Tough Love for Thomas Szasz: A Book Review


A review of Thomas Szasz: an appraisal of his legacy. Edited by C. V. Haldipur, James L. Knoll IV, and Eric v. d. Luft. Oxford University Press, 2019.

Google Books preview here.

mad magazine1961 was a significant year in the history of psychiatry because it spawned a proliferation of critical books by psychiatrists, sociologists, and philosophers in both the United States and Europe—launching psychiatry into crisis.” (Pols, p. 16)

Call it a coincidence, but Mad Magazine was right: with the publication of The Myth of Mental Illness, the world turned upside down in 1961. The author of that book, Dr. Thomas Szasz (1920-2012), was one of the greatest thinkers and prose stylists of the last 100 years. Has it really been seven years since he died? It has, and enough time has passed that we can start to take stock of his legacy.

This important new collection of essays by former colleagues, psychiatrists, philosophers, and legal experts does just that.

I should make two disclosures before proceeding. First, the editors of this new book were colleagues of Szasz’s at SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York, and they have hosted me in their speaker series several times. Second, theirs is the second book to examine Szasz’s legacy, and I contributed an essay to the first.

Of course, the editors make important disclosures of their own. First, as Dr. James Knoll remarks, psychiatry is “a hybrid profession of clinical science and humanities” (104). Second, as Dr. Haldipur states, “Szasz’s own writings are best read as philosophy rather than as psychiatry. . . . His true métier was that of a philosopher rather than of a psychiatrist” (278). This explains why I, a professor of Classics—a branch of the humanities, including philosophy—venture to review a book dedicated to an appraisal of Szasz’s legacy.

What is that legacy? In a 1998 manifesto, Szasz himself put it the following way:

  1. Mental illness is a metaphor (metaphorical disease).
  2. Psychiatry and the State ought to be separated by a “wall.”
  3. We ought to presume that psychiatric “defendants” are mentally competent.
  4. Involuntary mental hospitalization is imprisonment under the guise of treatment.
  5. The opinions of experts about the “mental state” of defendants ought to be inadmissible in court.
  6. We seek to replace involuntary psychiatry (psychiatric slavery) with contractual relations between care givers and clients.

Szasz undergirded these six contentions with an enormous apparatus of books, articles, and media appearances. How do they hold up under scrutiny?

Readers familiar with The Myth of Mental Illness will recognize the first point as his main contention there (it is accurately summarized by Church’s essay here). And on the evidence of this book, I can only conclude it emerges brighter and more solid than before. The authors all concede the point either implicitly or explicitly. For example, in 1994 Dr. Allen Frances led the group that revised the DSM, the official book of psychiatric diagnoses. In 2019, however, Dr. Frances writes (171): “I agree completely with Szasz that mental disorders are not diseases and that treating them as such can sometimes have noxious legal consequences.” And although they will disagree, other authors implicitly concede the point by simply contesting the definition of disease or health (Wilson, Pies, Torrey). But since Szasz had always defined those words in biological terms, contesting his premise simply changes the debate rather than resolves it.

The second five points all relate to Szasz’s policy ideas. Most chapters in this book engage with them in one form or another, and several are devoted to them exclusively:

  • What should we do to or for someone contemplating suicide? (Knoll)
  • What are the best practices for therapists in clinical settings? (Dewan and Kaplan)
  • Should we keep the insanity defense? (Pickering)
  • How should psychiatric research funding be prioritized and directed? (Gupta)

Suffice it to say that most authors shrink from Szasz’s commitment to libertarianism and the utopian schemes that cold creed tends to dream up.

Other essays provide absorbing context to the development of Szasz’s thought or rhetorical strategies (Pols, v.d. Luft, Radden), or they extend Szasz’s legacy by looking at “psychopathy” (which, to my surprise, is not considered a mental illness) (Ciaccio). Still others, such as Sadler, examine the relationship between mental illnesses and value judgments; and since, in my view, Szasz’s greatest books—The Theology of Medicine, The Manufacture of Madness, and Coercion as Cure—hew closely to this theme, I would have liked to see more along these lines.

The six points Szasz himself enumerated, however, are not the only points the editors consider part of Szasz’s legacy. As Haldipur emphasizes in an important epilogue, Szasz’s writings did play some role in deinstitutionalization, and Szasz himself succumbed to the unethical temptation of retroactive diagnosis on at least one occasion (viz. in his 2006 book on Virginia Woolf).

Surely the most maddening aspect of Szasz’s legacy, however, was his decision to partner with Scientology to achieve his policy ambitions. That decision continues to confuse many people, but aside from one nod to it by Haldipur and another by Torrey, no one chose to kick that hornet’s nest. Someone should. As Torrey notes, “Szasz’s association with Scientology has probably done more to undermine his reputation, and thus lose the benefit of his many useful ideas, than any other factor” (101). I agree.

