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73 Seiten, Note: 2.1
List of abbreviations
The Modern Addict
Bright Lights, Big City and Less than Zero: The Vicious Cycle
White Noise: Addiction and the Fear of Death
Fight Club: Breaking the Habit
BL Bright Lights, Big City
LtZ Less than Zero
WN White Noise
FC Fight Club
When Thomas De Quincey wrote in his autobiographical account Confessions of an English Opium Eater, ‘Happiness may now be bought for a penny’1, he was taking the idea of intoxicant use and transforming it from a taboo into a narrative art from. The ‘happiness’ he was referring to was an instrument of pleasure, a commodity that would give birth to a mechanism that governs the economy of desire and its fulfilment as it is experienced today. With his addict-confession, De Quincey was one of the first people in English society to openly report on the personal experience of drug use. His account is a real-life story that starts off on a path of joy and fulfilment, but ends up as one of great pain and regret. The in-depth, intimate story, or what De Quincey calls the ‘remarkable period in my life’ (De Quincey, p. vii), is focused on an idea that has in fact appeared in discourse only very recently: the notion of addiction2.
In order to begin to explore the evolution of the notion of ‘addiction’, and understand how it has become an integral element of today’s reality, it is first important to establish a historical foundation by resorting to the reports of individuals who we know were involved in substance use, some of whom perhaps did not experience the burden of addiction themselves, but knew or cared for addicts. These texts were an appeal to the imagination; expressions of misery, loss, and degradation. They open up the history of addiction and give valuable insight into how tendencies changed over time; how present-day social norms, values, and beliefs on the topic formed; and what led to the mechanism of addiction becoming firmly ingrained into Western society.
Romanticism was fascinated by the irrational quality of dreams, nightmares, reveries, and hallucinations. Many of the pleasures and pains of De Quincey’ s ‘love affair’ with his chosen substance were shared by writers like Coleridge, whose stories of composing poetry, like the one of how he found inspiration to compose ‘Kubla Khan’ (1797), showed clearly the role that intoxicants and the dreams induced by them played in the process of imaginative creation. Molly Lefebure’s narco-biography of Coleridge, A Bondage of Opium (1974), effectively argues, that he and De Quincey supplied an early typology of ‘the addict’: ‘their lives were itinerant, they left grand literary schemes unfulfilled, and they were dogged by poverty and squalor’3. Also, Fanny Trollope, in late middle-age, is known to have established a routine of writing her books by night, ‘helped by laudanum and green tea’4. There is no doubt that opium was the intoxicant of choice at the time, and the special aesthetic of Coleridge’s dreams was shared by many authors who were, perhaps to a lesser extent, also known to use various substances. Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde (1886) were also published as transcripts of dreams, which may well have been influenced by the authors’ substance use. Critics have argued that, after 1818, Sir Walter Scott, probably influenced by opium use, began producing more fantastic and mystical work5. The publication of De Quincey’s Quincey’s Suspira De Profundis (1849) brought popularity to the practice of creating art influenced by various substances (mainly opium) – a practice that quickly found great sympathy with other writers. According to Foucault, it is the confession that is ‘one of the main rituals we rely on for the production of truth’6 and since the publication De Quincey's writings, confessional writing has become the standard narrative of substance use and abuse. Literary accounts of addiction have come to be dominated by various ‘confessions’ and ‘diaries’. Notable titles include anonymous narratives such as Confessions of a Female Inebriate; or Intemperance in High Life (1842); on the nineteenth century American scene, William Blair’s ‘ An Opium Eater in America ’ (1842), Walt Whitman's Franklin Evans, Or, The Inebriate (1842), or Fitz Hugh Ludlow’s sensational The Hasheesh Eater (1857). The list goes on with such interesting titles as Confessions of a Reformed Inebriate (1844), The Life and Adventure of the Reformed Inebriate, and The Confession of a Rum-Seller (1845). The twentieth century is the era of the new ‘junkie’, where drug taking takes on a new dimension with titles like Aleister Crowley's Diary of a Drug Fiend (1922) or Jean Cocteau’s Opium: The Diary of a Cure (1929), and of course William Burroughs Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict (1953).
The experiences of the first writers who published their addict-narratives were shared by many before them, and determining when people first began experimenting intoxicating substances leads one far back into the preliterate world, where first-hand information is much more difficult to find. It is through literary accounts that one can begin to understand addiction as an experience and an idea, and track its evolution and development, in its various shapes and forms, from literary accounts such as De Quincey’s, Coleridge’s, and their contemporaries, into the present, modern world, where ‘intoxication’ and ‘addiction’ take on a very different, yet also very familiar character.
