the Globalisation of Addiction

a Study in Poverty of the Spirit.


the Globalisation of Addiction – a Study in Poverty of the Spirit by Bruce K. Alexander

Part I – Roots of Addiction in Free-market Society

Chapter 1 – Vancouver as Prototype

Despite enourmous efforts, the same great institutions of modernity could not, and still cannot, prevent alcoholism and other forms of addiction from growing and spreading. Neither legal prohibition, moral medicine, scientific medicine, psychoanalysis, Alcoholics Anonymous, counselling, compassionate love, tough love, behavioural managment, acupuncture, case management, therapeutic communities, civil commitment, eastern meditation, behavioural genetics, neuroscience, sophisticated advertising, antagonist drugs, psychedelic drugs, motivational interviewing, community reinforcement, treatment matching, harm reduction, nor any combination of these techniques has come close to overcoming alcoholism or any other type of addiction.

Probable causes of addiction in Vancouver

Vancouver is celebrated for assiduous urban planning, good-humoured civility, and racial harmony, all framed by snow-capped mountain scenery. Why, then, are so many of its citizens addicted to a multitude of less-than-lofty pursuits? The most obvious answer to this question is that, even more than most modern cities, life in Vancouver incessantly breaks down cultural integrity of every segment of its population, a process that is called ‘dislocation’ in this book. The history of dislocation in Vancouver has followed different courses for people of aboriginal, Asian, and European origin, but the results are much the same and the process is still underway.

Chapter 2 – Addiction1, Addiction2, Addiction3, Addiction4…


The traditional definition of ‘addiction’ was gradually obscured in the 19th and early 20th centuries during a period of intense public alarm over excessive drinking and, later, drug taking. During this period, the meaning of the word ‘addiction’ was simultaneously narrowed, moralised, and medicalised for many people.

Addiction 3

Like addiction1 and the traditional definition, addiction3 does not refer to an ordinary habit, but to an overwhelming involvement. Gambling, love, power-seeking, religious or political zeal, work, food, video game playing, Internet surfing, pornography viewing, and so forth can take up every aspect of a severely addicted3 person’s life–conscoius, unconscious, intellectual, emotional, behavioural, social, and spiritual–just as severe drug and alcohol addiction can. Such overwhelming involvements often entail a startling blindness to the harm that the addiction3 is doing, which is aptly called ‘denial’. Many instances of addiction3 do not involve a single habit, but rather an ‘addictive complex’ of several habits that constitute a single addictive lifestyle.

Like the traditional definition of addiction, addiction3 does not refer to a medical condition. It is not a pathological invasion of an otherwise healthy person. Rather, it is a state of a person as a whole. Unlike a disease, there is no diagnostic rule that spearates mild instances from severe ones that warrant intervention.

the Significance of addiction3 in the 21st century

Although the harm that addiction3 causes addicted individuals can be great, the social harm can be greater. As a single example, political and religious fanatics (i.e. people who are addicted3 to simplistic doctrines and creeds) are working serious destruction upon today’s world as this is being written. Part II of this book elaborates on the social consequences of addiction3, showing why society cannot embrace addiction3, with good-humoured complacency, even when no drugs are involved.
Some people believe that today’s growing concern about addiction is overblown. The apparent surge in addiction is sometimes dismissed as a trendy way of describing personal idiosyncrasies, a convenient excuse for criminality, or a way to generate business for treatment professionals This perception is reinforced when lawyers and expert witnesses hold forth on addiction3 in courtrooms with the most pretentious psychobabble and neurochemical puffery. A few opportunistic lawyers have had clients exonerated on the defence that their crime was caused by the disease of addiction. But the spread of addiction3 has done far too much harm to be discredited by those who exploit it for vanity or profit.
For all of these reasons, a comprehensive understanding of the causes and effects of addiction3 is extremely important to the emerging global society of the 21st century.

