I’m going to be house-sitting for my brother for the next 10 days or so, so posts may be a bit intermittent or brief.
Szasz was a critic of the influence of modern medicine on society, which he considered to be the secularisation of religion’s hold on humankind. Criticizing scientism, he targeted in particular psychiatry, underscoring its campaigns against masturbation at the end of the 19th century, its use of medical imagery and language to describe misbehavior, its reliance on involuntary mental hospitalization to protect society, or the use of lobotomy and other interventions to treat psychosis. To sum up his description of the political influence of medicine in modern societies imbued by faith in science, he declared:
So doctors are a new priesthood. I thought as much.
The “Therapeutic State” is a phrase coined by Szasz in 1963. The collaboration between psychiatry and government leads to what Szasz calls the “therapeutic state”, a system in which disapproved actions, thoughts, and emotions are repressed (“cured”) through pseudomedical interventions.:17 Thus suicide, unconventional religious beliefs, racial bigotry, unhappiness, anxiety, shyness, sexual promiscuity, shoplifting, gambling, overeating, smoking, and illegal drug use are all considered symptoms or illnesses that need to be cured.:17 When faced with demands for measures to curtail smoking in public, binge-drinking, gambling or obesity, ministers say that “we must guard against charges of nanny statism.” The “nanny state” has turned into the “therapeutic state” where nanny has given way to counselor. Nanny just told people what to do; counselors also tell them what to think and what to feel. The “nanny state” was punitive, austere, and authoritarian, the therapeutic state is touchy-feely, supportive – and even more authoritarian.
According to Szasz, “the therapeutic state swallows up everything human on the seemingly rational ground that nothing falls outside the province of health and medicine, just as the theological state had swallowed up everything human on the perfectly rational ground that nothing falls outside the province of God and religion.”[
And, indeed, smoking has been medicalized. In fact, more or less everything has.
I started reading his collection of essays: the Medicalization of Everyday Life.