Drawing on in-depth case studies of French households, this article analyses relations between working-class households and physicians with an emphasis on the point of view of the households. It shows that the best-off households of our sample differ significantly from the most vulnerable ones. In particular, the stable ones do not restrain themselves from seeking out medical help and counselling, especially from their general practitioner (GP). It also demonstrates that frequent contacts with the GP increase a feeling closeness to one’s physician, even though the social distance between the household and the physician is not entirely undone. Contrary to the arguments advanced by scholars in this field, our interviewees do acknowledge this distance and the social domination it represents. But they also think they can benefit from their relation to their GP. Taking a close look at the interviewees’ daily life (for example at their food practices), we see how health standards are taken up by these fractions of the French working-classes. Therefore, this paper brings into light what we can call a “sanitary goodwill” (following Bourdieu’s lead on cultural goodwill), an acceptance and a partial interiorization of the norm of “taking care of oneself” and of the idea of a “reform from within” the working-classes. This sanitary goodwill is what ultimately differentiates the stable fractions of contemporary working-classes from the more precarious ones as well as from previous generations.
- health standards