Petit bourgeois health care? The big small-business of private complementary medical practice
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Although small business private complementary medicine (CAM) has grown to be a significant provider of health care in many Western societies, there has been relatively little research on the sector in business terms and on its wider socio-economic position and role. Using a combined questionnaire and interview survey, and the concept of small business petit bourgeoisie as a framework, this paper considers the character of therapists and their businesses in England and Wales. The findings suggest that typical of the core characteristics of both the petit bourgeoisie and therapists are the selling of goods with a considerable market viability, at the same time financial insecurity; the modest size of businesses; small amounts of direct employment generation and business owners undertaking everyday 'hands-on' work themselves. Certain of the therapists' and business characteristics depart from the stereotypical image of a small businesses class, such as the high incidence of part-time self-employment and incomes being supplemented often by unrelated waged employment. However, given the acknowledged diversity of the petit bourgeoisie between societies and over time, the framework is arguably appropriate in this context, and private CAM a latest guise. Indeed, just as the petit bourgeoisie have traditionally found market niches either neglected or rejected by bigger business, small business CAM has provided the forms of health care neglected and sometimes rejected by orthodox medicine.
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