Sunday 3 January 2010

Szasz in the 21st Century. 10. Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared (2009). Inner Circle Seminar 150 (14 March 2010)

Thomas Szasz
Thomas Szasz
in the 21st Century

10. Antipsychiatry:
Quackery Squared

Anthony Stadlen

Inner Circle Seminar No. 150
Sunday 14 March 2010
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

R. D. Laing

Today we discuss Thomas Szasz’s tenth 21st-century book, Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared (2009), a detailed critique of R. D. Laing, with whom Szasz is often, erroneously, coupled. For more than half a century, Szasz has consistently opposed what he identifies as the two paradigmatic practices of psychiatry: compulsory treatment (coercing the innocent) and the insanity defence (excusing the guilty). In Antipsychiatry, Szasz shows that, despite what many suppose, Laing did not object to either of these activities in theory, and in fact practised both. Szasz also criticises Laing for equivocating about the concept of ‘mental illness’ which is used to justify these two practices.

The aim of this seminar is a balanced evaluation. The Inner Circle Seminars have offered, in recent years, a subseries of eleven seminars devoted to each of Szasz’s ten 21st-century books, culminating in the 90th-birthday seminar which Thomas Szasz will himself conduct on 13 June, discussing 50 years of his book The Myth of Mental Illness. But we have also offered, in recent years, another, well attended, subseries of eleven seminars, devoted to each of the eleven families in Laing and Esterson’s book Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics (1964).

Today’s seminar will move in the tension between the seriousness of Szasz’s well-founded criticisms of Laing and the seriousness of some of Laing’s work, such as his research with Aaron Esterson on families, and his existential-phenomenological clarification of personal responsibility and praxis (in Sartre’s sense) in the theoretical foundations of psychoanalysis and interpersonal analysis. This seminar will be a unique opportunity for an informed clarification of the differences between Szasz and Laing. It will also serve to prepare for Thomas Szasz’s eagerly awaited 90th-birthday seminar on 13 June 2010, when he will discuss his epochmaking book The Myth of Mental Illness 50 years on (a new edition is released by HarperCollins this month). Each Inner Circle Seminar is self-contained. You may attend any or all.
Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ (

Cost: Students £108, others £135; some bursaries; mineral water, coffee, tea, biscuits, liquorice allsorts included

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857 E-mail:

For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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