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ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America / Edition 1

Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America / Edition 1

by Thomas SzaszThomas Szasz


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In recent decades, American medicine has become increasingly politicized and politics has become increasingly medicalized. Behaviors previously seen as virtuous or wicked, wise or unwise are now dealt with as healthy or sick—unwanted behaviors to be controlled as if they were health issues. The modern penchant for transforming human problems into diseases and judicial sanctions into treatments, replacing the rule of law with the rule of medical discretion, leads to the creation of a type of government social critic Thomas Szasz calls pharmacracy.

Medicalizing troublesome behaviors and social problems is tempting to voters and politicians alike: it panders to the people by promising to satisfy their needs for dependence on medical authority and offers easy self-aggrandizement to politicians as the dispensers of more and better health care. Thus, the people gain a convenient scapegoat, enabling them to avoid personal responsibility for their behavior. The government gains a rationale for endless and politically expedient wars against social problems defined as public health emergencies. The health care system gains prestige, funding, and bureaucratic power that only an alliance with the political system can provide.

However, Szasz warns, the creeping substitution of pharmacracy for democracy—private medical concerns increasingly perceived as requiring a political response—inexorably erodes personal freedom and dignity. Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America is a clear and convincing presentation of this hidden danger, all too often ignored in our health care debates and avoided in our political contests.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780275971960
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/30/2001
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

THOMAS SZASZ is Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York. He is the author of the classic, The Myth of Mental Illness, as well as Our Right to Drugs (Praeger, 1992), The Meaning of Mind (Praeger, 1996), and Fatal Freedom, (Praeger, 1999).

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations

Introduction: What Counts as Disease?

Medicine: From Gnostic Healing to Empirical Science

Scientific Medicine: Disease

Clinical Medicine: Diagnosis

Certifying Medicine: Disability

Psychiatric Medicine: Disorder

Philosophical Medicine: Critique or Ratification?

Political Medicine: The Therapeutic State





What People are Saying About This

Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution
A passionate warning of the danger of converting the welfare state into the therapeutic state. Professor Szasz presents a subtle, learned and exhaustive analysis of the difference between medical illness and mental illness and of the harm from confounding the one with the other.

Richard E. Vatz

Richard E. Vatz, Towson University Associate Psychology Editor, USA Today Magazine
To those who wonder what is Thomas Szasz's response to biological psychiatry, this book provides a devastating response. Pharmacracy will expand Szasz's reputation, as it includes a clear analysis of the definition and strategic rhetoric of the concepts of 'diagnosis,' 'disease,' and 'disability.' Finally, Szasz's examination of the 'certifying' of authenticating role of physicians and non-physicians throws a critically fresh light on a professional function of immense importance in our society.

Alvan R. Feinstein

Alvan R. Feinstein Sterling Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology Yale University School of Medicine
Dr. Thomas Szasz is at it again, continuing his long quest (a la Joseph Pulitzer) to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This time Szasz is attacking 'pharmacracy' as a totalitarian, politics-ridden, individual-responsibility-shunning 'Therapeutic State' in which health care professionals act as 'certifying agents' and treatment providers for self indulgence, disability, and other socially undesirable behavior that are now diagnosed as diseases. Whether you agree or disagree, and whether you are pleased or enraged, Szasz will provoke you into an increasingly rare modern activity: critical thought.

David J. Theroux

David J. Theroux Founder and President, The Independent Institute
In Pharmacracy, Thomas Szasz has produced an excellent and seminal book on the pervasive, intrusive, and dangerous power of government officials over our health. Comprehensive, lucid, and provocative, Pharmacracy shows why such power must be ended so that people can control their own lives and benefit from the competitive health-care process only possible when the rights of individuals are fully respected. This book is must reading.

Robert Higgs

No development of the past 30 years threatens the liberty of Americans so much as the growth and the growing acceptance of the therapeutic state....No one has done more than Thomas Szasz to alert us to the menace of a government that regards all human conduct, no matter how private, as a matter of public health, and treats the citizenry as afflicted sheep in need of a coercive shepherd to provide for their rehabilitation. In Pharmacracy, Szasz illuminates an issue of critical importance for all Americans.
—(Robert Higgs, Author of Crisis and Leviathan:Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government)

George Englebretsen

George Englebretsen,Professor of Philosophy, Bishop's University
One expects Thomas Szasz's work to exhibit not only a high level of common sense (a la Mencken or Twain), but a careful philosophical, analytic approach (a la Ryle or Russell), to the foundations of the problems addressed. Pharmacracy meets and far exceeds that expectation: It is a very fine piece of work both enlightening and frightening. I hope it enjoys a wide readership, but fear that few of those who should read it, will.

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