certain regimes of truth have come to render certain forms of social organization possible, while others are rendered impossible, too optimistic or unrealistic? What would be possible if our society was not organized in ways that view people’s bodies as a source of capital, and where illness and disease are a revenue stream for businesses, institutions, and a range of other actors?”

Inspired by this conclusion, we want to go a step further and ask you to imagine for a minute what nursing care and nursing practice could look like if we did not have to constantly battle capitalist top-down bureaucratized institutions with the aim of making or saving money (including the medical institution). Now imagine what you could get done if these institutions were not in place or if they were organized in radically different ways? If people were able to access the care they need without the hierarchical structure that currently prevails. If people were able to access affordable medications, food, housing, and the support they need. If nurses were able to provide the care they were trained to provide and use the knowledge they have without the confines of a system primarily designed by and for medicine. What would be possible if nursing care was not seen as a series of tasks that can be measured, monitored, managed, and controlled? What would be possible if health care institutions were not run like revenue generating businesses?

These are the types of questions we want to explore this year on The Radical Nurse.

Make sure to submit your opinion pieces!

[1] In italic, a section modified from the original published piece

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