Silver tarnishes in your china cabinet, whereas scouring and buffing restores its gleam. The editors’ decision to take that approach in this collection—tough love, not unconditional love—makes Thomas Szasz: an appraisal of his legacy an important assessment of his thought. It deserves to be read, discussed, and debated widely.


  1. I think it does a grave dis-service to Szasz’s legacy, to so briefly mention his brief entanglement with Scientology, and omit all reference to “The Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights”(CCHR). And, to NOT note that Szasz soon saw both CCHR, AND Scientology correctly, and distanced himself from both, especially Scientology. He had to discard the still-clean waters of CCHR, along with the dirty bathwater of Scientology.
    And, I bet VERY FEW of you actually have more than a surface knowledge of ALL of L. Ron Hubbard’s life experience, and the whole morass of Scientology and CCHR. It’s telling that STILL, in 2019, the largest single organized anti-psychiatry group is CCHR…. Not even “MindFreedom” comes close…. THAT is what’s REALLY sad….
    BTW, in Szasz’s Time Magazine obituary, the ONLY person quoted was the neo-medical-fascist, E. Fuller Torrey…. Szasz led me to Breggin, who then led me to FREEDOM from the pseudoscience of psychiatry, so yes I’m sensitive to such snubs….

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    • Excellent comment. Thank you Bradford. I would recommend that people read Szasz’s works before they read interpretations of his works. Szasz is far superior to his critics. Those who still feel like they need to read Szasz’s critics ought to read “Szasz Under Fire: The Psychiatric Abolitionist Faces His Critics,” because at least this book contains Szasz’s own responses to his critics. Appraisals of Szasz’s legacy are worth much less than Szasz’s actual legacy. In fact, appraisals usually do more to obscure and obfuscate a legacy than to clarify. Naturally, I champion any effort to expose more people to the works of Thomas Szasz, but this blog post invites skepticism for a variety of reasons.

      First of all, many of Szasz’s colleagues had an axe to grind because Szasz exposed their chicanery with such relentless, Socratic precision. Second, psychiatry is not a hybrid profession of clinical science and humanities. That is sheer nonsense, and Szasz knew it. Psychiatry is a pseudo-scientific system of slavery that masquerades as a medical profession. There is nothing scientific about it, unless you wish to call it what it is, and what Szasz so aptly described, namely “The Science of Lies.”

      Third, although it is true that Szasz was an able philosopher, his works are best read how he intended them to be read, and not merely as philosophy rather than psychiatry. Like Karl Kraus before him, Szasz considered himself to be a noble rhetorician, that is, he used language correctly in defense of truth. The truth is that psychiatry is neither medical nor a profession. Szasz exposed psychiatry for the sham that it is, and he exposed its founders for the frauds and the charlatans that they were.

      Szasz’s legacy is so much greater than the six points that he included in his 1998 manifesto. Szasz was a psychiatric abolitionist, not merely a critic of psychiatry. A serious appraisal of Szasz’s legacy would mention this fact clearly from the outset. The list of the authors who composed “Thomas Szasz: an appraisal of his legacy” invites even greater skepticism. As if the mention of Allen Frances weren’t enough to discourage a person from reading the book, add to that the names of Pies and Torrey, and you have a certain recipe for what Szasz would have recognized as base rhetoric or pseudo-science. Dr. Phil Hickey has exposed the mendacity of these and other psychiatric apologists. (See, e.g., or )

      Furthermore, although Szasz’s libertarianism was too extreme for my taste, his commitments were to freedom and responsibility, commitments to counteract the real utopian schemes of the socialist and communist ideologies that inhere in what Szasz called “The Therapeutic State.”

      “The Theology of Medicine,” “The Manufacture of Madness,” and “Coercion as Cure” are indeed great books.
      But Szasz’s wrote many great books, and any list of his great books that fails to mention “Psychiatric Slavery” or “Liberation by Oppression” is incomplete. And as far as Szasz’s connections to Scientology are concerned, Bradford’s comment above hits the mark. The attempt to discredit Szasz by emphasizing his connections to Scientology, especially by citing Torrey as an authority, is yet another reason to be skeptical of this so-called “appraisal.”

      Szasz already gave himself enough tough love. It’s Szasz’s critics and appraisers that need the tough love that Szasz already gave them. The problem is that instead of reading and understanding, his critics continue to obscure and obfuscate Szasz’s works to the detriment of his legacy and to the detriment of others who would benefit from it.

      In other words, begin by reading Szasz, and not his critics or his “appraisers.”

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      • People criticize Szasz for associating with Scientology without really knowing what Scientology stands for in terms of psychiatry. The CCHR, which is a branch of Scientology, aims to end ECT worldwide, aims to stop the drugging of children, and they work by pressuring the legislators just the same as we do. Only they have huge money behind them. You can’t argue with the high quality of their videos. They may want to end psychiatry for different reasons than survivors and witnesses do. But no matter their reasons, their aims are the same as ours. Their understanding of why ECT is harmful to people is completely in alignment with our own thinking. It is brain damage. And the drugs? Harmful to children, harmful to society. Their book and video on how the Nazis used psychiatry and how the Nazi thinking is so similar to the DSM is exemplary. It is all a great way to get this info out to the public. They are doing wonderful things to end these harmful atrocities. Why shouldn’t Szasz have associated with them? Was that so terrible?