Given the long history of substance use itself, ‘addiction’ is a relatively new category, and the meaning of the term has undergone many changes since its coinage. The first recorded instances of the term ‘Addiction’ being used predates any specific association with substance use and can be traced back to the mid-sixteenth century. The Latin verb addico was used to refer to a state of being ‘given over’ or intensely involved with any activity7. Addiction, in this sense, was an ambiguous term, because the idea of giving oneself over to something (or someone) could be understood as either tragic, when it implied a state of dependence; enviable, when it signified devotion; or somewhere in-between. The term ‘addiction’ was used to describe a pursuit, a penchant, or fondness; people could be addicted to ‘writing letters, or botany, or the newspaper’8. Although many addictive substances such as opium had been known since ancient times, references connecting them to the modern sense of the word ‘addiction’ or any synonym for addiction at the time are hard to find9. Earlier, a range of terms was used to describe the excessive consumption of certain substances, for example alcohol, which prior to the nineteenth century, at least in the United States, was generally viewed not as a sin but as a matter of choice, with relatively little significance10. From the 1840s onwards, a condition known as dipsomania was defined as a persistent drunkenness, or ‘a morbid and insatiable craving for alcohol, often of a paroxysmal character’ (Zieger).
The concept of addiction can be just as, or even more complex than the effects of intoxicants themselves. Joseph Westermeyer has described the development of the concept as a ‘dynamic process occurring over time, multifaceted in its origins, influenced by incidents and sequences that are pharmacological, psychological, historical, social, economical, political, [and] spiritual’11. Indeed, a brief survey of the changes that the term has undergone through the years is only a small hint of the complexity of the discourse that has formed around it. The mass amount of discussion and controversy surrounding the topic today should be understood as the result of an unprecedented eruption and subsequent dramatic evolution of ideas that, when taking into consideration the long history of substance use, has only happened just recently.
The last century has in many ways become, for many reasons that will be presented here, governed by the influential role that the mechanisms of addiction have come to play, and how they permeate and interact with society at large. In the nineteenth, and at the beginning of the twentieth century, there occurred a shift in the way people think and understand their individual self. In course, this change gave birth to addiction in its modern form – forever defining the way every person in the developed world not so much understands, but experiences it to this day.
Early drug users such as Coleridge and De Quincey lived in a society that perceived substance use as an activity, not a lifestyle. Although today we feel inclined to describe these individuals as addicts, in their time there was simply no such role to play– there was no name for a person with a condition that compelled one to consume certain ‘condemned’ substances. Clifford Siskin notes, that in the Romantic period ‘opium became an addictive drug’ in the sense that, for the first time, its users began to be ‘placed under professional surveillance for signs of immoral overindulgence requiring “treatment”’12. It was in the nineteenth century the addict emerged as a new identity and such people were fit into various taxonomies.
One way of viewing the emergence of the addict is by mapping the process out onto Foucault’s definition of sexuality. In short, The History of Sexuality was Foucault’s attempt at arguing against the psychoanalytical assumption the sex is the centre of everything, the true source of one’s identity, and something repressed that must be freed again. Foucault demonstrated that even such a basic human need as sexuality is socially constructed and that the repression of human sexuality did not do much to limit discussion on the topic, but instead created and distributed vast amounts of discourses of identities and trends. Eve Sedgwick has observed that the addict seems to be a perfect candidate for Foucault’s list of identities that emerged at the end of the eighteenth century and intensified throughout the nineteenth: the hysterical woman, the Malthusian couple, the masturbating child, and the perverse adult13. The addict came to existence in a society in contrast to which he defined himself in; he was the new ‘queer’ of the social world, and was thus categorized, classified, and removed from it. Sadie Plant, in Writing on Drugs (1999) observes that substances came to be entangled in categories of ‘power and resistance, regulation and escape’(Plant, p.2). The use of drugs was understood as something only an addict did, and the newly emerged drug discourse gave birth to its own language: -isms such as ‘cocainism’ and ‘morphinism’; terms such as ‘alcoholic inebriety’ and ‘morphine inebriety’; ‘opiomania’, ‘morphinomania’, ‘etheromania’, ‘chlorodynomania’, and even ‘chloroformomania’ (Plant). Just as the confinement of sex caused the spread and wide recognition of sexual categories, the ‘resistance’ against drug use gave birth to its own distinct world. Addiction would now designate a pathological relationship to ‘drugs’ specifically, and shed its past sense of ‘devotion’ or ‘pursuit’. Medical discourse created a ‘type’ of person with distinctive personality traits whose nature was to consume to excess and for whom the only cure was to abandon consumption altogether14. ‘Addict’ was now possible only within a political and