A magisterial tale of the always frustrating yet sometimes well-intentioned efforts to aid desperate people.

DESPERATE REMEDIES

PSYCHIATRY’S TURBULENT QUEST TO CURE MENTAL ILLNESS

A comprehensive history of American psychiatry.

A longtime professor of sociology, Scull brings a lifetime of scholarship to bear on this authoritative and sobering book. Characteristically critical but nevertheless decently evenhanded, he tells the long story of usually failed efforts to deal with mental illness in the U.S. since the end of the Civil War. In the author’s telling, that reality seems to have brought out the worst in too many of those who thought they held the keys to ending the suffering of those with mental health disorders. Their approaches—among them asylums and then release to the streets with no further assistance; crackpot “medical” remedies like tooth-pulling and inoculation with malaria and insulin; lobotomies; electric shock treatment—were often repugnant and morally indefensible, and most of them applied disproportionately and involuntarily to women, the poor, and African Americans. Many “experts” who claimed to know how to treat the “baffling collection of disorders” that constitute mental illness were amateurs, scoundrels, and con artists who often talked about their patients as biologically degenerate and inferior. When, following Freud, more serious practitioners came on the scene, they also often acted in bad faith. Scull, who pulls no punches in his often muckraking account, can be accused of excessive harshness toward only a small number of his cast of characters; few deserve to emerge intact from his evidence-based lashings. Yet he also lays out the obstacles that all practitioners in the field have faced as successive methods of treatments—Freudian analysis, talk therapy, and medication—have come into vogue and then retreated. Most importantly, the author omits nothing related to his subject: Medicare and Medicaid, insurance companies, psychopharmacology, big pharma, financial and economic considerations, and, in a particularly brilliant section, the battle over diagnostic precision. Because Scull’s crisis-to-crisis history is so impeccable, it’s also deeply troubling.

A magisterial tale of the always frustrating yet sometimes well-intentioned efforts to aid desperate people.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-674-26510-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

HOW TO PREVENT THE NEXT PANDEMIC

The tech mogul recounts the health care–related dimensions of his foundation in what amounts to a long policy paper.

“Outbreaks are inevitable, but pandemics are optional.” Thus states the epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, a Gates adviser, who hits on a critically important point: Disease is a fact of nature, but a pandemic is a political creation of a kind. Therefore, there are political as well as medical solutions that can enlist governments as well as scientists to contain outbreaks and make sure they don’t explode into global disasters. One critical element, Gates writes, is to alleviate the gap between high- and low-income countries, the latter of which suffer disproportionately from outbreaks. Another is to convince governments to ramp up production of vaccines that are “universal”—i.e., applicable to an existing range of disease agents, especially respiratory pathogens such as coronaviruses and flus—to prepare the world’s populations for the inevitable. “Doing the right thing early pays huge dividends later,” writes Gates. Even though doing the right thing is often expensive, the author urges that it’s a wise investment and one that has never been attempted—e.g., developing a “global corps” of scientists and aid workers “whose job is to wake up every day thinking about diseases that could kill huge numbers of people.” To those who object that such things are easier said than done, Gates counters that the development of the current range of Covid vaccines was improbably fast, taking a third of the time that would normally have been required. At the same time, the author examines some of the social changes that came about through the pandemic, including the “new normal” of distance working and learning—both of which, he urges, stand to be improved but need not be abandoned.

Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-53448-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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