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A Word about this English Translation


It has been over twenty years since I undertook analysing and commenting on the writings of Thomas S. Szasz. In those days, there was a strong critical movement within and outside of psychiatry, in which Szasz played a prominent role. His attack on the concept of mental illness as designating a medical disorder, and his objection to the many forms of coercion prevalent in psychiatry at that time and still today, attracted the attention of a broad audience. His books became popular and widely read.

The result of my efforts was my thesis, an English translation of which forms the main body of this volume.

Antipsychiatry’s heyday has receded into the past. Psychiatry chose to go down the road of science by way of empirical research, pushing issues of principle and scientific philosophy into the background. In fact, the dilemmas around which antipsychiatry rallied have not disappeared from the headlines due to having been satisfactorily resolved, but because attention has swung to other areas, and because society has increasingly accepted coercion as the solution for a plethora of social problems. One consequence is that since the 1994 inauguration of new commitment laws in the Netherlands, which were intended to better protect the position of involuntary psychiatric patients, there has been more than a 300% increase in involuntary commitments. This illustrates how much these issues warrant renewed discussion today.

My thesis about Thomas Szasz’ work is as relevant now as it was in 1984 when it was originally published. His viewpoints, politics, and philosophies were already established by then and have not changed. On the contrary, over and over again since then as before he has responded to current events and developments by illuminating how his viewpoints and convictions apply to them. No fundamental or unexpected twists have surfaced in his prolific writings. His most important assertions, as elucidated in his many books and articles, have remained remarkably unchanged. Most of his books are still in print, and he continues to publish new books regularly.

Two chapters have been added to my original thesis: a preface in which I clarify the background to my own viewpoints; and an epilogue in which I describe the developments in the politics of mental illness since my 1984 publication. Hopefully this will contribute to reopening the debate.
November, 2005
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