medico-social regime that was capable of rewriting identity as pathology15, and came to refer to an identity that it had never designated before. Since the rise of the addict and the language associated with him, he has been portrayed as a ‘weak-willed, morally corrupt, degenerate, sociopathic, psychopathic, socially impoverished, a developmental failure, developmentally regressed, organically impaired, a subject of conditioning, a victim of political repression, and psychologically dependent’16. Whilst the addict became an increasingly familiar figure, he had also begun to lose the romantically intriguing persona of the early nineteenth century and by mid-century aroused either pitiful contempt or impotent compassion. The perceived nature of addiction was one of voluntary or involuntary personal decay, and its narration fed into social conceptualizations of decadence and degeneration present in post-Darwinist Victorian society. The fin-de-siècle was a time when ways of thinking about the human mind and body would come into practice, and would create a theoretical framework that would take hold of the impulses and drives that were thought to lay at the foundation of the human condition – many of very same drives that influence the use and abuse of substances. New cultural formations became subject to interpretation with the use of theories of degeneration, with Max Nordau, who predicted the gradual regression of humanity to a more primitive state. In his influential fin-de siècle work, Degeneration, drawing on the work of the criminologist Cesare Lombroso, he identifies the characteristics of, among others, and perhaps to no surprise, Thomas De Quincey, as ‘consumer’, ‘addict’, ‘murderer’, ‘victim’, and ‘hysteric’ – interesting traits that come as no surprise to those acquainted with De Quincey’s work17.
The addict – the pathological, irrational consumer of substances laid the foundation for a development that would further enforce the very characteristics that defined the condition, and these traits would become part of the nature of the modern Western individual. In a new age of mass democracy and mass produced goods, addiction would become not only reason for, but also a result of the rise of the modern, consuming self, where society would suddenly find itself in a new market-driven economy which introduced new perspectives and new possibilities (Plant, 49). But how can addiction, as mentioned earlier, be considered to be an integral and inseparable condition of the modern self? Surely not all members of society are corrupt and psychologically dependant?
In November of 1899 Freud, whose earlier career was based largely on a series of ‘Cocaine Papers’18, and perhaps influenced by his own self-experiments with ‘cocainisations’19, published The Interpretation of Dreams, a text that gathered all of the nineteenth century’s experiences of mental states and potential forms of consciousness together under one new term: the unconscious – a term which confronted the visions experienced by opiate users such as De Quincey or Coleridge. Freud himself claimed that it was ‘the poets and philosophers before me’20 who had first discovered the unconscious in their drug induced explorations of their creative self. Now, the opiate-fuelled fantasies of the Romantics were not to be explored, but turned into memories and fulfilled in a hallucinatory manner by dreams, which were to be understood, domesticated, and privatized (Plant, p.56). Although Freud’s passionate efforts at bringing coca to the public ultimately failed, he did introduce a theory that would come to nurture and promote far more addictive practices.
In 1904, Freud’s ideas ventured onto the American scene, just around the time the first American drug control meeting was being organized (Plant, p.87).The drugs that were being gradually delegalized, slowly disappearing from public access, now began to go underground and creep into the unconscious mind of the twentieth century individual. The new psychoanalysis was to become a drug-free means of relieving pain and a therapy for a society trying to leave behind the habits of the century. It was a perfect solution to what were supposed to be drug-free times. However, psychoanalysis soon became as fashionable, addictive, and expensive as any other drug (Plant, p.77). Freud had discovered primitive and aggressive forces inside the minds of human beings, and these would now be embraced and used to the advantage of a new corporate culture that would learn to manage and alter the way the crowd thinks and feels in order to generate profit.
Rachel Bowlby has suggested that a large part of early marketing had its roots in Freudian psychoanalysis in its attention to conscious and unconscious impulses towards life, pleasure, and death (Sassatelli). Indeed, Edward Burnays, Freud’s nephew, who was familiar with his uncle’s theories, would use the techniques of psychoanalysis to create what we know today as Public Relations. Burnays, at a time when he was fist coming to understand the possibilities of using Freud’s ideas in the new business-driven world, was quoted as saying ‘if you can use propaganda for war, you can certainly use it for peace’21. The idea was to make people desire things they do not need by linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious needs – by satisfying ones inner selfish desires it would now be possible to render the crowd docile, a kind of ‘mass persuasion’ in times of peace. In his Captains of Consciousness, Stuart Ewen maintains that in order to create demand, public relations made the most of the feelings of inadequacy that characterized many American citizens: ‘people who were often social climbers, uprooted from their culture of origin, recently urbanized and feeling the weight of judgement more keenly than others’22.