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      • Thanks for saving me the trouble DS. I believe we’ve gone through this with Fontaine and his hostility/resentment/jealousy of Szasz before. Probably anything I might have to add would likely end up being moderated anyway so I’ll pass for now.

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        • It’s good to have other witnesses though. There is so much to learn from Szasz and his real legacy, and not just because he was the most effective critic of psychiatry and a psychiatric abolitionist. We can also learn from the way his work was received, and how he was treated. Furthermore, the continuing jealousy of Szasz shows us a bit what the uphill battle will be for present and future psychiatric abolitionists. In this way we can celebrate Szasz’s work and his legacy while also learning to be wiser than he was.

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    • I’m not aware of Tom ever distancing himself from CCHR. Wikipedia was awash with misinformation about Szasz and Scientology until I posted a quote from a late-life interview with Tom. He simply said he wasn’t a Scientologist and he thought CCHR was valuable. I think connecting with CCHR was his second biggest mistake. His first, I think, was not publishing on more philosophic topics unrelated to psychiatry. In my view he ranks with history’s great philosophers, but he squandered the chance to be identified as such.

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    • Laing and Foucault, especially Laing, got posthumously skewered in Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared, by Szasz, and here, with Thomas Szasz: an appraisal of his legacy, or reappraisal actually, something similar is going on. All these acquaintances and associates of Szasz, from envy or who knows what messed up motive, are coming out of the woodwork to take their parting shots at him, and posthumously, as if they could kill him twice. Despite the title of the article, “tough love”, a-knocking at Szasz for not just being another forgettable face on a book-jacket. and wishing to see him doing, say, time for his misdeeds, the Szasz I remember is the indefatigable opponent of forced hospitalization, and for that, I would say that a tribute, perhaps a permanent monument or a memorial, is more the order of the day instead. Szasz, as a general rule, was so much better than his detractors, and, funny thing, he still is.

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    • Also Bateson, and Laing praised him greatly. Laing said that Bateson had an incredible ability to understand schizophrenics. And the Double Bind Theory is kind of where it all started.

      Laing also worked with that American on the East Coast, not read him cannot remember his name, had a big influence on anti-psychiatry.

      In Anti-Oedipus, which came out in France 1972, Deleuze and Guattari cite Laing and Bateson. But in a curious way, they are saying that they break with them because they do not see a schizophrenic agent coming from the family, they see it as coming from Capitalism. Okay, but what they have made clear that they see as the family is the bourgeoisies family, as created by Capitalism.

      D. G. Cooper’s “Death of the Family”, I see as the template for Anti-Oedipus. Deleuze and Guatttari reference Cooper’s book before that, and the one immediately after. But not “Death of the Family”

      Never read this, but the books are similar.

      Today I would say that it is Foucault and his Biopolitics or Biopower which we should follow.

      Basically, the state used to punish people with death. Now they don’t need to do that. They punish people by forcing them to go on living. And this about fits it with people in the psychiatric system, on drugs, or in therapy or recovery, or seeking healing.

      Seems like Alain Badiou is seen as the successor to both Deleuze and Foucault, and maybe his 1982 “The Subject” is the place to start.

      Remember that France had instituted a Psychotherapy license, and Foucault was the first person in the country to earn it. About 1960.

      Also, this is very anti-psychotherapy, and notice how psychotherapy is always always always linked to theories about THE FAMILY.

      Here at UCI, and also readily available on paper:

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  2. Thank you for allowing me to comment. I believe that you and the book about Szasz misunderstand his greatness and legacy: he is the first to articulate that “mental illness” is a “myth.” The authors deny Szasz’s true legacy by denying that this is a medical issue of catastrophic proportion. Psychiatry has power as science- a medical science; Dr. James Knoll ignores this fact when he claims that psychiatry is “a hybrid profession of clinical science and humanities.” Consistently, Dr. Haldipur does Szasz a disservice when he states that “Szasz’s own writings are best read as philosophy rather than as psychiatry.” This misunderstanding of Szasz’s legacy permits the author to review a book from one of the greatest medical doctors in history as if it was a purview of the humanities. Szasz was the first articulate medical doctor to describe psychiatry as addressing a myth; this challenge to psychiatry’s legitimacy as a medical science will be his legacy!

