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The Medicalization of Everyday Life: Selected Essays Paperback – 15 Nov 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press (15 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815608675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815608677
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 1.6 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 608,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alan Michael Forrester VINE VOICE on 28 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"The Medicalization of Everyday Life" contains a selection of Szasz's essays about how moral and political disagreements are often portrayed as medical problems rather than problems in living. It is an excellent book to read if you want to get an impression of the full scope of Szasz's ideas so that you can decide what other Szasz books you might like to read.

Psychiatry is a prominent example of this. Jim is behaving in a way that Jill dislikes. Instead of discussing Jim's behaviour or leaving Jim, Jill calls in a psychiatrist who declares Jim mentally ill. Thus a moral problem is obfuscated by portraying it as a medical problem.

Another example is that people are uncomfortable with discussing suicide. So instead of discussing the reasons why a person might commit suicide we try to deprive people of the means to commit suicide. Two policies used to do this are drug prohibition and involuntary commitment for dangerousness to yourself or others.

These positions and many others are explained in this book in more depth and with greater clarity than is possible in a book review. Anybody who wants to be challenged to think more about the ways in which we deny personal responsibility and the terrible implications of doing so should read this book.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Sweet poetry of Pus on 26 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
Contained within these lucky pages are some of Mr. Szasz's most exiquisite beatdowns, taken from the absurd amount of articles he has written, similar to another of his collections, 'the Therapeutic State'.

It touches on many of his perennial concerns, yet furnishes the reader with new insights, which is why it is essential that one ignores the compromised individuals who, in their desperation to find some cogent criticism to level at him, some chunk of mud to throw at him from down there in there in the moral and spiritual inferno, which is their natural habitat, often take recourse to the myth that Mr Szasz just keeps on regurgitating the same ideas, making one book indistinguishable from the next. The people who make such comments are conspicuous by their obviously having read no more than a few of his books (likely because they find his ideas impalatable) or none whatsoever.

It is like saying that Luis Bunuel made the same film over and over again just because he was an auteur who was recurrently and understandably obssessed with bourgeois and clerical repression; like saying Balzac wrote the same novel over and over again because he always was preoccupied with the morphology of human society. It is absurd, and worthy only of contempt and derision. I thought I'd start with that disclaimer because the claim is patently nonsensical and self-serving and should not deter Szaszian neophytes because it's a lie, told by people enmeshed in and supportive of an institution inextricably mired in fraud and mendacity.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Noyes on 23 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is extremely clear, well written, and sensible, de-bunking the myth that life is a medical rather than a moral/psychological process.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Be prepared to be jolted 9 Feb. 2008
By J. C Clark - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If this doesn't challenge a few deeply held beliefs you are either comatose or Dr. Szasz yourself. Boy, this one just wrestles everything you think about mental health and forces you to contemplate just what you know vs what you've been told, and accept because the person telling you had a pile of degrees and a white jacket. I include 3 quotes here to give you a flavor:

The old quacks peddled fake cures to treat real diseases. The new quacks peddle fake diseases to justify chemical pacification and medical coercion. The old quacks were politically harmless: they could harm individuals only with those individuals' consent. The new quacks are a serious threat to individual liberty and personal responsibility: they are agents of the therapeutic state who can and do harm individuals both with and without those individuals' consent. Theocracy is the alliance of religion with the state. Pharmacracy is the alliance of medicine with the state

Today virtually any unwanted behavior, from shopaholism and kleptomania to sexaholism and pedophilia, may be defined as a disease whose diagnosis and treatment belong in the province of the medical system. Disease-making thus has become similar to lawmaking. Politicians, responsive to tradition and popular opinion, can define any act, from teaching slaves to read to the cold-blooded murder of a bank guard, as a crime whose control belongs in the province of the criminal justice system.

Formerly, the people rushed to embrace totalitarian states. Now they rush to embrace the therapeutic state. By the time they discover the therapeutic state is about tyranny, not therapy, it will be too late.

Dr. Szasz is unfortunately fighting a losing battle as we trade freedom for comfort, eagerly handing over our children, our health, and our choices to experts who know more than we do. Well, do they? Who says so? They do, over and over and over. And we have allowed ourselves to stop believing things we know, as those white-coated experts have assured us we do not know. Only they do. And they will act in our best interests. Read his account of his trial testimony. It is wildly funny, brilliantly effective, and scathingly brutal. Psychiatry is used to dispose of unwanted people. What will prevent you from becoming such a person?
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
when reviewing, it is helpful to read the book 9 Dec. 2007
By Tatiana Neroni - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A reader who can say this book is about criticizm of a public policy banning smoking and transfats has to be "selectively inattentive" to say the least.

