Psychologist and editor Jeffrey Schaler wrote in the Introduction to this 2004 book, "'Szasz Under Fire' is the first in a series of ... books which will confront controversial writers with their intellectual critics. Szasz is particularly suited to this project because of his unusually polarizing influence. Szasz's writings have provoked both extraordinary praise and extraordinary denunciation. Critics have been invited both on their knowledgeability and their strong disagreement with Szasz." (Pg. xxii)
Schaler further notes, "Though Szasz has been called an 'anti-psychiatrist,' he rejects the label... Szasz is against coercion, not 'psychiatry between consenting adults.' ... The state has no business inside a person's head, according to Szasz... Szasz has also been a practicing psychotherapist. When practicing psychotherapy, Szasz claims that he is not doing what 'mental health professionals' usually claim to be doing. As Szasz prefers to describe it, he is having conversations with people about their problems." (Pg. xiv)
One commentator admits, "Dr. Szasz is perfectly justified ... in drawing attention to the fact that psychiatry does differ from all other branches of medicine... in the sense that most of the disorders it recognises are still defined by their syndromes; and that at a time when psychiatrists are claiming to recognize an ever widening range of mental disorders, this leaves them vulnerable to accusations of unjustified medicalization of deviant behavior and the vicissitudes of everyday life.'" (Pg. 33)
Szasz replies ot one critic, "My motives for engaging in a systematic criticism of psychiatry were primarily moral and political, and secondarily epistemological and medical. I wanted to show that psychiatry's two paradigmatic procedures---conventionally called 'mental hospitalization' and the 'insanity defense'---are moral wrongs as well as violations of the political principles of the free society based on the rule of law." (Pg. 159) To another critic, he says, "The Therapeutic Staet is not ruled by psychiatrists. It is ruled by politicians imbued with the faith of medicine (therapy), much as the Theological Statem, examplified by Saudi Arabia, is ruled by politicians imbued with the faith of religion (Islam). In the United States, the Therapeutic State is ruled by a coalition composed of politicians... and their wives... the American Medical Association, the state medical associations, and the various health lobbies; the public health establishment... and the mental health lobby." (Pg. 173-174)
He responds to Stanton Peele [author of books such as Diseasing of America: How We Allowed Recovery Zealots and the Treatment Industry to Convince Us We Are Out of Control, etc.], "Peele sees the addict as a helpless victim. I see him as a capable moral agent, sometimes doing and enjoying what he wants to do and annoying others in the process; sometimes victimizing himself or others by his behavior... I ask, if people SUFFER from addiction and mental illness, why don't they seek treatment for these drug alleged diseases? Addicts spend money, sometimes a lot of money, on drugs. Why don't they spend the money on drug addiction treatment?" (Pg. 196-197)
This book is "must reading" for anyone interested in Szasz, the psychiatric survivors' movement, the Mad Pride movement, or similar areas.