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Addictive Consumption: Capitalism, Modernity and Excess by Gerda Reith

Author:Gerda Reith [Reith, Gerda]

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Published: 2018-08-29T00:00:00+00:00

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Addictive Consumption: Capitalism, Modernity and Excess by Gerda Reith

Denormalisation and new forms of governance

Today we are witnessing a gradual shift away from the universalising prohibition typified by war(s) on drugs towards more complex ‘capillary’ systems of governance that demand ever greater levels of control from individuals themselves. These are typical of the neoliberal forms of governance that we saw in the previous chapter and are operationalised through an increasing emphasis on self-control and ideals of responsibility. Applied to the consumption of drugs, this kind of governance is based less around binary distinctions between legal/illegal and more around ideals of controlled/uncontrolled consumption. Ultimately, it works to produce what Angus Bancroft (2009) describes as a ‘carefully managed hedonism’ as a counterpoint to the expansion of psychoactive consumer culture. Particularly in Britain, Europe, Australia and Canada, recognition of the widespread public consumption of drugs has encouraged the adoption of pragmatic approaches, described as harm reduction and risk minimisation, rather than on more draconian attempts to prohibit consumption altogether. Such approaches embody neoliberal ideals of the sovereign consumer, whereby the provision of information about risk enables individuals to make informed – and, therefore, it is assumed, rational – choices. So, to this end, tips for ‘safe clubbing’ provide information about the dangers of mixing drugs and the importance of hydration, and needle exchanges aim to reduce the risks of contaminated equipment. Such a shift in perspective undermines the absolutism of the category of ‘addiction’, replacing it with a continuum in which consumption is described in terms such as ‘harmful’, ‘excessive’ or ‘inappropriate’ and contrasted with ‘controlled’, ‘informed’ or ‘responsible’. The embrace of drugs by neoliberal ideals of responsibility and self-control reformulates the idea of the ‘drug user’ as a choosing consumer: a position articulated by Alexander Shulgin, the inventor of Ecstasy, in his classic statement: ‘Be informed, then choose’ (1991, xv). This shifts the locus of control from external to internal mechanisms of self-governance, so that, as O’Malley puts it, ‘as rational, calculating risk-takers, [consumers] enter the sphere of responsible drug use’ (1999, 205). This kind of governance is both more liberal and yet also more pervasive than what went before. It is no longer simply a small, discrete group of ‘addicts’ who are disciplined, treated and punished but the majority of people who consume psychoactive substances, who are now ‘constantly responsible for monitoring their behaviour, governing themselves without pause’ (1999, 206).6

Such a rationalist approach to drug use has been described by researchers in various ways. Margaretha Jarvinen (2012), for example, writes of drug users as ‘rational risk managers’, Kevin Brain (2000) talks about ‘bounded hedonistic consumption’, and Fiona Measham (2004) describes the ‘controlled loss of control’ which occurs within carefully demarcated limits of time and space. These ideas are part of a wider tradition that Elias and Dunning (1986) described as a ‘quest for excitement’, in which the cathartic release of tension through risky activities resulted in what they called a ‘controlled de-controlling of the emotions’, and that writers such as Steve Lyng (1990) developed in the idea of ‘edgework’: the managed experience of risky states.

 

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Addictive Consumption: Capitalism, Modernity and Excess by Gerda Reith

Author:Gerda Reith [Reith, Gerda] , Date: June 14, 2019

,Views: 70

Author:Gerda Reith [Reith, Gerda]

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Published: 2018-08-29T00:00:00+00:00
Denormalisation and new forms of governance

Today we are witnessing a gradual shift away from the universalising prohibition typified by war(s) on drugs towards more complex ‘capillary’ systems of governance that demand ever greater levels of control from individuals themselves. These are typical of the neoliberal forms of governance that we saw in the previous chapter and are operationalised through an increasing emphasis on self-control and ideals of responsibility. Applied to the consumption of drugs, this kind of governance is based less around binary distinctions between legal/illegal and more around ideals of controlled/uncontrolled consumption. Ultimately, it works to produce what Angus Bancroft (2009) describes as a ‘carefully managed hedonism’ as a counterpoint to the expansion of psychoactive consumer culture. Particularly in Britain, Europe, Australia and Canada, recognition of the widespread public consumption of drugs has encouraged the adoption of pragmatic approaches, described as harm reduction and risk minimisation, rather than on more draconian attempts to prohibit consumption altogether. Such approaches embody neoliberal ideals of the sovereign consumer, whereby the provision of information about risk enables individuals to make informed – and, therefore, it is assumed, rational – choices. So, to this end, tips for ‘safe clubbing’ provide information about the dangers of mixing drugs and the importance of hydration, and needle exchanges aim to reduce the risks of contaminated equipment. Such a shift in perspective undermines the absolutism of the category of ‘addiction’, replacing it with a continuum in which consumption is described in terms such as ‘harmful’, ‘excessive’ or ‘inappropriate’ and contrasted with ‘controlled’, ‘informed’ or ‘responsible’. The embrace of drugs by neoliberal ideals of responsibility and self-control reformulates the idea of the ‘drug user’ as a choosing consumer: a position articulated by Alexander Shulgin, the inventor of Ecstasy, in his classic statement: ‘Be informed, then choose’ (1991, xv). This shifts the locus of control from external to internal mechanisms of self-governance, so that, as O’Malley puts it, ‘as rational, calculating risk-takers, [consumers] enter the sphere of responsible drug use’ (1999, 205). This kind of governance is both more liberal and yet also more pervasive than what went before. It is no longer simply a small, discrete group of ‘addicts’ who are disciplined, treated and punished but the majority of people who consume psychoactive substances, who are now ‘constantly responsible for monitoring their behaviour, governing themselves without pause’ (1999, 206).6

Such a rationalist approach to drug use has been described by researchers in various ways. Margaretha Jarvinen (2012), for example, writes of drug users as ‘rational risk managers’, Kevin Brain (2000) talks about ‘bounded hedonistic consumption’, and Fiona Measham (2004) describes the ‘controlled loss of control’ which occurs within carefully demarcated limits of time and space. These ideas are part of a wider tradition that Elias and Dunning (1986) described as a ‘quest for excitement’, in which the cathartic release of tension through risky activities resulted in what they called a ‘controlled de-controlling of the emotions’, and that writers such as Steve Lyng (1990) developed in the idea of ‘edgework’: the managed experience of risky states.

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