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    • Yes, Steve Spiegel, I would agree. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine because it is taught in medical schools and the AMA and other organizations claim it is medical. Whether psych is legitimate or not depends on how you define legitimate, because legitimate might mean “what is generally accepted.” It is by all means based on false premises, which Szasz most eloquently and clearly points out. He does this by examining psych as a profession and a medical science by examining its claims on a scientific and moral basis. In my opinion, he successfully shreds it to bits! After you read Szasz you won’t have any doubts anymore! Which is why, when I have recommended Szasz to my friends who are still in the System, they refuse to read him. It’s scary to lose your identity, whether it had any basis in truth or not!

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    • I’d like to see a tribute to Thomas Szasz because I think if anyone deserves it, he does. I know that, posthumously, “tough love” must mean something else. I think Szasz can easily withstand the criticism. When, after all, was Szasz not the target of “criticism” from those who were merely following the herd? I think there is still this herd-like mentality among those who try to tarnish his image. To oppose the person who dedicated much of his life to opposing involuntary hospitalization is like an endorsement of involuntary hospitalization. As a person who has been deprived of his civil liberties, at one time or another, by the “mental health” system, count me in the Thomas Szasz camp, please. I can brook no equivocation in the matter. Szasz did what so many others merely pretended to do. He supported us in our desire for liberty, and in protection of our rights to that liberty. I don’t see how this Szasz bashing, on any scale, can amount to anything but more excuses for abuses.

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  3. Gratefully, I don’t care how much I may be harming myself by not agreeing with E. Fuller Torrey about anything. I mean…come on. We know there are all these would-be progressive “mental health” professionals out there who would take away the freedoms they protect with one hand with the other hand. Professionals who oppose forced treatment on one side of their mouth, only to embrace it on the other. Thomas Szasz took a much stronger position on force, and even if it meant working with some people who some people find distasteful, or some people are prejudiced against, I’d have to agree with Szasz on this one. Doing nothing, in other words, is merely a way of ‘aiding and abetting’ the enemy, and here, by enemy, I mean the enemy of freedom.

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  4. I think it is hilarious that those who believe in the religion of psychiatry criticize the legitimacy of another religion.

    “The only way out was to tell the psychiatrists that they were correct. I am insane but getting better.” Rosenhan experiment.

    Psychiatrist predict a bad future then make the bad future happen by drugging their patient. Drug withdrawal is judged as the mental illness returning and the necessity for drug resumption.

    They accuse the schizophrenic “Positive symptoms of schizophrenia may be related to distortions in time perception.” When it is they themselves who have a distorted perception of time. The future has not happened yet and there is nothing to fear, yet they fear the future and must medicate the present moment to prevent the “bad”.

    The “medicines” one ingests do not have the ability to distinguish between “good” sane thought and “bad” insane thought and attack ONLY the “bad” thoughts. The person decides what is rational or not.

    You can not fix stupid.

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    • Psychiatry is an ideal religion for do-gooder materialists.

      I have an idea for a book called The Gospel According to Psychiatry targeted to a religious audience. A lot of church goers don’t realize that psychiatry is based on the assumption of bio-determinism and that souls do not exist.

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          • Are there any true religions? I don’t think there are any true religions, making them all false. Are there any true Gods? Let’s see…Nope, only the ones bearing an official stamp of approval, that is, the ones supporting the authority of the state, therapeutic *cough, cough*, or otherwise *cough, cough*.

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          • I don’t think religion is supposed to be false or true. It’s a belief. Some of these beliefs work very well for some people, and we’ve got a variety of them, none true, none false. Some religions are harmful to society as a whole. Cults tend to be outside of the norm and also the harmful ones live segregated from the rest of society.

            Psychiatry is a cult. Psychiatry has to capture its subjects and brainwashes them. It has its own dogma that’s at heart, illogical. Psychiatry forces its members into ghetto-like situations such as halfway houses and HUD. Psychiatry takes its subjects out of the mainstream workforce.

            Cults can grow and become more mainstream. Christianity was originally cult-like, a seemingly far-out-there band of kooks, but centuries later, became mainstream. Most denominations of Christianity are not cults. Some are. And the lines are certainly blurred.

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      • “A lot of church goers don’t realize that psychiatry is based on the assumption of bio-determinism and that souls do not exist.” So true, and what’s sad is they are actually teaching the DSM religion in our seminary schools now, and the mainstream religions employ the DMS “bible” worshippers. Largely because the DSM “bible” worshippers cover up child abuse for the mainstream religions. An ethical pastor described this as “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”

        It’s a shame the psychiatric stigmatization religion has overtaken our once Holy Bible believing religions, however. Since the DSM “bible” worshippers’ theology is largely the opposite of Jesus’ theology.

        I agree with Szasz, the DSM “mental disorders” are not diseases, thus should not be treated as such.

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    • It IS a religion. They have their bible, their dogma, their slogans, their own gods they worship called Pharmaceutical companies. Dear God, please send us more money so we can capture more converts. You are brainwashed until you believe, “I have a mental illness, a real illness just like diabetes. It can’t be cured but it can be managed if I blindly obey my treatment team even if it’s very illogical and might kill me.”

