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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE EARLIER CRITIQUES BY A PROMINENT CRITIC OF PSYCHIATRY, August 11, 2010
This review is from: Law, Liberty, and Psychiatry: An Inquiry Into the Social Uses of Mental Health Practices (Paperback)
Thomas Szasz (born 1920) is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center. He is a well-known critic of psychiatry, of the social role of medicine in modern society, and is a social libertarian.

In the Preface to this 1963 book, Szasz writes, "Psychiatric activity is medical in name only. For the most part, psychiatrists are engaged in attempts to change the behavior and values of individuals, groups, institutions, and sometimes even of nations. Hence, psychiatry is a form of social engineering. It should be recognized as such... The present book has two major aims: first, to present a critical inquiry into the current social, and especially legal, uses of psychiatry; second, to offer a reasoned dissent from what I consider the theory and practice of false psychiatric liberalism. Most of the legal and social applications of psychiatry, undertaken in the name of psychiatric liberalism, are actually instances of despotism."

(Interestingly, he states in the 1989 Preface to the Second Edition of the book, "why---I am often asked---did I enter psychiatric and psychoanalytical training? I did so for two reasons: because I wanted to practice psychotherapy, and because I wanted to see if I could mount a successful critique of the fundamental principles and practices of psychiatry.")

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

"(T)he relationship between the mental hospital and its inmates is suffused with dishonesty and deceit. Usually, the patient is not told the true reason for his detainment. Nor is he given explicit directions about the way he must behave. Finally, his discharge is not predicated upon objective criteria, such as confinement for a given period of time. It depends instead upon the judgment by the staff of a transformation of his personality."
"Let us recall that Freud, Jung and Adler treated only consenting patients. They refused to inflict therapy on people who did not want it. This is true also for most of the best known contemporary psychotherapists."
"My objections to many current practices ... rest on a fundamental proposition: We should value liberty more highly than mental health, no matter how defined."
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 24, 2012 11:40:50 AM PDT
MMMark says:
Fans and critics of Szasz, and even the merely curious, can find an ongoing discussion here:

http://szasz.hyperboards.com

Posted on May 20, 2014 6:38:29 AM PDT
N.. Martin says:
Szasz staunchly rejected being labeled an "anti-psychiatrist." Near the end of his career he wrote a book attacking anti-psychiatry.

In reply to an earlier post on May 20, 2014 7:08:46 AM PDT
Your point is well-taken. However, for the sake of a brief Amazon review "headline," I think the general term conveys the sense of his work (i.e., as a psychiatrist himself, who was sharply critical of the psychiatric profession) better than any other shorter, more nuanced term. But thanks for making the distinction for readers!

In reply to an earlier post on May 20, 2014 8:39:12 AM PDT
N.. Martin says:
I accept your good intention, but Szasz loathed anti-psychiatry and its progenitors, and was not opposed to psychiatry on principle, so long as it eschewed coercion. He noted that even the so-called anti-psychiatrists resorted to coercion when it suited their purposes. Comparably, he was an atheist, but would have rejected the label anti-religionist. Use of the term severely distorts his stated beliefs.

In reply to an earlier post on May 20, 2014 9:04:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 20, 2014 9:06:58 AM PDT
I changed the review title. (But as a Google search will show, "anti-psychiatrist" is a label that is WIDELY used to describe Dr. Szasz...notwithstanding that it was not HIS preferred term.) But I don't think it's worth arguing about...! Take care...

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 16, 2014 8:29:34 AM PDT
Szasz was a healer. His argument that "mental illness" does not exist was not intended to abolish the role of the alienist, but to point out that the fundamental assumptions of psychiatry were irrational. He also demonstrated that actual practice violated the primum no nocere ("first of all, do no harm") commandment. To this day, he remains a bone in the throat of many physicians, legislators, and bureaucrats. http://pix11.com/2014/06/10/nj-dad-says-state-is-threatening-to-take-away-son-after-pencil-twirling-incident/
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Location: Sacramento, CA USA

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