Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 94%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (14) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $19.03   
  • Used (9) from $1.99   


In recent decades, American medicine has become increasingly politicized and politics has become increasingly medicalized. Behaviors previously seen as virtuous or wicked, wise or unwise are now dealt with as healthy or sick--unwanted behaviors to be controlled as if they were health issues. The modern penchant for transforming human problems into diseases and judicial sanctions into treatments, replacing the rule of law with the rule of medical discretion, leads to the creation of a type of government social critic Thomas Szasz calls pharmacracy.

Medicalizing troublesome behaviors and social problems is tempting to voters and politicians alike: it panders to the people by promising to satisfy their needs for dependence on medical authority and offers easy self-aggrandizement to politicians as the dispensers of more and better health care. Thus, the people gain a convenient scapegoat, enabling them to avoid personal responsibility for their behavior. The government gains a rationale for endless and politically expedient wars against social problems defined as public health emergencies. The health care system gains prestige, funding, and bureaucratic power that only an alliance with the political system can provide.

However, Szasz warns, the creeping substitution of pharmacracy for democracy--private medical concerns increasingly perceived as requiring a political response--inexorably erodes personal freedom and dignity. Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America is a clear and convincing presentation of this hidden danger, all too often ignored in our health care debates and avoided in our political contests.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nearly 40 years after psychiatrist Karl Menninger called the medical profession on the carpet for misnaming medical conditions so that various forms of treatment could be justified and, 24 years later, Susan Sontag declared that "illnesses have always been used as metaphors to enliven charges that a society was corrupt or unjust," noted and controversial psychiatrist Szasz (Fatal Freedom), as lively and contentious as ever, pursues similar lines of thought, examining the medicalization of politics and the politics of medicine in contemporary America. At the base of what he calls our modern "pharmacracy" a state where "all sorts of human problems are transformed into diseases and the rule of law extends into the rule of medicine" stands a virulent misunderstanding of disease, in the "literal" or scientific sense. It is, he argues in accord with the theories of 19th-century pathologist Rudolf Virchow, very simply an injury or abnormality in the cells, tissues or organs of the body. Yet, he maintains, the medical profession and politicians have today named as diseases a wide range of human behaviors, from alcoholism and obesity to mental illness and infertility. Moreover, some of these metaphorical diseases are elevated to public health problems subject to government intervention; thus, in Szasz's view, America has created a contemporary fascist health state in which its campaigns aimed at the eradication of smoking and obesity focus not on the responsibility of individuals to quit smoking or to lose weight but on the promise that well-funded research agendas will solve the problem. Plenty of health-care professionals and politicians will disagree with Szasz's definition of disease and his condemnation of the modern "pharmacracy," but no reader can put down this book without having been disturbed, provoked and challenged to see the American medical profession in a new light. (Apr. 30) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Szasz (emeritus, psychiatry, State University of New York Upstate Medical University) explores the development of a "pharmacracy" as the natural outgrowth of the tendency to medicalize social problems, deviance, and disruptive behavior. He describes the relationships between medical and political authority, between increased government control and increased funding for health care, and between the medicalization of individual behavior and the avoidance of personal responsibility. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275971960
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 238
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

THOMAS SZASZ is Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York. He is the author of the classic, The Myth of Mental Illness, as well as Our Right to Drugs (Praeger, 1992), The Meaning of Mind (Praeger, 1996), and Fatal Freedom, (Praeger, 1999).

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations

Introduction: What Counts as Disease?

Medicine: From Gnostic Healing to Empirical Science

Scientific Medicine: Disease

Clinical Medicine: Diagnosis

Certifying Medicine: Disability

Psychiatric Medicine: Disorder

Philosophical Medicine: Critique or Ratification?

Political Medicine: The Therapeutic State





Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)