Applied Psychiatry in Inter-War Vienna

  • David FreisEmail author
Part of the Mental Health in Historical Perspective book series (MHHP)


This chapter focuses on a biography that, like few others, exemplifies the radical politicisation of psychiatry in the period between the world wars. Although ignored by historians, Erwin Stransky was an eminent figure in Viennese psychiatry. From the end of the First World War, he began to advocate the expansion of psychiatric authority into every aspect of modern life, including ‘racial hygiene’, law, and politics, effectively equating psychiatric expertise and political leadership in the name of a new ‘medical imperialism’. Stransky continued his quest for ‘applied psychiatry’ until his death in 1962 and became one of the most vocal proponents of mental hygiene in Austria. I situate Stransky’s project of applied psychiatry in the broader history of medicine and politics in post-war Vienna, exploring the unresolved tensions between his Jewish origins and his German nationalist views, and retracing the polemics that erupted around his expansionist understanding of psychiatry. Using one biography, I show how personal experiences and political developments contributed to a new expansionist understanding of the social and political role of psychiatry.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ethics, History and Theory of MedicineUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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