Menéndez EL. Participación social en salud como realidad técnica y como imaginario social. [Social participation in health as a technical reality and as a social construct.] Cuadernos Médico Sociales [Medical-Social Notebooks] 1998 May; 73:5-22.

Objectives: Critical analysis of the concept of social participation in health during the past 20 years.

Methodology: Analytical and interpretive.

Results: The article provides a detailed analysis of the concept of social participation, in terms of both theory and practical application. The article also critically reviews the concepts of structure and subject in analyses of social participation. These concepts are employed ambiguously in various scientific-philosophic schools of thought (phenomenology and structuralism, among others). Regarding social participation, it is necessary to be specific about definitions and objectives. Through an analysis of pertinent social actors, activities carried out, and instruments employed, the author shows that the use of social participation in the health sector and in non-governmental organizations fulfills not only a technical, but also an ideological function. The article makes evident the differential use of social participation by organizations concerned with social transformation as against international agencies such as the World Bank or United Nations agencies.

Conclusions: Social participation should be maintained as a construct that restores the aspirations of individuals and groups toward self-realization and toward community. Participation should not be considered solely in terms of action, but in terms of theory and ideology as well.

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