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Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement Paperback – April 1, 1997
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In this seminal work, Dr. Szasz examines the similarities between the Inquisition and institutional psychiatry. His purpose is to show 'that the belief in mental illness and the social actions to which it leads have the same moral implications and political consequences as had the belief in witchcraft and the social actions to which it led.'
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Szasz states in the Preface to this 1970 book, "In an earlier work, The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct (Revised Edition), I tried to show how and why the concept of mental illness is erroneous and misleading. In the present work, I shall try to show how and why the ethical convictions and social arrangements based on this concept constitute an immoral ideology of intolerance. In particular, I shall compare the belief in witchcraft and the persecution of witches with the belief in mental illness and the persecution of mental patients."
Here are some representative quotations from the book:
"What these seemingly diverse 'therapeutic' movements have in common not only with one another but also with such modern totalitarian movements as National Socialism and Communism, is that each seeks to protect the integrity of an excessively homogeneous and pluralistic society and its dominant ethic."
"The result was that everyone's conduct---living or dead, primitive or modern, famous or infamous---became a fit subject for the psychopathologist's scrutiny, explanation, and stigmatization."
"In sum, the effect, if not in intent, of the modern psychiatric interpretation of the witch-mania is the debasement, as insane, of millions of innocent men, women, and children... The end of one ideology is thus the beginning of another: where religious heresy ends, psychiatric heresy begins; where the persecution of the witch ends, the persecution of the madman begins."
"The metamorphisis of the medieval into the modern mind entailed a vast ideological conversion from the perspective of theology to that of science. My thesis is that the development of the concept of mental illness is best understood as part of this change."
"From the foregoing we may safely conclude that the psychiatric opinion about homosexuals is not a scientific proposition but a medical prejudice."
"It is necessary to keep in mind here that most people diagnosed as physically ill FEEL sick and consider themselves sick; whereas most people diagnosed as mentally ill DO NOT FEEL sick and DO NOT consider themselves sick."
"The history of psychiatry, as I think I have demonstrated in this volume, is largely the account of changing fashions in the theory of practice of psychiatric violence, cast in the self-approbating idiom of medical diagnosis and treatment."
Szasz is dubious of the majority gaze on the outlier deviants (people) of society, as such attention generally results in helping (torturing) them, much like the witch hunters of 12th century Europe called burning witches (people) `relaxing' them. Today's societal scapegoats (the wretched, the poor, the mentally ill, the economically and physically ill), are branded and sent into the wilds of the modern social desert; the penitentiary, the streets, or end up the targets of insensible, high-tech bombs.
Szasz's book from 1971 endures today, thriving in our bizarre technological world of government internet spying, and the torture/oppression of people in the Arab/Muslim world. The totalitarian state has now arrived in the 21st century with near total government surveillance and legally approved torture of deviants (people), as government sanctioned enemies (al qaeda, whistleblowers, etc.), are identified and punished, even though these people have similar needs and expectations as the rest of us supposed 'normals.' The Orwellian parallels are too thick and present to overlook here in the smart-phone age. In the totalitarian state of 2013 the oppressors are the same old christian fundamentalists of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", the Inquisitors of the 12th century Europe, or the stoners of scapegoats in antiquity, always people of self-importance who need other people to debase and label as deviant. The only partial solution, says Szasz, is to be alert where this social impulse is manifest in society. There legislation can possibly restrain the oppressors or succor the victims. The only auspice, Szasz implores, is to try and identify which groups or individuals of today are being scapegoated, those deemed as non-human, the disenfranchised, the poor, the vulnerable (the very young and very old), and those labelled as mentally ill by the authorities, and try and raise awareness of institutional scapegoating; though even that can draw the gaze of the moral masses in ways that can be dangerous, for who wishes to be identified with the non-human, ripe for wholesale repression by the military-industrial core, as in the cases against recent whistleblowers. In reality these scapegoats are as human as you or I, and we should step back and give them the same consideration we do our own selves, lest we fall into the trap that it is actually good to commit certain unnecessary injustices, which occur regularly, and with historical accuracy, among Homo Egoisticus.
This is a grim book, as attested to in the epilogue paraphrasing Kosinski's "The Painted Bird," but is brimming with contrarian truth that challenges and negates the smiling newscasts of propaganda and predatory consumerism of eternal Christmas. While Szasz focuses on his own profession, psychiatry and medicine, his lessons have broad application in many institutional settings: education, the legal system, law enforcement, the corporate world, et al.
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