Character assassination is an ancient technique when the critic does not have enough quality arguments to oppose the arguments he does not like in a civilized manner. Therefore, Professor Szasz is portrayed as an "iconoclast", his ideas are taken out of context and ridiculed in a supposedly neutral editorial review.

While the authors of review are busy laughing at Professor Szasz, Professor Szasz did not actually "discover America" by saying that mental illness is a fake, he definitely is not the first person who has criticized psychiatrists for their ways and he is definitely in good company exposing the psychiatric "industry".

Daniel Defo, Fyodor Dostoyevskiy, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Jonathan Swift, to name a few renouned humanists and intellectual giants, have been criticizing "mad-doctoring" as a form of social control and oppression driven exclusively by greed. These writers described enough cases when sane people pronounced insane and locked up where just unwanted wives, and members of low-status social or ethnic groups. Professor Szasz is describing an enlightening history of psychiatric abuse that is actually worth reading just for the sake of information he has generously discovered and provided for the public.

It is also easy to ascertain the truth of what Professor Szasz is saying, irrespective of the fact if you like his "iconoclastic career" or not. People not lazy to reach out and read the book Professor Szasz is criticizing, namely, the psychiatric diagnostic Bible DSM can see what KIND of symptoms are regarded as pathological and how those diagnoses are designed (if you take any two symptoms out of 8 in this column and any 3 out of 6 in that column...). Then it pays to analyze thyself and ask thyself how many mental disorders you can easily ascribe to ANYBODY around you including yourself and your loved ones. It is not evidence that everybody around you is sick, it is rather evidence that DSM-IV makers are greedy, and financial ties of the majority of DSM-making experts to drug manufacturers have been recently exposed in the media.

Out of professional good faith it should not have been too much trouble for the editorial review board to open the book they were officially reviewing, say, on page 21 (Chapter "Diagnosis: from description to prescription"). The whole idea of the book is there - with proof and reliable references. And it is definitely not about tobacco or diet. When reviewing, it helps to actually review.

As a long-time repeat customer of I am appalled at the bias and disrespect with which the editorial review is written. Such bias to one author raises issues of quality of editorial reviews for all other books trading on Note to management: it pays to be fair.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Szasz Chrestomathy 20 Nov. 2010
By W. J. Malan - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have read many works by Dr. Szasz. The Medicalization of Everyday Life contains some of his best essays. I have read my copy three times, yet almost every paragraph still evokes either a smile or a pause for reflection. While the content is excellent, it is the author's wit and style that make this work a most rewarding read, and re-read. In light of the fact that English is not the author's native tongue, his ability to consistently write such prose that sings is remarkable.

Please make this available in e-book format!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
excellent book 7 July 2008
By Stephen Prince - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of important essays by a leading expert in the subject of psychiatry. Dr. Szasz tells it like it really is. As a long-term activist in the anti-psychiatry movement, I highly recommend this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Autonomy in small bits 9 Aug. 2012
By Psychic Octopus - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The career of Thomas Szasz spans decades of teaching, research and activism against the coercive structures of psychiatry, and its alliance with the state, its interference in criminal law, and its relation with chemical laboratories and insurers ("Big Pharma" in less formal parlance). In this selection of essays spanning from the 1970s to the 2000s, we get a quick overview of all the main topics that Szasz takes on in his many books. Since these were all originally published as journal essays, they are short, quick paced to read, and very much to the point. It's hard to summarize such a variety in few words; but we can separate the main themes present: the scientific status, or more appropriately, lack of it, of mental illness; notes on the dirty history of "hospitalization" as incarceration; the constant growth in regulation of all types of drugs; the centrality of a right to death to a full realization of personal autonomy, and the importance of its usurpation by others; the consequences of psychiatry's abolition of personal responsibility, in court, out of court, and for involuntary incarceration labelled as "hospitalization"; and finally, but centrally all throughout the different essays, the creation of medical metaphors to justify these coercive interventions and the transformation of medicine, or something claiming to be medicine, into a part of the state apparatus. None of these themes will be alien to a Szasz reader. Any of these should be an eye opener to those not familiar with his career. In this compilation, they are all accessible in a shorter format, and together in a way that clarifies and strengthens the connection to each other. A roaring voice in the desert for personal autonomy and responsibility, for self-government and the liberty to exercise it, vis-à-vis both the state and its new agents of coercion and conformity.
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