SOCIAL SCIENCES

Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer

Twelve: Grand Central. Apr. 2018. 256p. notes. ISBN 9781455535910. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781455535880. SOC SCI
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With her trademark take-no-prisoners prose, Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) argues that a desperation to control our fates leads us to cling to ritualized medical procedures, dietary fads, and gym exercises that generate corporate profits but do nothing to change our destiny. Ehrenreich criticizes the classist arrogance of framing sickness as a moral failing, when health largely hinges on uncontrollable vagaries of our genes and cells (not to mention poverty). The author combines two themes: the first is the fiery treatise against medicalization and the "cult of wellness," while the second is a mishmash of theories of the human body at war with itself and notions of an "animate universe." With a PhD in cellular immunology, the author's credentials in science and medicine are unimpeachable, and her ability to make the her subjects accessible is unsurpassed. In this book, she drifts into a dystopian and idiosyncratic scientism, softening the potency of the text's first half.
VERDICT A welcome reminder to relax in the face of our own mortality, this is fast-paced, hard-nosed discourse. Sure to appeal to dissidents from the cult of wellness.

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