Deceit and dishonesty as practice: the comfort of lying Academic Article uri icon


  • Lying and deceit are instruments of power, used by social actors in the pursuit of their practices as they seek to maintain social order. All social actors, nurses included, have deceit and dishonesty within their repertoire of practice. Much of this is benign, well intentioned and a function of being sociable and necessary in the pursuit of social order in the healthcare environment. Lying and deceit from a sociological point of view, is a reflection of the different modes of domination that exist within a social space. French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu theorized about the way that symbolic power works within social space. The social structures and the agency of individual actors moving within it are interrelated and interdependent. Bourdieu's ideas will be used to theorize about real clinical experiences where acts of deceit can be identified and a case example will be presented. Nurses are actors in the social space of clinical care, and their world is complex, challenging, and often fraught with the contradictory demands and choices that reflect and influence their behaviours. An exploration of lying and deceit in nursing as an instrument in the modes of domination that persist enables us to challenge some of the assumptions that are made about the motives that cause or tempt nurses to lie as well as to understand the way on which they are sometimes lied to, according to the acts of domination that exist in the field. Lying or acting dishonestly is a powerful act that is intent on retaining stability and social order and could be seen to be a justification of lying and deceit. However, we need to pause and consider, in whose interests are we striving to create social order? Is it in the end about the comfort of patients or for the comfort of professionals?

publication date

  • 2016