Communication & Medicine, Vol 8, No 2 (2011)

The everyday elasticity of compliance in a symptomless disease

Lina Klara Hoel Felde
Issued Date: 19 Jun 2012


Medically, compliance refers to the extent to which a patient’s response to medical advice coincides with doctors’ orders. Rather than this absolute standard, this article treats compliance as an institutionally available discourse continually figured in practice. The aim of this article is to describe people’s everyday elasticity of compliance in shifting contexts in everyday life. The empirical material presented, based on interviews with people with elevated cholesterol, suggests that people with symptomless diseases can be perceived to be living in a virtual ‘temporal limbo’, living ‘here and now’ in the present from one episode to the next. Presentbound conditions create, from moment to moment, a temporal limbo that challenges and conditions the participants’ constructions of compliance. Using three contexts as examples, this article empirically demonstrates how people with a symptomless disease accomplish – reflexively produce and reproduce – compliance in and through shifting contexts. Compliance is ever-emerging and stretched, adapted to the circumstances at hand, ongoingly constructed through a reflexive interplay between compliance-in-practice and compliance practice in a discursive give-and-take. This elasticity of compliance reveals a reflexive critique of medical compliance as a moral standard and leads us to discuss how people are adequately compliant in everyday moral contexts.

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DOI: 10.1558/cam.v8i2.123


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