In 1936, 16 years after the end of Mexico’s bloody decade-long Revolution, Department of Public Health Chief General Jose Siurob spoke solemly of the duty that Mexican physicians had to the social body. He wrote that “instead of fortifying ourselves in our old privilege,” the privilege of financial benefit from private practice, “[doctors] should retain moral force and effectiveness in our actions.” The era of liberal medicine, as he called it, was over: social medicine was to be the new guiding principle for Mexico’s physicians.
What exactly did Dr. Siurob mean by “liberal medicine”? What did it mean to move away from it in favor of “social medicine”? And to what extent could Mexico’s version of social medicine be considered distinct from what came before? In this workshop, Server hopes to suggest that Mexico’s “new orientations” in health shared a great deal in common with their “liberal” antecedents, despite Revolutionary language to the contrary. Drawing on Mexican historiography and seminal works in the philosophy of science, Server shows that the changes and continuities within Mexican health practices during the 1930s represent an ideal case study to explore the relationship between scientific and political revolutions, between “pure science” and clinical practice, and between the profession of medicine and the state.