Coincidently, the first great marketing scheme that Burnays undertook was one that would utilize addiction as a mechanism underlying both substance use and consumer activities. At a time when there was a taboo against women smoking in public, George Hill, the president of the American Tobacco Corporation, asked Burnays to find a way to break the taboo and persuade woman to smoke. Burnays understood that cigarettes could be used as symbol of the penis, and thus contained a great deal of male sexual power. Therefore, the goal for Burnays was to connect cigarettes with the idea of challenging male power, thus symbolically granting women their own penises. The cigarette, an inanimate, culturally insignificant object, suddenly became a powerful emotional symbol. This is how it became clear that it is possible to make humans behave irrationally by linking products to their emotional desires and feelings - the idea that smoking actually made women free is completely irrational, but it made them feel more independent. The new project was a success; public smoking by women became fashionable and socially acceptable and cigarettes were ‘torches of freedom’ in women’s hands23. Thus, the use of an addictive and consumer substance, in this case tobacco, was connected with ideas of freedom and the formation of identity in consumer culture. Although the smoking woman felt more powerful and independent, in fact the cigarette, the addictive, intoxicating product-substance, worked in an opposite manner, making her weak and very dependant. The growing advertising industry set about ‘effecting a self-conscious change in the psychic economy,' as Ewen puts it, creating new needs for 'prestige', 'glamour', or 'sex appeal' (Ewen, p.33). Advancement was no longer a matter of slowly ‘rising up a social ladder, as it was in the late nineteenth century, but of adopting a specific style of life - country club, artiness, travel, hobbies - which marked one as a member of a consumption community’24. Achievement was now signified through display and appearance. This new philosophy of satisfying consumer pleasure by tapping into desire and ‘identity’ caught hold of American business. The idea emerged that one could buy things not out of need, but to express an inner, new ‘identity’, to others. It was a shift from a culture of needs to a culture of desires. People could now be trained to desire, and their desires would overshadow their needs. When capitalism seized the reins of defining style through marketing, it encouraged the consumption of a vast range of products defined as necessary for achieving the right kind of social distinction; a life of happiness was a life of insulation in consumer goods.
These phenomena can be found embedded throughout the literature of the period. Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (1905) is just one portrayal of how addiction can be linked to the rise of modern consumerism. In the novel, seemingly innocent consumer practices like smoking and tea drinking by the characters ‘represent a kind lethargy of the leisure-class but also provide the stimulus necessary for working- and middle-class productivity’25. In Wharton’s work, addictive substance, consumer products, and behaviours destabilize the autonomous self, making users dependent on objects they have no control over; habitual dependency pulls individuals into the marketplace, ‘as they continue to work, spend, and consume in cyclical repetition’ (Goldsmith, 243). Similarly, the hero of The Great Gatsby, a novel which can be considered to be at its core concerned with the ‘American Dream’, exists in a reality where individuals are ‘divided between power and dream’, implying that the conventions of the American Dream are analogous to the dreams induced by substances. The consumption of substances and throwing grand parties are only temporary escapes from the desires and needs that the characters of such novels share. These texts show how the rich become a class of connoisseurs that consumed, marked their distinction, and developed tastes for material goods and intoxicating substances that are prohibitively expensive for others and of only relative value. Such choices set the standards for the rest of society. These notions of ‘what it was like, for some, to be young, privileged, and American’26, are now immortal ideas, and are found expressed in modern literary depictions, a select few of which will be discussed in the chapter that follows.
