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The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a…
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The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct (original 1961; edition 2010)

by Thomas S. Szasz (Author)

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573935,946 (3.72)10
"The landmark book that argued that psychiatry consistently expands its definition of mental illness to impose its authority over moral and cultural conflict."  -- New York Times The 50th anniversary edition of the most influential critique of psychiatry every written, with a new preface on the age of Prozac and Ritalin and the rise of designer drugs, plus two bonus essays. Thomas Szasz's classic book revolutionized thinking about the nature of the psychiatric profession and the moral implications of its practices. By diagnosing unwanted behavior as mental illness, psychiatrists, Szasz argues, absolve individuals of responsibility for their actions and instead blame their alleged illness. He also critiques Freudian psychology as a pseudoscience and warns against the dangerous overreach of psychiatry into all aspects of modern life.… (more)
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Title:The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct
Authors:Thomas S. Szasz (Author)
Info:Harper Perennial (2010), Edition: 50th Anniversary, Updated ed., 368 pages
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The Myth of Mental Illness : Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct by Thomas S. Szasz (1961)

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9/6/22
  laplantelibrary | Sep 6, 2022 |
Szasz, a psychiatrist and academic of considerable reputation, here argues that much of what passes as mental illness and its treatment is a fraud perpetrated on the public. His thesis is that people who don´t fit into the mainstream of society, particularly those that are inconvenient or disruptive, are classified by society as ´mentally ill´ rather than socially ´uneasy´. He suggests that Psychiatry (as individuals and as a profession sponsored by that society) then perpetuate and dignify this process by providing labels and treatments which reinforce the concept of these people and their attitudes to life as not just being equivalent to medically ill, but actually medically unfit. Szasz takes an essentially libertarian view, championing the rights of the individual against the power of the medical, psychological and pharmaceutical industrial/academic complex.

The reader (and reviewer) face some hurdles in dealing with ´The Myth of Mental Illness´. Foremost is that to be able to follow Szasz´s argument you need to start with a good understanding of psychological theory and history. Then there is an issue of context, noting that this book first came out in the 1950´s. It would be wrong to say that Szasz´s argument was simply with the way mental illness was defined and treated at that time (much of what he had to say is even more relevant today). But it must be said that this book develops the argument using examples and references to the state of scientific knowledge from the 1950´s. That is a perspective that is alien to much of his readership today, and which invites the reflection ´well I wonder how much of this has been overturned by developments in neurology and psychobiology since then´.

So anyone wanting to come to grips with his theories might do better to start with one of his later books, or some excellent articles about (rather than by) Szasz himself, and then work their way back to ´The Myth of Mental Illness´. The point of this book is that it contains Szasz´s first development of his theories. It is a landmark in the evolution of modern psychological theory, and like much of Freud´s work deserves to be read not so much for how true it stands today (always a contentious point), but for how it helps us understand where we have come from. The reader may need to choose between the original (much longer) and the abbreviated version released by Szasz in 1972, depending on their needs.

This book (the 1972 version) should be mandatory (and uncomfortable) reading for students of psychology, psychiatry and sociology. Otherwise it is recommended as further reading for anyone interested in Szasz´s theories who might have started with some of his later work. And it is a very important document from the perspective of both psychology and libertarian theory. But I could not recommend this as an introduction to Szasz in preference to any of his much more accessible later works, given that so many of them are available. ( )
5 vote nandadevi | May 12, 2012 |
As revelatory and relevant today, if not more so, than one it first was published. ( )
  redawson_ | Mar 23, 2011 |
unfinished
  LireEnRoute | May 11, 2010 |
Still brilliant after all these years, and underappreciated in the world of psychoanalysis. His work is influenced by Karl Popper and not Ludwig Witgenstein. ( )
  RoyHartCentre | Apr 10, 2010 |
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"The landmark book that argued that psychiatry consistently expands its definition of mental illness to impose its authority over moral and cultural conflict."  -- New York Times The 50th anniversary edition of the most influential critique of psychiatry every written, with a new preface on the age of Prozac and Ritalin and the rise of designer drugs, plus two bonus essays. Thomas Szasz's classic book revolutionized thinking about the nature of the psychiatric profession and the moral implications of its practices. By diagnosing unwanted behavior as mental illness, psychiatrists, Szasz argues, absolve individuals of responsibility for their actions and instead blame their alleged illness. He also critiques Freudian psychology as a pseudoscience and warns against the dangerous overreach of psychiatry into all aspects of modern life.

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