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    • You should read his books. Essentially, he says that the idea of “mental illnesses” is only metaphorical – they are not really “illnesses” but “difficulties in living” that have been labeled as such for the purposes of those in positions of power in society. That’s all I’ll say for now – you should read some of his writings. I think they would be very helpful for you to understand why some people say “mental illnesses don’t exist” – very different meaning than “people don’t suffer mentally/emotionally.”

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        • Not at all, and neither does Szaz. The important point is that you can’t DIAGNOSE A DISEASE STATE by looking at HOW SOMEONE ACTS OR FEELS. There is no question that certain physiological conditions can cause mental/emotional symptoms or adverse effects. The problem is claiming that a person has such a condition BECAUSE they have certain mental/emotional effects. For instance, it’s legitimate to say that a person might be depressed because he’s had insufficient sleep, but it’s not legitimate to say that you know he has insufficient sleep because he’s depressed. He MIGHT be depressed due to lack of sleep or due to having a dead end job or because he was abused as a child or because he is lonely and has no connections or because his wife just left him or he lost his job or etc., etc, etc.

          An analogy might be diagnosing a person with “knee pain disorder.” It is meaningless to say that a person has “knee pain disorder” because their knee hurts. You’d have to know WHY the knee was hurting. Maybe it’s arthritis, maybe it’s a muscle cramp, maybe it’s a bruise, maybe it’s nerve damage, who knows? You’d have to analyze it further to find out what was the cause before you made a diagnosis.

          Same with “depression.” Saying “he has depression” tells you nothing at all, except that he’s feeling depressed at that particular time. It may be physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, political, or any mix of the above. So calling “depression” a “disorder” is not only meaningless, it is destructive, because it gives people the idea that the psychiatrists have some understanding that they actually don’t have.

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          • That is exactly what I mean. He is pretty clear about saying that if something is discovered to have a real physiological cause, it is moved into one of the actual medical categories, like neurology or nutrition or internal medicine. Psychiatric “illness” is only reserved for those manifestations that DON’T have an actual known physiological cause, which he properly identifies as a metaphorical use of the term “illness,” since there is no reason to believe there is anything physiologically wrong with the person in question. I’d say his take is, “If you know it’s an actual physical ailment, show me the test and treat it as such. If you can’t show it to be physiological, stop calling it an ‘illness,’ because it isn’t.” I’m no Szaz expert, but that’s what I most recall of his writings.

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          • If “it” is reassigned to the category of physical illness we are no longer talking about psychiatry.

            Btw “depression” is still a feeling, even if it is in response to a physical situation.

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        • Little Turtle, bio has its place. Depression is not a biological “illness,” in fact, there’s no disease process happening there. If the person has hypothyroidism, that is a biological issue and not psychiatric. In fact, a so-called MI is diagnosed (supposedly) AFTER bio is ruled out. Psychiatry states “no biological basis” and then, invents one (chemical imbalance) just to sound medical, and to convince people to take drugs.

          When I was a patient I truly believed that since the drugs “worked” (kinda) then that meant I had a chemical imbalance. This was faulty reasoning. Drugs aren’t some kind of litmus papers that diagnose diseases. If we’re to take the diabetes comparison seriously, that would be like saying, “I was given a shot of insulin which made me feel great, therefore, I must be diabetic.” Huh?

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      • Glasser referred to “psychosis” and extreme states like depression and EDs as “creative symptoming.” Often the person is creative and has unusual thoughts as a coping mechanism or escape device according to him.

        That’s why art can help. You don’t need a “therapist” either.

        I’m doing creative writing and graphic art. A lot of my annoying tics have gone away.

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  5. The CCHR is funded by The Church of Scientology. I personally do not have a problem with that arrangement, as long as the CCHR has adequate funding to pursue its mission.

    Szasz’s libertarianism has long been a problem for me, a “bleeding heart liberal” who otherwise agrees with his analysis of psychiatry and all things “mental health,” based upon my own experiences and also on the writing of others (Kate Millet, Foucault, Whitaker, etc.) that have influenced my outlook. I have found it is not only possible, but necessary, to appreciate Szasz’s deconstruction of psychiatry and friends without buying into his elitist libertarianism.

    My perception of the current situation is that the therapeutic state is not only very much still with us, its powers have grown exponentially since The Myth of Mental Illness was first published. From a position of power and privilege, some mental health professionals can now pick and choose from Szasz’s writings that which they accept, that which they reject, that which they will accept with modifications. Because the mental health industry is now so incredibly powerful, so deeply rooted in all aspects of life in modern culture…

    “business as usual” will remain unchanged, and the religion of psychiatry and related field will continue to grow in power and size, growing ever more oppressive and inescapable (“give an inch, they’ll take a mile”).

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    • I don’t see a problem in libertarianism except where it embraces laissez faire economic policies. There is left wing libertarianism, too, and that is libertarianism that isn’t capitalistic. The opposite of libertarianism I imagine would have to be called something like slavertarianism, and I don’t think, under any circumstances, slavertarian is likely to be any sort of improvement over libertarian.

