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The Selling of DSM: The Rhetoric of Science in Psychiatry (Social Problems and Social Issues) Paperback – December 31, 1992

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Aldine de Gruyter (December 31, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0202304329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0202304328
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Kirk and Kutchins provide a detailed and thoroughly documented critique of the development process of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition (DSM-III), and of the resulting product. The authors' contention that DSM-III does not provide a diagnostic/classification system of high scientific credibility is a recurrent theme, and problems of diagnostic unreliability, in particular, are emphasized. But, more than the product, it is the process through which DSM-III was developed that comes in for detailed description and commentary. The role of Robert Spitzer, head of the DSM-III Task Force, and the extent to which he alledgedly permitted political as well as scientific considerations to influence the DSM-III development are the book's dominant themes. Serious concerns by dynamically oriented psychiatrists are documented; and from outside psychiatry, the American Psychological Association objections to the medical model and to the definition of mental disorders as a subset of medical disorders are noted. Recommended for undergraduate and graduate psychology collections and for medical libraries.”

P. G. Romine, Choice

“Like the Zuni, whose intricate classification system projected their clan-based social order onto the natural world, modern psychiatry uses its classification system to embed its professional authority in the very definition of mental I llness. The official psychiatric nosology, published in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 3d edition (DSM-III), is thus both an instrument of professional dominance and the focus of resistance on the part of dominated mental health workers. The Selling of DSM is one such act of resistance, but one that offers a penetrating analysis of the political and rhetorical strategies by which the DSM-III was instituted. . . . This book is a critique of the field of mental health services that will help workers in that area take a more critical and reflexive stance toward DSM-III, IV, and beyond. For those interested in the sociology of psychiatry or the professions, it offers a fascinating, but decidedly partial, case study.”

—Daniel Breslau, Contemporary Sociology

"The Selling of DSM is a well-documented expose of the pretense that psychiatric diagnoses are the names of genuine diseases and of the authentication of this fraud by an unholy alliance of the media, the government, and psychiatry. I recommend this book to anyone concerned about the catastrophic economic and moral conse­quences of psychiatrizing the human predicament."

—Thomas Szasz, M.D., State Universityof New York, Health Science Center, Syracuse

"The book is fascinating, hard hitting, and well documented....Kirk and Kutchins describe the interlocked scientific and political issues clearly, precisely, and thoroughly. They show, convincingly, that DSM does not provide the diagnostic reliability its backers claim... .Kirk and Kutchins' judgments and interpretations are harsh, but also genuine. Supporters of DSM will recognize the events, structures, and processes described...."

—John Mirowsky, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"These authors have offered the reader their courage and their scholarship in this important book. Their analysis of the icon of DSM is both incisive and balanced, and it should provide all mental health practitioners fuel for thought and public debate."

—Carol H. Meyer, School of Social Work, Columbia University

About the Author

Herb Kutchins is professor of social work at California State University, Sacramento. He earned his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. In addition to his articles about psychiatric diagnosis, he has written about the fiduciary relationship, advocacy, and other issues involving law and social reform. He is currently doing research on prescription of psychotropic medication by nonphysicians.

Stuart A. Kirk is distinguished professor emeritus of social welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California-Los Angeles.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mira de Vries on July 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Kirk & Kutchins are known for their critiques of the DSM. After this book they published Making us Crazy in 1997 (with their names turned around, Kutchins & Kirk). Neither of the university libraries in Amsterdam have the 1997 book, because they are underfunded, or because criticizing psychiatry has become taboo? Either way, I was motivated to read The Selling of DSM because I kept running into this title in other books critiquing the DSM, such as by Boyle, Caplan, and Horwitz.

It opens promisingly with a delightful quote from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass:

"What's the use of having names," the Gnat said, "if they won't answer to them?" "No use to them, said Alice, but it's useful to the people that name them, I suppose."

Throughout the book I found myself nodding, not only in agreement, but also because I kept falling asleep. The book is incredibly boring. It needn't have been that way. Many names that become familiar once you've been reading on this subject for a while march across its pages, such as Sabshin, Andreasen, and the Big Star of the DSM, Robert Spitzer. The book could have read like a psychiatric soap. I don't know whether to praise the authors for resisting the temptation or criticize them for failing to highlight the personal intrigues involved.
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