Lawrence Zelic Freedman

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Lawrence Zelic Freedman (1919-2004) was a forensic psychiatrist who was involved in writing about terrorism and political violence in the 1970s and 1980s.

Work on terrorism

According to an obituary notice:

In the 1970s, he turned his interest to psychiatric aspects of the emerging threat of terrorism, as seen in the United States in the form of inner city gangs and abroad as militant nationalist movements. Freedman labeled this field of study "polistaraxia" -- from polis, the nation state, and taraxia, those who upset it. His goal, he explained, was to understand the conditions "whereby the human animal, whether by distortions within his group or because of conflicts between this group and others, has the propensity to become a killer."[1]

According to the same source:

In the early 1970s, Freedman and Harold Lasswell, his former colleague on the committee on psychiatry and the law at Yale, formed the Institute of Social and Behavioral Pathology, based at the University. The Institute's purpose was to understand and overcome the difficulties of "adapting the nature of man to the requirements of a successful common life." It served to focus research on the biological, developmental and societal factors that contribute to violent or criminal behavior and the search for strategies to "nullify, reduce and eliminate" such pathology.
The author of more than 100 publications and the author or editor of several books, Freedman served as a consultant to local, national and international organizations concerned with crime, violence and psychiatry, including the Chicago Board of Health, the American Law Institute, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, and the United Nations. Although he retired from the University in 1985, he maintained a private practice in psychoanalysis.
Because of his professional stature, his interest in the intersection of psychopathology, the law and politics, and his natural eloquence, Freedman was a popular teacher and lecturer. He also became a frequent source of expert advice and comment for journalists. An informal survey in December 1975, soon after a failed attack on President Gerald Ford, placed Freedman near the top of the list of prominent "experts" sought for quotes.[1]



  • Freedman, L.Z. (1965) 'Assassination: Psychopathology and Social Pathology.' Post Graduate Medicine, 37(June): 650-8
  • Freedman, L. Z. (1977). VIOLENCE. World Priorities, 261, 242.
  • Freedman, L. Z. (1983). Terrorism: problems of the polistaraxic. in L. Z. Freedman, Y. Alexander (eds) Perspectives on Terrorism. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 3-11.
  • L. Z. Freedman, Y. Alexander (eds) (1983) Perspectives on terrorism. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources.
  • Freedman, L. Z. (1983). Why does terrorism terrorize?. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 6(3), 389-401.

External resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 University of Chicago News Office Renowned forensic psychiatrist Lawrence Z. Freedman, 1919-2004 19 October 2004.