Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America

by Thomas Stephen Szasz (Author)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Nearly 40 years after psychiatrist Karl Menninger called the medical profession
on the carpet for misnaming medical conditions so that various forms of
treatment could be justified and, 24 years later, Susan Sontag declared that
"illnesses have always been used as metaphors to enliven charges that a society
was corrupt or unjust," noted and controversial psychiatrist Szasz (Fatal
Freedom), as lively and contentious as ever, pursues similar lines of thought,
examining the medicalization of politics and the politics of medicine in
contemporary America. At the base of what he calls our modern "pharmacracy" a
state where "all sorts of human problems are transformed into diseases and the
rule of law extends into the rule of medicine" stands a virulent
misunderstanding of disease, in the "literal" or scientific sense. It is, he
argues in accord with the theories of 19th-century pathologist Rudolf Virchow,
very simply an injury or abnormality in the cells, tissues or organs of the
body. Yet, he maintains, the medical profession and politicians have today named
as diseases a wide range of human behaviors, from alcoholism and obesity to
mental illness and infertility. Moreover, some of these metaphorical diseases
are elevated to public health problems subject to government intervention; thus,
in Szasz's view, America has created a contemporary fascist health state in
which its campaigns aimed at the eradication of smoking and obesity focus not on
the responsibility of individuals to quit smoking or to lose weight but on the
promise that well-funded research agendas will solve the problem. Plenty of
health-care professionals and politicians will disagree with Szasz's definition
of disease and his condemnation of the modern "pharmacracy," but no reader can
put down this book without having been disturbed, provoked and challenged to see
the American medical profession in a new light.

From Booklist
The idiom, imagery, and technology of medicine have been taken over by politics
and society, says longtime dissident psychiatrist Szasz, and that has
essentially broadened and weakened the concept of disease. Bureaucrats have
supplanted pathologists, and bioethicists have obfuscated the scientific
approach. Szasz emphasizes the resultant dangers, especially those stemming from
the forceful social influence of psychiatry and the burgeoning domain of mental
illness. The current biopsychosocial image of illness is a regression, he says,
not an advance. Mental illnesses in general don't have solid physical causes and
therefore should not be seen as scientifically diagnosable, researchable, and
treatable conditions. But the powerful and often insidious propaganda of drug
companies, mental illness proponents, politicians, and recent surgeons general
routinely infects legislation, the public press, and even the major medical
journals. Szasz's quotable style, thoughtful delving beneath the surface, and
often striking analogies should once again stimulate vigorous discussion in
several fields.

Product Details

Paperback: 212 pages
Publisher: Syracuse University Press; 1 edition (November 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0815607636



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