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    • The psychiatric system is funded largely by tax dollars since few of their “consumers” are capable of gainful employment. Hence most of us have no real say in our treatment. You get what you pay for.

      Persuading the public footing the shrinks’ actual bill of the damage psychiatry has created would be a worthwhile endeavor.

      More so then begging the shrinks to please be nice to us. (Bwahahaha!) Shrinks are paid to drug, shock, and convince the public they’re being saved from “mentally ill” monsters. Not likely to stop voluntarily.

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      • “capable of gainful employment”

        Most paid employment provides nothing of benefit to anyone, certainly nothing commensurate with the gasoline used up driving to work.

        This is not a problem though, it is simply the fruits of advanced industrial and agricultural technologies. But as such we need to rethink our societal premises.

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        • A lot of us don’t WANT to become homeless PF.

          If you enjoy sleeping under bridges and dumpster diving for meals go for it. But you don’t speak for everybody.

          I will pass. Got a job now. And I am grateful to be able to work so I can avoid institutions or life in the streets.

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          • I think everyone’s needs should be provided for. No one should ever have to sleep under bridges or dive into dumpsters.

            And I also think that everyone should be given the chance to develop and apply their abilities. And a job which serves no purpose except to pay the bills, is thus really serving no societal purpose at all.

            So before we are going to get there, we need to be honest about the jobs market and about what is going on when NeoLiberal arguments are used to make it so that our elected government is serving the needs of business.

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    • Yeah_I_Survived, Szasz’s libertarianism has never been a problem for me; it seems like a natural reaction to his experiences of oppression and authoritarianism. Szasz understood the term “therapeutic state” to describe a secondary police force to manage dissent of authoritarianism; he was addressing social control rather than social welfare. The term “therapeutic state” is now more often used to describe a government that believes in social welfare; this is not how Szasz used the term.

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  6. Without James Hillman’s revision,( phenomenology) psyche will remain an enigma. Szasz is not enough, he was a nihilist. He did not know what psyche is.All we can do is to build a proper image of psychological reality. Without guilt or shame. Courageously.

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  7. If a person has been made into the scapegoat of the middle-class family, then they will have been harmed in ways which show. Their social and civil standing will have been compromised. They will not have the kind of biography which someone else might have.

    So it is then an evolutionarily determined that when one is being marginalized, as their survival is being threatened, that they will feel emotional distress.

    Problem is that Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and the Recovery Movement will then turn this perfectly legitimate distress into a medical problem and a self-improvement project. They want to convince you that you experience difficultly in living because of something wrong in your own head, rather than because your social and civil standing have been trashed.

    Social and civil standing are another way of saying “honor”.

    Nothing you do with a Psychiatrist, a Psychotherapist, or a Recovery Group can ever do anything to restore your honor.

    The only way you can ever restore your honor is by engaging in public conflict. And it goes best if you are not alone, but if you have Comrades.

    But Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Recovery will always make it difficult to politically organize, they try to make people believe that they feel distress because they have personal problems, that they are personally living in error.

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  8. Szasz’s libertarianism?

    Well part of the problem with it is that the mental health system has always been coupled to the middle-class family and the self-reliance ethic.

    Libertarianism, sorry to say, is most always just a doctrine invented for scapegoating the poor and marginalized.

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      • Unfortunately today in the United States, Libertarianism is mostly a doctrine for scapegoating the poor and marginalized. Libertarians value social hierarchy and they provide the doctrines to justify it.

        Like Portland radio talk show host Tom Hartmann says, “Libertarians are just Republicans who want to smoke weed and get laid.”

        And he explains how the doctrine of Libertarianism was created in the 1950’s, buy business interests and Milton Freedman.

        As F. Forrester Church writes, Thomas Jefferson deviated from the selective focus on property rights of John Locke, in his preamble, substituting the pursuit of happiness for the attainment of property.

        John Locke made money from the Virginia Slave Trade.

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        • Not all libertarians are Republicans. Over and over and over again.

          “Traditionally, libertarianism was a term for a form of left-wing politics. Such left-libertarian ideologies seek to abolish capitalism and private ownership of the means of production, or else to restrict their purview or effects, in favor of common or cooperative ownership and management, viewing private property as a barrier to freedom and liberty.”

          Szasz saw himself as a classical liberal, a term that has been associated with libertarian in the USA, in some quarters, since the mid 1950s, but libertarian itself goes back much further, and includes much more.

