Rothbard's attack on psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis as a Weapon
By Murray N. Rothbard
Thomas Szasz is justly honored for his gallant and courageous battle against the compulsory commitment of the innocent in the name of "therapy" and humanitarianism.
But I would like to focus tonight on a lesser-known though corollary struggle of Szasz: against the use of psychoanalysis as a weapon to dismiss and dehumanize people, ideas, and groups that the analyst doesn't happen to like. Rather than criticize or grapple with the ideas or actions of people on their own terms, as correct or incorrect, right or wrong, good or bad, they are explained away by the analyst as caused by some form of neurosis. They are the ideas or actions of neurotic, or "sick," people: so if the people themselves are not to be incarcerated in institutions as "mentally ill," then their ideas or attitudes may be treated in the same manner.
The unspoken assumption, of course, is that ideas or actions congenial to the analyst don't need "explaining" by psychoanalytic or other psychodynamic theories. Since they don't need "explaining," the implication is that they are normal, correct, and good, though of course no analyst, in his role as the embodiment of "value-free science," would ever be caught dead using such terms. For if he did so, he would have to take the ideas or actions of his opponents seriously, and set forth an explicit moral theory in doing so. He would not be able to dismiss them as "sick" or as people who are uniquely in need of being "explained."
Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School.
This article was a keynote address given at a special conference sponsored by The Institute for Humanistic Studies in 1980.