Since the 1990s, the sociology of rationing has developed in explicit opposition to health economic and bioethical approaches to healthcare rationing. This implies a limited engagement with other disciplines and a limited impact on political debates. To bring the sociology of rationing into an interdisciplinary dialogue, it is important to understand the disciplines' analytical differences and similarities. Based on a critical interpretive literature synthesis, this article examines four disciplinary perspectives on healthcare rationing and priority setting: (1) Health economics, which seeks to develop decision models to provide for more rational resource allocation; (2) Bioethics, which seeks to develop normative principles and procedures to facilitate a just allocation of resources; (3) Health policy studies, which focus on issues of legitimacy and implementation of decision models; and lastly (4) Sociology, which analyses the uncertainty of rationing and the resulting value conflicts and negotiations. The article provides an analytical overview and suggestions on how to advance the impact of sociological arguments in future rationing debates: Firstly, we discuss how to develop the concepts and assumptions of the sociology of rationing. Secondly, we identify specific themes relevant for sociological inquiry, including the recurring problem of how to translate administrative priority setting decisions into clinical practice.
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Published inSociology of Health and Illness