There came a time when psychoanalytic theories were challenged and criticised27, and many replaced them by the idea that a self that is influenced and controlled by corporate profit should be free to express itself. People began buying products to express their individuality, their difference in a world of conformity – the very things that the corporations did not produce on a mass scale. Individuals would spend their money to buy things that enabled them to say who they were, and enjoy themselves. As Adrian Johnston puts it ‘The Freudian prohibitory super-ego became the obscene Lacanian super-ego demanding jouissance’28. The ‘expressive self’ began to threaten the classic system of manufacturing, and corporations had to learn to conform to the new ‘non-conformist’ in order to maintain profit. But what slowly began to emerge was the direct opposite of the free individual: a vulnerable and greedy self that was more open to manipulation by business than ever. Capitalism decided to step in and help the new individuals to express themselves, controlling them not by means of repression, but by feeding their ever growing desires. A whole industry was developed with products which were meant to arouse larger sense of identity, and this seemed to agree with the individual that the self was infinite, that everything was possible. The consumer product was the new way of being and the new way of life, and the notion that a person could buy an identity replaced the original notion that one was perfectly free to create one. As a result, the consumer, similarly to the addict, has ‘evolved’, or perhaps devolved, from a market of limited needs which can be fulfilled, to a market of endless, ever-changing needs, where products and services can deliver satisfaction in an unlimited variety of ways. Like the smoking woman, the new self feels liberated, but in fact becomes increasingly dependent on, or even ‘addicted’ to the world of consumerism. The irony is that an individual’s feeling that he is rebelling against conformity is not a threat to the market, but its greatest opportunity instead. Today, people are constantly moving happiness machines and their consumer desire seems to have no limit. The consuming, dependant self is what drives the economy and has created the stable and ‘obedient’ society of today.
Alongside the spread of consumer culture, the drug market has become intensely regulated, which has great effect on the perception of drugs, their effects, and their users. Meanwhile, the tangible, yet seemingly inert ‘substance’ that is the free market, which everyone partakes in, continues to grow. While drug use and trade goes underground, the media, internet, and retail sales of legitimate products float to the surface. There is continuous interaction between the black market of illegal narcotics, the pharmaceutical trade of legal drugs, and the all-encompassing retail market where everyone has easy and limitless access to the prescribed daily ‘fix’. In the late twentieth century these addictive realms support and reinforce each other. Roberta Sassateli explains how the modern expressive individual interacts with the consumer world through an addiction that ‘captures’ and ‘binds’:
Consumption is a sphere of social action regulated according to the cultural principle of individual expression. This is not to say that the subject is absolutely free; on the contrary, the subjectivity required by consumption is a binding individuality . To consume in appropriate ways people must be masters of their will and signal their difference from commodities. In other words, consumers may be legitimate sovereigns of the market in so far as they are sovereigns of themselves. The spectre of addiction is often used to condemn consumption and regulate it… (Sassatelli p.161)
It looks as if the consumer has somehow become the new addict, or, in other words, that the consumer is now the modern, ‘prescribed’ and ‘authorized’ face of addiction in a capitalist world. Jean Francois Lyotard notes that ‘Capitalism is not constituted by a slow process of birth and growth like a living being, but by intermittent acts of vampirization, it merely seizes hold of what was already there’29. Eve Sedgwick has argued that the capitalist distillation of the principles of consumption is best described by the term ‘addiction’. In her view, this is a reality in which desires are constantly reinforced, and the instantaneous way to fulfil them is through compulsive and repetitive consumption (Muscgrove). Shopping for fulfilment and consuming illicit substances become symbolical equivalents; thus, the drug addict of the past and the modern consumer are now identities that coexist, interact, and reinforce each other, forming the society of the western world. The literary ‘master addict’ William S. Burroughs, wrote that illegal substances like heroin exist in a retail world that is governed by the ‘basic principles of monopoly’, and that capitalism and junk ‘is the mold of monopoly and possession’, or ‘the ultimate merchandise’30. The lifestyle of the junky and the shopaholic function under the same system of patterns and beliefs, and discriminating between licit and illicit desire, or ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’ behaviour, is made difficult (Muscgrove).
In his book The End of Dissatisfaction? Tod McGowan’s presents the idea that over the course of recent history, and especially in the 80’s, society has shifted from a ‘society of prohibition’ to a ‘society of (commanded) enjoyment’ in which the present capitalist system, organized around conspicuous consumption, impels individuals to vigorously pursue their own private pleasures (Johnston). The society of prohibition, in which citizens once sacrificed their desires and enjoyment for a greater good, is eclipsed by a society in which personal pleasure and entertainment are of higher priority than mutual social obligation.
