The myth of Thomas Szasz?

Psychiatrist and iconoclast Thomas Szasz takes part in a hard-hitting interview on ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind where he shows that at the age of 89 he’s lost none of his fire which has raged through psychiatry for almost 50 years.

It’s a two part interview with the second appearing next week and it’s classic Szasz.

He’s an important thinker because he relentlessly attacks the conceptual foundations of psychiatry, the definitions which usually can’t be empirically tested because they’re philosophical issues – in other words, the assumptions we need to make about the world before we can start measuring anything.

Szasz comes from a classical liberal perspective, citing the rights and responsibilities of the individual as primary in any social decision-making.

As psychiatry is involved in changing behaviour, detaining individuals against their will, and discharging responsibility for serious crimes through the insanity defence – all based on what Szasz argues is a flawed concept of ‘mental illness’ – he fundamentally opposes much of the psychiatric system.

He’s always fascinating to read or listen to as there are always ‘that man is a genius’ and ‘how can he be so stupid?’ moments following closely together. Of course, not everyone agrees on which are which.

The presenter, Natasha Mitchell, does a fantastic job of pressing hard questions and doesn’t shy away from tackling accusations of anti-psychiatry, medical irresponsibility and collusion with scientology (next week).

Great stuff.

Link to AITM ‘Thomas Szasz speaks’ Part 1.
Link to more background on the AITM blog.

4 Comments

  1. Posted April 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s always instructive when people challenge assumptions that we as a society take for granted.

  2. Mark(p.s.)
    Posted April 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I am really curious as to when “‘that man is a genius’ and ‘how can he be so stupid?’ moments come up.
    I would really like to know when you perceive his thoughts to be “genius” and when they are “stupid”.

  3. molyneux1000
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Psychiatry needs to be critically appraised for it is one of few areas of medicine that treats individuals against their will, often with the full force of the state, making it a deeply political subject (e.g. DSPD). As a former ‘service user’ (horrible term) and someone who is nearing completion of their mental health nurse training, I value Szasz’s perspective on the matter.

  4. Sang
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    molyneux1000, never will survivors of forced psychiatry forget that this ‘full force of the state’ would not be possible if it were not for people like you, willing to initiate that force on behalf of the state, in the name of your beliefs.


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