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      • Though it is true that many capitalists claim to be “libertarians” in order to justify their opposition to anything that might help the working stiff have a chance at a better quality of life. The Koch brothers are a great example – they claim to be libertarians who are in favor of minimizing regulations and supporting the “free market,” but when rooftop solar started to out-compete other energy providers in sunny places like Oklahoma, they were first in line to propose a tax on rooftop solar. So much for the free market, guys…

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    • that’s my problem, right there. in some of his writings, Szasz shows such callous disregard for the poor and the marginalized…

      its obvious, he’s a psychiatrist. 🙂

      controlling the poor, the under-employed, the unemployed, and the occasional ne’er do well is one part of psychiatry’s core mission. what concerns me is that now their power and influence have reached into the upper strata of our world, and it strongly intersects with the legal system. entertainers regularly “come out” as whatever flavor Bipolar and encourage the masses to ‘seek help.’ now and then, wealthy people manage to obtain favorable outcomes for legal problems–provided they pursue “treatment,” of course. i dont usually care for entertainment news and such, but my take on it is…

      once they’ve gotten their claws on the 1%-ers, they’ve basically got all of society in their clutches. factor in the successful infiltration of the established church in the US and “TeenScreen” and other projects, and…

      its just overwhelming, ridiculously intimidating. I do not see much in the way of critical analysis coming out of the US, which…makes sense, but again, scares me a bit. 🙁

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      • Szazs was not some cuddly, warm teddy bear you could hug. BUT he wouldn’t lock you up, drug you, or accuse you of crimes you never committed (diagnosing.)

        Yes, he lacked mercy. But I appreciate his justice and rigorous honesty. Most shrinks pretend to be nice but are unmerciful, unjust, and phony as the house in Leave it to Beaver.

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        • Good comment Rachel. Being labelled is like being accused of a crime you never committed. One difference is the criminal gets the chance to prove his innocence.

          I used to think psychiatrists must have gone into the profession because they had a genuine interest in helping people. In fairness some do, but I now realize many are self-serving, merciless and as you put it – “phony”.

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        • Szasz was a human being, but a thorough and charitable reading of his works reveals that he was as merciful as he was just. He spent his entire life working to expose psychiatry for the sham that it is, and to have it abolished. He spent his entire life working to support liberty and responsibility, principles that benefit all of mankind, rich or poor.

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        • Szasz didn’t lack mercy. For instance, he opposed forced psychiatric institutionalization, but also opposed pushing deinstitutionalized people onto the streets. He advocated housing them but not coercing them. Szasz opposed coercion against all people not guilty of criminal acts, and that included using the threat of force to fund more than minimalist government. He was an Enlightenment liberal. He opposed the wealthy leveraging government for power and wealth, whether they were capitalists or socialists. Nobody is entitled to something that belongs to someone else. There is no reason to trust a person whose concept of compassion includes any sort of coercion.

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    • He clearly states that the use of the term “illness” to refer to a state of mental or emotional suffering is not a proper use of the term. He (and I) believed that some illnesses could have impacts on thoughts and emotions, such as low thyroid or anemia or a head injury. But those are identified as real illnesses and treated by real branches of medicine. He always was clear that if there is no known physical cause, it’s not an illness. I wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t denying that things like loss of sleep or the side effects of certain drugs or poor nutrition can cause mental/emotional problems. But to call something like “depression” an “illness” doesn’t make sense to me (or to Szaz), because it assumes that everyone who is feeling depressed has something wrong with them. Indeed, it assumes that all people who are depressed have the same problem. This is about as silly as saying that all people who feel pain have “pain disorder” without bothering to see what is actually causing the pain. Actually, it’s even more silly, because feeling depressed is a normal part of living, it’s not even an indicator of something physically wrong, as pain most often is.

      So to be clear: “Major Depression” is not caused by a physical problem. It is an invented category that does not correlate to any physical abnormality. It is just a label for a phenomenon that could have many different causes. Low thyroid IS a physical problem that can cause a particular person to feel depressed. In this case, “depression” is just an indicator of the problem, no different than weight loss/gain or tingling in the hands and feet. So “depression” is never the “illness.” It is just an emotional experience people have, which in rare cases can be caused by a physiological problem of some sort, but which in most cases is simply a normal emotional response to a difficult environment where one has difficulty figuring out what to do.

      I hope that makes things clearer. But Oldhead is right – Szaz did not believe that “depression” was or could be a “disease” or “mental illness.” He wasn’t opposed to treating actual illnesses that might cause a person to feel depressed, but he was very much against any kind of idea that “depression” as a whole was or could ever be the result of a biological problem.

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  9. Above FrankB wrote, ““Almost always”? Are we libertarian profiling here? I just think of profiling as mainly a form of prejudice.”

    If you or I show support for Libertarianism, then that means it gets that much harder to protect children from their parents and all the FixMyKid doctors. It gets that much harder to protect children from extreme emotional abuse. And it leads to more scapegoating of the poor and the marginalized, to support the ideology of Lassie Faire Capitalism.

    Right now in the USA, our politics already revolves around scapegoating the poor and the marginalized.