Many believe that contrary to the original, restrictive understanding of the definition of addiction, ‘there is no basis for linking the word "addiction" primarily or exclusively to drug habits’ and that there is no basis for thinking that ‘the most severe addictions necessarily involve drugs’ (Alexander, p.153). Nietzsche believed that the history of narcotica is ‘almost the entire history of our culture’ (Boothroyd p.45), and Derrida writes in The Rhetoric of Drugs that, ‘there is not any single world of drugs’31 6. Eve Sedgwick elaborates on these statements by explaining the extent to which the mechanisms of what we now understand as addiction have found themselves into our daily lives: ‘What is startling is the rapidity with which it has now become a commonplace that, precisely, any substance, any behavior, even any affect may be pathologized as addictive (Sedgwick, p.131). Sedgwick believes that today one has the potential to become addicted not just to illegal or dangerous substances, but also to forms of activity or consumption, such as those that were introduced into culture by Burnays and the inventors of public relations, marketing, and advertising. Labour, eating, and exercise now constitute officially approved ways to pursue happiness in middle-class society. Supporting Sedgwick’s idea, Annalee Newitz argues that ‘drugs are merely one kind of object people can become addicted to’32. Indeed, today, severe drug addictions can closely resemble ‘destructive involvements with gambling, exercise, accumulating money, childish fantasy, television-viewing, working, Pentecostal religion and numerous other activities and substances’ (Alexander p.154). Involvement with these activities can colonize ones life and result in very dire consequences. Therefore, ‘linking addiction solely to drugs creates an artificial distinction that strips the language of a term for the same condition when drugs are not involved’ (Alexander p.154). Simply put, one may become addicted to anything and everything, and today addiction can be thought of as ‘the process which converts human pleasure into a kind of consumer dependency’ (Newitz).
The druggist who supplied the Romantics with opium – the first widely available, over-the-counter drug – was the first marketer of the pre-consumerist era. But even then, some were able to notice the telltale signs of addiction emerging in its modern form. For instance, De Quincey comments on how the free market began to noticeably interact with the supply of drugs: ‘On Saturday afternoon the counters of the druggists were ‘strewn with one, two, or three grains, in preparation for the known demand of the evening’ (De Quincey, p. xii). Thus, it is clearly visible how addiction and consumerism have been, really since their very inception, in a constant state of interaction. Today, these practices have merged into a presence that permeates not only American society, but the entire developed world. Today, people continue to yearn for drugs that are no longer freely available; the mechanisms of regulation and penalization inhibit endeavours to satisfy this yearning, and instead provide a supply of the substitute that is to the same degree addictive, but delivers messages of control, and prescribed, ‘authorized’ fulfilment The capitalist society of today upholds and supports addiction problems in its logics of functioning. It encourages individuals to become dependent on various forms of repetitive action: working to buy and consume objects. To the extent that human action in capitalism is mostly directed at objects, ‘it is a system that produces profoundly anti-social behaviour’ (Newitz) – not unlike addictive behaviour. The addicted individual’s relationship with the addictive object reflects the detachment and isolation caused by capitalism's emphasis on commodity consumption and individualism: ‘it is in capitalism's interest to induce addictive dependency in its subjects to maintain itself and produce the illusion that there is no alternative’ (Newitz). Gerda Reith believes that rather than consuming to realize the self, in the state of addiction, the individual is consumed by consumption: ‘Whereas the consumer chooses to act, addicts are forced to do so’33. The drugs of today are in fact all around us, on every store shelf, and as freely available as the opium that won the heart of the poet. Available in the supermarket or online, they circulate according to the principles of consumerism. The addict is now defined as an enemy of normative American culture and identity. However, the truth is, that in today’s ‘land of the free’, addiction does not in reality pose a risk to social order, but actually pulls individuals into a state of being that effectively mirrors the system that it is supposedly rejects. American capitalism has created, and aims to maintain a great investment in consumption, and as a result, the addict has become the opposite of what he was previously defined to represent, and is now among the most dutiful and exemplary of American consumers. The similarities between addiction and normative American identity have made it possible for people to freely define themselves as shopaholics, internet-game junkies, or porn addicts. There now exists an awkward symmetry between the American Dream and conventions of addiction; it is safe to say that addiction has become the defining element of contemporary American consumerism and the habits, routines, and behaviours that structure the everyday lives of Americans (Boothroyd) . Capitalism now prescribes and authorizes mass substance consumption and mass intoxication, and the American Dream is perhaps as addictive and available for abuse as any drug.
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32 Annalee Newitz Catherine Hollis, 'Introduction: Altering Consciousness', Bad Subjects, (1993) [accessed 1993].
33 Gerda Reith, 'Consumption and Its Discontents: Addiction, Identity and the Problems of Freedom', The British Journal of Sociology, 55 (2004). p.286
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