Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry
Thomas Szasz (1976)
15 years & 12 books after The Myth of Mental Illness, the Wm Buckley of social relations continues his elegant & passionate assault on psychiatry, this time zeroing in on the most vulnerable syndrome in the medical library. “Schizophrenia is not a disease,” Szasz insists, only a name that fake doctors (psychiatrists) give to misbehavers who annoy their families & misfits who can’t “endure life with decency & dignity.” This anti-Freudian no lesion-no illness formula is familiar, but genetic approaches to the subject–& all the recent, impressive statistics–are also rejected. Even R.D. Laing & the “anti-psychiatrists” (who’ve stolen much of Szasz’ thunder) draw ridicule–for their idealization of insanity & for attempts to treat, however benignly, “so-called” schizophrenics. The undeniable problems with the schizophrenia diagnosis–vagueness, lack of etiology, institutional abuse–receive repeated emphasis, along with nightmarish reports of (primarily Soviet) political persecution masquerading as psychiatry. Disturbing stuff, but Szasz drowns the valid controversies in hyperbole (“the greatest scientific scandal of our scientific age”) & tests our patience with labored analogies: therapy as slavery or arranged marriage, schizophrenia as the psychiatric faith’s Eucharist. As always, the Szasz attack is relentlessly abstract (no case histories or current asylum data) & short on compassion, yet imbued with an odd eloquence that perhaps only tunnel-vision can achieve.–Kirkus
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