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Abstract

The privatization of the health care system in many countries has led to the transformation of the medical field dominated by private for-profit hospitals controlled by large business corporations. A similar privatization effort pursued by the Taiwanese government occurred since the middle of the 1970s. Influenced by the neoliberal economic thoughts and the tightening financial budget, the Taiwanese government began to shift its health care policy from the previously state-operating hospitals to encouraging the large business corporations to run hospitals. In the late 1970s, through offering various benefits to the corporations, new and giant hospitals were established by large business conglomerates. The health care system seemed to be transformed into a field dominated by the private for-profit hospitals. However, this did not happen. The non-profit hospital was soon institutionalized as the only legitimate form of hospitals. Why did the privatization of health care system lead to the institutionalization of the non-profit hospital as the legitimate form given the entrenched business interests in turning the medicine into a lucrative industry? In this dissertation, through studying the making of the unprecedented organizational capacity of Tzu-Chi (Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu-Chi Association) in its formative period (1966-1990), I argue that, in addition to the state regulation, we have to pay attention to the society’s effort to socialize the health care system and to discipline the medical professionals for the public good. Being one of the largest and the most influential civil and religious associations from Asia, Tzu-Chi has received numerous scholars’ examination. However, the existing studies overlook two crucial aspects of the movement—the unprecedented organizational capacity and its relationship with the privatization of health care system in Taiwan. The central argument is that the unprecedented organizational capacity of the movement was formed during its mobilization of the hospital for the social good. The hospital project offered an opportunity for movement to tie three social actors together—religion, elite medical professionals, and new capitalists. To explore the making of its organizational capacity with the privatization of the medical field, in the dissertation, I use primary materials and employ both historical comparative method and text-mining techniques. The dissertation further offers a fresh theorization on the making of charisma through examining the changing organizational dynamic and the meanings and symbols attached to it.

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