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    • At this late stage of my life, I can’t think of anyone who more ardently and articulately defended the poor and marginalized, and especially women, than Szasz. He wrote often about the way psychiatry had been used against women. He surely qualifies as one of the important feminist writers of his time, and no less a feminist personage than Kate Millett called him “the great Szasz.” He defended the most persecuted among the marginalized, illicit drug users, and noted that they were specifically assaulted because they were generally poor and minority. Surely, anyone who doubts passion that Szasz devoted to defending the underclasses hasn’t thoroughly read his books.

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      • Thank-you for your 4 comments here. EXCELLENT! Sadly, and ironically, in Szasz’s Time magazine obit, the ONLY quote was from E. (“Evil”) Fuller Torrey, who is a strident voice for forced drugging and incarceration of people in personal crisis…. Your political analysis is spot on….

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    • Libertarianism in practice comes in many shades. But in the strictest sense it is simply an ideology that values liberty and opposes coercion. I have yet to read a coherent explanation for how elevating freedom and opposing coercion is linked to “fascism.” The only fascism that has existed was in Mussolini’s Italy. Central to it was the use of government to control business, rendering free markets impossible. It’s a persistent irony that many “anti-fascists” advocate doing that very thing. Mussolini was a great fan of Roosevelt’s New Deal, as were many National Socialists. The Nazis didn’t call themselves fascists, though National Socialism, like the New Deal, had features in common with Italian fascism. Mussolini was stridently anti-capitalist, having been a socialist before a fascist, and the Nazi’s were also anti-capitalists. At this point the term “fascism” lacks any linkage to history or specific meaning. It’s a promiscuously used epithet suggesting a propensity for violence by anyone suspected of not being a leftist. As bad as the rightist butchers have been, their killing has been dwarfed by socialist/communist slaughter.

      Like Szasz, I advocate minimal government. But also like Szasz, my version is not Utopian. I believe that less government is almost always better than more, and the more freedom is almost always better than less. I have no problem with stop signs or a government program for helping the blind and the aged. I do have a problem with a government postal service and foreign military interventions. In the main I believe that property rights, starting with the right to self-ownership articulated by Locke, lead to more freedom and affluence, especially for people at the bottom. When this topic arises I often think of how poor Hong Kong was when I was a kid, and how it became one of the richest and freest places on Earth under British control. It compares quite favorably with, say, left-leaning Mexico, which has remained mired in poverty and bureaucracy. Of course things have progressively declined in HK since the Brits left. British Hong Kong is my idea of libertarian success, and it requires no adherence to a Utopian ideal.

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  10. We currently are indoctrinating children into the underclass even before they reach adolescence.

    They are being used to service the middle-class family, and the Mental Health and FixMyKid Industries.

    And what it all comes down to, as far as I can see, is the bogus ethic known as self-reliance.

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    • Among the certainties of life is that people who are not self-reliant are dependent on others, and dependent people — including the very young and very old — are among the most vulnerable to mistreatment. Szasz pointed this out frequently. It is impossible to make it otherwise since predation on the vulnerable is human nature…animal nature. One of the surest ways to avoid being a prey is to be self-reliant; while one of the surest ways to become a prey is to be dependent. When in decline, old lions are eventually torn to bits by younger upstarts.

      To the extent that they are taught anything, young people are taught to be dependent. They learn that the state controls their lives, and if they misbehave they are subject to drugging and other psychiatric coercions. Vanishingly few are the public schools that teach self-reliance. Textbooks are not filled with the pronouncements of Ben Franklin and Frederick Douglass.

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  11. Julie, emotional pain is evolutionarily developed to maximize our chances of survival. It tells us when we are getting marginalized, when our public identities are being voided, so our survival is being threatened.

    This will always be so when someone has been abused in a manner which is not accepted as abuse. Then it will be the victim who gets marginalized, not the perpetrators. Most of the time the perpetrators are getting to brag about it.

    And then Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Recovery work to further abuse the victims, to make them accept the premise that it really is there fault.

    And this persists because we survivors do not organize and act to obtain public punishment of perpetrators and public reparations for survivors. So it is like we still accept the notion that we are the ones who always were at fault.

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    • You provide no evidence to support your view that “emotional pain” is often connected to “getting marginalized.” In fact, the group with the highest suicide rate in what you believe to be a patriarchy is among White males. Black males and women — who is presume you think more marginalized — commit suicide at lower rates than White men. To what would you ascribe that fact?

      It’s far more likely that “emotional pain,” which I prefer to think of as suffering to distinguish it from the phenomenon of physical pain, is associated with losses such as the death of a loved one or of child custody, or other traumatic life events. I remember a small survey of people labeled “schizophrenic” for which they were asked if they considered themselves happy. A higher percentage answered in the affirmative than is typically the case with the general population when asked the same by public opinion pollsters.

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  12. Someone runs though a red light and hits you with their car, they are going to pay.

    But the middle-class family? No, then it is time for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Recovery, and Salvation Seeking. And their are prescription drugs, street drugs, and alcohol, and if you are a survivor, you will find people telling you that you need these too.

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