Szasz, Thomas

Szasz, Thomas (Stephen)

(1920–  ) psychiatrist, author; born in Budapest. He emigrated to the United States in 1938 and became professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse, N.Y. (1956). Long regarded as a maverick within his field, he argued that mental illness (as opposed to organic disturbance) does not exist, but is rather a metaphor. Mental illness should rather be seen as "problems of living." Psychiatry, he claimed, simply glosses over this difference. In line with this belief, he opposed use of the insanity plea in criminal cases, arguing that criminal law should be allowed to work unimpeded when a person has committed a dangerous act. Most controversially, he took the position that psychiatry is a repressive arm of the modern bureaucratic state and a tool for social control because it can be used to imprison innocent people by "civil commitment" simply because their thought patterns are considered aberrant. The author of many books, including The Myth of Mental Illness (1974), he did much to alert the public to potential dangers of coercive practices masked by psychiatric rationales.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
(10) Szasz, Thomas, Psychiatric Justice, MacMillan, New York, 1965