Breilh J. Eficacia del poder, retroceso del derecho y degradación del trabajo. [Efficacy of power, retrogression of law, and degradation of work.] Salud Problema [Health as a Problem] 2000 June; 5(8): 7-20.

Objectives: To analyze the present state of workers’ health and to propose alternatives.

Methodology: Historical-analytical.

Results: The author undertakes an historical analysis of the relationships among work, workers’ health, and their social context.

The article considers the impacts on Latin America of global capitalism. Such impacts include economic growth without employment, the profitability of unemployment for the capitalistic class, and the flexibility of contractual relationships and labor conditions. The article then analyzes data associated with the degradation of workers’ rights in Latin America and questions concepts such as risk factors. The author criticizes the separation of work-related and non-work-related risks, since in his view research designs and implementation plans should respect the totality of workers’ lives, rather than fragmenting reality nor artificially isolating components of peoples’ lives.

A central theme is to move away from functionalism, that is, from reducing the practice of collective health to the planning of minor reforms, which operate within unilaterally established limits and center on the classic domains of formal work. Expanding the laws concerning human, social, and workers’ rights could lead to a more holistic concept of the protection and promotion of healthful work.

Conclusions: Health within the arena of work should go beyond the limits of occupational medicine and beyond models of control attached to risk. Instead a new model can encourage co-management and participative models, in which Latin American social medicine has accumulated an important body of experience.

Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico