Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices

Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices

by Thomas Szasz
     
 

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The libertarian philosophy of freedom is characterized by two fundamental beliefs: the right to be left alone and the duty to leave others alone. Psychiatric practice routinely violates both of these beliefs. It is based on the notion that self-ownership—exemplified by suicide—is a not an inherent right, but a privilege subject to the review of

Overview

The libertarian philosophy of freedom is characterized by two fundamental beliefs: the right to be left alone and the duty to leave others alone. Psychiatric practice routinely violates both of these beliefs. It is based on the notion that self-ownership—exemplified by suicide—is a not an inherent right, but a privilege subject to the review of psychiatrists as representatives of society. In Faith in Freedom, Thomas Szasz raises fundamental questions about psychiatric practices that inhibit an individual’s right to freedom.

His questions are fundamental. Is suicide an exercise of rightful self-ownership or a manifestation of mental disorder? Does involuntary confinement under psychiatric auspices constitute unjust imprisonment, or is it therapeutically justified hospitalization? Should forced psychiatric drugging be interpreted as assault and battery on the person or is it medical treatment?

The ethical standards of psychiatric practice mandate that psychiatrists employ coercion. Forgoing such “intervention” is considered a dereliction of the psychiatrists’ “duty to protect.” How should friends of freedom—especially libertarians—deal with the conflict between elementary libertarian principles and prevailing psychiatric practices? In Faith in Freedom, Thomas Szasz addresses this question more directly and more profoundly than in any of his previous works.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Libertarian philosophy of freedom is characterized by two fundamental beliefs: Self-ownership is a basic right, and initiating violence is a fundamental wrong. In contrast, psychiatric practice is based on the assumptions that self-ownership—epitomized by suicide—is a medical wrong, and that initiating violence against persons called “mental patients” is a medical right. In this book, Szasz examines these assumptions, considering issues such as whether self-medication and self-determined death are exercises of rightful self-ownership or manifestations of serious mental diseases, and whether deprivation of human liberty under psychiatric auspices constitute odious detention or therapeutically justified hospitalization.”

Law and Social Inquiry

"Thomas Szasz has created an extraordinary body of work, that continues to raise consequential challenges to the the prevailing myths of the culture of psychology."

Tobias Wolff, PEN/Faulkner Award-winner, Stanford University

"Szasz has produced a prodigious literature of liberty--and, at age 85, he is not finished. In my view, his criticism of libertarian obliviousness to coercive psychiatry is spot-on. One hopes that Faith in Freedom will be an alarm clock for sleeping libertarians."

Sheldon Richman, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

"[Faith in Freedom] is a strikingly original book, written by one of the foremost champions of psychiatric freedom."

—SirReadaLot.org

"Anyone concerned with the inroads psychiatry has made into a free society is aware of the path-breaking work of Thomas Szasz, whose courageous and outspoken commentaries on the psychiatric profession and the mental health movement have won him the esteem and gratitude of all who love liberty. In his latest book, Faith in Freedom, Szasz analyzes the moral and political principles upon which a nation of free and responsible individuals rests and shows how psychiatry, which poses as a benign institution whose interests are compatible with individual liberty, constitutes one of its greatest threats. Szasz has again written an immensely valuable monograph. This impassioned account of the pernicious role played by institutional psychiatry and of how the concept of mental illness has been misunderstood by those writers who otherwise have devoted themselves to defending a free society does a singular service to all lovers of liberty."

—Ronald Hamowy, professor of intellectual history, University of Alberta

"Szasz's book is superb. He makes a devastating logical and factual case against .what he calls the new slavery. As someone who has in a small way experienced the slavery, I can appreciate his advocacy of voluntary psychiatry. He has written a literate, sophisticated brief for what Adam Smith called 'the simple and obvious system of natural liberty' applied to the one area of modern life in which our liberties are still eroding: psychiatry."

—Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Crossing: A Memoir

"Szasz provides biting profiles of leading libertarian figures and what they've said about psychiatry. Ignorance, haziness, omission, and inconsistency are exposed—Hayek's work on theoretical psychology is 'a monumental mistake.' Szasz's consternation is justified and cause for concern that even libertarians think of some as less equal than others."

—Daniel Klein, associate professor of economics, Santa Clara University

"One cannot finish this spirited book without admiration both for Szaz's devotion to liberty and his acuity in its defense."

The Mises Review

"Thomas Szasz's new book examines one of the hardest of hard cases for libertarians: the right of psychiatric patients to self-ownership and hence autonomous decision-making. Szasz challenges the acceptance by many libertarian scholars of the power of the state to forcibly diagnose and treat people as mentally ill and by so doing asks us to extend our faith in freedom to people whose actions have placed them outside the bounds of 'normal' behaviour."

—John Blundell, director general, Institute of Economic Affairs

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765802446
Publisher:
Transaction Publishers
Publication date:
06/01/2004
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Szasz (1920–2012) was professor of psychiatry emeritus at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, Washington, DC. He was a prominent figure in the anti-psychiatry movement and a critic of the moral and scientific foundation of psychiatry.

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