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Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on…

Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability (2003)

by Paul K. Longmore

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Collection of reviews and other materials on disability studies, operating from a rejection of the medical model of disability (disability is about individual deficits) and adopting the social model (disability is about structures of exclusion, prejudices, and responses). There are historical essays and film reviews; for me the most challenging pieces were about assisted suicide. By limiting resources for people with disabilities, society can coerce them into accepting that suicide is the best option available—but that’s a false dichotomy: “The rhetoric of ‘choice’ is deployed to hide the realities of coercion.” One man who sought assistance committing suicide lived in a state willing to pay $230 a day to keep him in a nursing home, but under $300 a month for him to live in his own apartment with assistance. It struck me that this was a micro example of how failure to provide for everyone’s medical needs disciplines all workers/potential workers. Longmore writes about the way that social assistance in the US has been divided into programs for “deserving” workers and for the “needy,” both of whom are stigmatized and used to police the bounds of acceptability. Being in need is defined as being deficient, contrary to the realities of human existence. This has obvious general implications for how employees relate to their employers, but consider the nursing home example in this light: because of minimum wage laws, a much higher percentage of the money spent on in-home care would go to the caregiver, and in-home care would also create more jobs because of the economies of scale in a nursing home. So disempowering people with disabilities by only funding nursing home care helps control other workers as well. ( )
  rivkat | Jul 13, 2011 |
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