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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review of Politics of Autism

Pitney might have addressed autism as Medical Care Politics in America: The Case of Autism. But he did not, and therein lies an interesting set of analytic issues. Isn’t autism a topic in medical care just as the politics of cancer or the politics of abortion? The short answer is no and for two good reasons.

First, cases of politics in, for example, an industry such as medical care do not add up to a politics of medical care. The stakes, contestants, and forms of policy politics vary. Conflicts over hospital closures, for example, differ greatly from the regulatory battles of the drug industry or the financing of Medicare. To repeat, the undeniably truthful assertion of politics in  an industry does not entail that there is a politics of that industry.
The variation in how one can think about policy politics is substantial in other ways. One can emphasize the institutional setting of the struggle (Congress, the courts et al.), the interest group players (the American Medical Association or unions and governmental targets of influence), the topics of intense conflict (e.g., budgets or prison treatment of racial groups), the character of the dispute (quiet or noisy), and so on.
Pitney does not follow any one of these modes. He instead selects from the options those approaches most likely to resolve puzzles about American treatment of the science of autism, the realities of programs in place or proposed, and what he regards as the extraordinary complexity of this arena of policy politics.