The Medicalization of Everyday Life: Selected Essays

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A collection of essays by one of the most influential and original thinkers of our generation.

Defining "medicalization" as the perception of nonmedical conditions as medical problems and nondiseases as diseases, Thomas Szasz has devoted much of his career to exposing the dangers of "medicalizing" the conditions of some who simply refuse to conform to society's expectations. Szasz argues that modern psychiatry's tireless ambition to explain the human condition has led to the treatment of life's difficulties and oddities as clinical illnesses rather than as humanity revealed in its fullness.

This collection of impassioned essays, published between 1973 and 2006, chronicles the author's long campaign against the orthodoxies of psychiatry. From "Medicine to Magic" to "Medicine as Social Control," the book delves into the fascinating history of medicalization, including "The Discovery of Drug Addiction," "Persecutions for Witchcraft and Drugcraft," and "Food Abuse and Foodaholism." In a society that has little tolerance for those who live outside its rules, Dr. Szasz's writings are as relevant today as ever.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Psychiatrist Szasz, professor emeritus at SUNY Upstate Medical University, continues his iconoclastic career in this short book of essays (previously published in journals) spanning much of his professional life. He details how the medical and legal systems have combined to form a new type of government: the pharmacracy. Examples include improving public health through "coercive paternalism" (read: bans on smoking and transfat). This, Szasz states, is a crime, and psychiatry is the prima facie culprit, a structure built on oppression. Szasz reiterates his longstanding idea that mental illness is not a disease and drugs cannot treat the mind, which is an abstraction, not a physical entity. Szasz is principally concerned with the individual's freedom from the state. In "Killing as Therapy: The Case of Terri Schiavo," he asserts that the withdrawal of life support from Schiavo was emblematic of doctors "waging a war on autonomy" (since Schiavo's own desire in the matter was not known). But all is not tirade; Szasz can be subtly humorous: "Being officially nuts is like being officially heretical or un-American, not like being infected with malaria." This is a wonderful, impassioned book that is, considering the recent media attention to psychopharmaceuticals, a welcome investigation of the social ramifications involved. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815608677
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Szasz is professor emeritus of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York. His books include Law, Liberty, and Psychiatry, The Manufacture of Madness, Ideology and Insanity, Our Right to Drugs, The Myth of Psychotherapy, and Pharmacracy, all published by Syracuse University Press.
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Table of Contents

Preface     vii
Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     xiii
Demarcating Disease from Nondisease
Mental Illness: A Metaphorical Disease     3
Mental Illness: The New Phlogiston     10
Might Makes the Metaphor     19
Diagnosis: From Description to Prescription     21
Diagnoses Are Not Diseases     27
The Existential Identity Thief     37
Defining Disease     41
Disturbing Behavior and Medicine's Responses to It
The Origin of Psychiatry: Coercion as Cure     55
Hysteria as Language     71
Routine Neonatal Circumcision: A Medical Ritual     80
The Fatal Temptation: Drug Control and Suicide     90
Pedophilia Therapy     94
Psychiatry's War on Criminal Responsibility     102
Killing as Therapy: The Case of Terri Schiavo     117
Peter Singer's Ethics of Medicalization     134
Pharmacracy: The New Despotism     150
Notes     171
Selected Bibliography     189
Index     197
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