A Genealogical Analysis of the Medical Model of Problem Gambling


  • Sean Wilcox Department of Cultural, Social and Political Thought, University of Lethbridge




medical model, problem gambling, genealogy, biopower, confession, gamblers anonymous


By applying Foucault’s genealogical approach, this article understands the ascension of the medical model of problem gambling as a happenstance and contingent effect of a new form of social control (biopower). The investigation reveals the cumulative effect of some of the heterogeneous components surrounding the medical model’s creation: discourses; institutions; laws; regulatory decisions; administrative measures; scientific proposition, and philanthropic, moral, and philosophical arguments. In the process, it becomes apparent that the medical model is an effect of a form of control that is embedded in the population itself as a norm and follows the schemata of confessional discourse. This power is disciplining individual bodies and regulating populations towards normality by making problem gamblers critically examine themselves and discursively reveal the results. However, the present subjectivity for problem gamblers (i.e., how they understand themselves and how they are understood by those who would improve them) is an effect of the type of power contained in the confession as well. A certain form of subjectivity is created by admitting ‘I am powerless over gambling.’ While the language problem gamblers use to describe themselves is a mere effect of power, it nevertheless determines how they think of themselves and their relationship with gambling.

Author Biography

Sean Wilcox, Department of Cultural, Social and Political Thought, University of Lethbridge

Sean Wilcox is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Cultural, Social, and Political Thought at the University of Lethbridge. His research focuses on the historically contingent nature of the concept of gambling addiction. His interest in addiction is rooted in personal experiences with various substances and repeatedly being categorized as a diseased addict who is out of control. He never felt this diagnosis accurately represented his experiences. His MA thesis, Addiction, Treatment, and Evidence-Based Medicine, uncovered the historical construction of the modern concept of addiction. For his PhD dissertation, he applies Foucault’s genealogical approach to unpack the modern concept of gambling addiction and the corresponding treatment protocols.




How to Cite

Wilcox, S. (2021). A Genealogical Analysis of the Medical Model of Problem Gambling. Critical Gambling Studies, 2(1), 97–107. https://doi.org/10.29173/cgs72