Until now, all that has been available of this book has been a summary prepared by Amnesty International--and included as an...

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PUNITIVE MEDICINE

Until now, all that has been available of this book has been a summary prepared by Amnesty International--and included as an appendix to Harvey Fireside's recent Soviet Psychoprisons (1979)--which served as a basic document in western protest against Soviet use of psychiatry to stifle dissent. For his part, Podrabinek's efforts to protest within the USSR earned him his current prison term in Siberia. By now, the basic facts are established; but Podrabinek's text opens with a step-by-step journey from a hypothetical arrest, to a sham psychiatric examination, to incarceration in a special psychiatric hospital (SPH)--a journey which is harrowing even at second hand. In a kind of Orwellian fantasy, any utterance by the accused is interpreted as a sign of mental illness--protest is ""delirium""--while silence is its own sign of ""pathological subjectivity."" Podrabinek attributes at least part of this double-think to the lack of any definition of mental illness in the Soviet Union, enabling authorities to bend the term to their will. Fireside called attention to the materialist world-view that has no place for subjective dissent; but Podrabinek, like other Soviet ""dissidents,"" tries to plumb Russian history for ancient traditions of labeling political opponents ""crazy."" This effort, however, is hampered by reliance on stray comments and a pre-modern notion of psychiatric disorder. Podrabinek speculates that regimes rely on punitive medicine when they are in a stability crisis, and that the USSR, demanding a total ideological commitment to state values, is crisis-prone. If he's right, Soviet dissenters had better take cover. More conspiratorial in its understanding than Fireside's study, Podrabinek's offers a more immediate, impassioned account that adds up to a personal indictment of Soviet psychiatrists tout court. Appendices include lists of incarcerated dissidents and some of their psychiatric tormentors.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Karoma (3400 Daleview Dr., Ann Arbor, Mich. 48103)

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980