Synopses & Reviews
Cruel Compassion is the capstone of Thomas Szasz's critique of psychiatric practices. Reexamining psychiatric interventions from a cultural-historical and political-economic perspective, Szasz demonstrates that the main problem that faces mental health policy makers today is adult dependency. Millions of Americans, diagnosed as mentally ill, are drugged and confined by doctors for noncriminal conduct, go legally unpunished for the crimes they commit, and are supported by the state - not because they are sick, but because they are unproductive and unwanted. Obsessed with the twin beliefs that misbehavior is a medical disorder and that the duty of the state is to protect adults from themselves, we have replaced criminal-punitive sentences with civil-therapeutic 'programs.' The result is the relentless loss of individual liberty, erosion of personal responsibility, and destruction of the security of persons and property - symptoms of the transformation of a Constitutional Republic into a Therapeutic State, unconstrained by the rule of law. Szasz shows convincingly that not until we separate therapy from coercion - much as the founders separated theology from coercion - shall we be able to get a handle on our seemingly intractable psychiatric and social problems. No contemporary thinker has done more than Thomas Szasz to expose the myths and misconceptions surrounding insanity and the practice of psychiatry. Now, in Cruel Compassion, he gives us a sobering look at some of our most cherished notions about our humane treatment of society's unwanted, and perhaps more importantly, about ourselves as a compassionate and democratic people.