When doctors strike: Making sense of professional organizing in kenya

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Little is known about how the health professions organize in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This is particularly troubling as health worker strikes in LMICs appear to be growing more frequent and severe. While some research has been conducted on the impact of strikes, little has explored their social etiology. This article draws on theory from organization and management studies to situate strike behavior in a historical process of sensemaking in Kenya. In this way, doctors seek to expand pragmatic, moral, and cognitive forms of legitimacy in response to sociopolitical change. During the first period (1963-2000), the legacy of colonial biomedicine shaped medical professionalism and tensions with a changing state following independence. The next period (2000-2010) was marked by the rise of corporate medicine as an organized form of resistance to state control. The most recent period (2010-2015) saw a new constitution and devolution of health services cause a fractured medical community to strike as a form of symbolic resistance in its quest for legitimacy. In this way, strike behavior is positioned as a form of legitimation among doctors competing over the identity of medicine in Kenya and is complicating the path to universal health coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-676
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of health politics, policy and law
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • Doctors
  • Legitimacy
  • Professional associations
  • Sensemaking
  • Unions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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