April 30, 2005 – Introduced by: Joel Nathan Rosen
Pharmacracy Medicine and Politics in America, Thomas Szasz
The notion of exploring the tendency to medicalized human behavior came from previous Salon discussions relative to modern times and human efficacy. Toward that, we focused this particular session on one of the more controversial critiques of the medicalization ethos, Thomas Szasz’ Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America.
In this text, Dr. Szasz painstakingly attempts to clarify the difference between pathological and recognizable disease and that which is strictly anecdotal. Furthermore, he claims that by imposing a therapeutic culture on those so-deemed mentally ill is a form of state coercion, and that in spite of the absence of disease in the most traditional sense, psychology and professional therapists, alongside an increasingly psychology-driven court system, are poised to assume a lead role in both the political and the personal realms.
On that note, we explored his argument using these five basic queries:
* What are the ramifications of expanding the boundaries of disease?
* Does the direction of modern medicine suggest a retreat from life?
* Why are laypeople so quick to accept that their lives are/will be haunted by the specter of illness?
* How best can we reconcile the remarkable advances in medicine with the shifts that seem to place modern life in what Szasz (and others) claims to be a coercive medicalized straightjacket?
* Can behavior be so simplistically reduced to a biology of psychosomatic symptomology?
Overview by Joel Nathan Rosen