“Health Is Better than Wealth”: Controversies of the Marketization of Vital Goods (The Case of the Moscow Dental Market)

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Elena Berdysheva


This article, based on the examination of the Moscow dental market, focuses on the social construction of market commodities out of vital goods. Through qualitative content analysis of 184 dental clinics’ websites and 25 in-depth interviews with dentists and managers of Moscow commercial clinics, I reconstruct dominant views about the nature of dental services as a commercial product, its social meanings, and parameters of quality. I show that actors categorize their commercial services in terms of medical assistance, professional duty, and qualifications or skills. An emphasis on personalized care enables clinics to avoid suspicions of a mercenary approach to their patients. The results of my study contradict assumptions about the inevitable dehumanization of medicine through the marketization of healthcare and suggest that, instead of criticizing the expansion of markets within social life, sociologists should look more closely at the practical mechanisms, processes, and conditions of marketization in contemporary society. In Russian, extended summary in English.


Market, Commodity, Morality, Values, Calculation, Oral Health, Medical Service, Dentistry

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