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October 9, 2006, Issue 4, 786 , Volume 235


Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn lists me as one of the persons who has followed a "new tradition of social criticism" inaugurated by Philip Rieff ("The Mind of the Moralist," August 28). I began my criticism of the medicalization of (mis)behaviors--and their de facto criminal control defined as psychiatric treatment--in the mid-'50s and introduced the term "myth of mental illness" in 1960 and the concept of "the therapeutic state" in 1963. Rieff's book, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, was published in 1966. Who was following whom?

Thomas Szasz, MD
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry
State University of New York
Syracuse, New York

elisabeth lasch-quinn responds: The point I made in my essay was that Rieff's work, together with that of several others, was part of a larger mid-to-late twentieth-century critique of the therapeutic culture that is tremendously important and worthy of further attention. Although coming at the question from a very different angle from Rieff's, Szasz's work contributed in an unforgettable fashion to our understanding of the dangers of the seemingly benign imperatives of the therapeutic age. I wrote in my essay that Rieff "helped to inaugurate" this line of inquiry--with earlier work that culminated in Freud: The Mind of a Moralist (1959) as well as The Triumph of the Therapeutic--not that he inaugurated it. His critique emerged, of course, within an intellectual milieu in which many had come to question--in manifold ways--the orthodoxies of politics and culture regnant at the time.

Cf. The Mind of the Moralist
by Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn
Post date 08.22.06 | Issue date 08.28.06

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