Summary and anchor

1. In plain English, this book is about harmful addictions, whether or not alcohol or drugs are involved.
2. In the more precise terminology that is necessary to make certain key distinctions, this book is about globalisation of addiction3. Addiction3 is overwhelming involvement  with any pursuit whatsoever that is harmful to the addicted person and his or her society.
3. Addiction1 is only of concern in this book for historical reasons and inasmuch as it is a subset of addiction3 that is restricted to alcohol and drugs. Addiction2, a heterogenous collection of harmful drug and alcohol problems that includes, but is not limited to, addiction1, is not a cetnral topic in this book except as it is essential to distinguish addiction3 from addiction2 at several points. Addiction4–overwhelming involvement that is not harmful–will be considered in Part II, but only incidentally.
4. Addiction3, the main topic of this book, does not necessarily entail drug use, withdrawal symptoms, pharmacological tolerance, endorphin deficiency, or any variety of dopamine insufficiency. Of course, addiction3 does have a physiological substrate, as every human activity does, but htis book analyses it at the psychosocial level.
5. the word ‘dependence’ will be used only in its normal English dictionary meaning in this book, rather than in its controversial use in the drug addiction field as a synonym for addiction1 (in phrases like ‘drug dependence’ and ‘substance dependence’). In the language of this book, some people are dependent upon regular use of drugs, including illegal ones, to help cope with the exigencies of their normal lives. Such people are no more addicted3 than people who are dependent on automobiles or vigorous physical exercise for the same reason or than people who break their leg and are dependent on crutches for a time. People who are dependent on drugs in thsi sense fit the definition of ‘addicted2’, however.
6. Phrases like ‘addictive drugs’ are not used in this book, because such phrases designate drugs that are said to cause addiction in people who use them a few times. The next chapter addresses the crucial issue of what causes addiction3. The answer is not drugs.

Chapter 3 – the Dislocation Theory of Addiction

Psychosocial integration is a necessity

‘Psychosocial integration’ is a profound interdependence between individual and society that normally grows and develops throughout each person’s lifespan. Psychosocial integration reconciles people’s vital needs for social belonging with their equally vital needs for individual autonomy and achievement. Psychosocial integration is as much an inward experience of identity and meaning as a set of outward social relationships. An enduring lack of psychosocial integration, which is called ‘dislocation’ in this book, is both individually painful and socially destructive.

People can endure dislocation for a time. However, severe, prolonged dislocation eventually leads to unbearable despair, shame, emotional anguish, boredom, and bewilderment. It regularly precipitates suicide and less direct forms of self-destruction. This is why forced dislocation, in the form of ostracism, excommunication, exile, and solitary confinement, has been a dreaded punishment from ancient times until the present. Solitary confinement is an essential part of the most sophisticated modern technologies of torture.

Dislocation can have many causes. For example, it can arise from an earthquake that destroys a village or from an individual idiosyncrasy that a society cannot tolerate. It can be inflicted violently by abusing a child, ostracising an adult, or destroying a culture. It can be inflicted with the best of intentions, by inculcating an unrealistic sense of superiority that makes a child insufferable to others or by flooding a local society with cheap manufactured products that destroy its economic basis. It can be chosen voluntarily if a person is drawn from social life into a single-minded pursuit of wealth in a ‘gold rush’ or a ‘window of opportunity’. Most importantly for this book, dislocation can become the norm if a society systematically curtails psychosocial integration in all of its members. If the dislocation theory of addiction is correct, theree are billions of severely dislocated people in today’s world, because dislocation is inseparable from the free-market society that is being globalised.

Globalising free-market society undermines psychosocial integration

Along with its dazzling benefits, the global movement towards free-market society has costs, one of which is the destruction of psychosocial integration. The destruction of psychosocial integration is shockingly obvious in the homeless, the phsycially violated, and the destitute, but this book will show that it affects the protected, safe, and wealthy with a similar force. To the degree that labour, land, credit, goods, education, medicine, entertainment, etc. are traded in free, competitive markets, dislocation becomes inevitable for everybody. this is because competitive free markets, dislocation becomes inevitable for everybody. This is because competitive free markets work efficiently only if each buyer and seller takes the role of an individual economic actor, pursuing his or her individual enrichment–however he or she individually defines it–competititvely and acquisitively. This economic individualism allows the law of supply and demand to work its magic. Adaman Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ will brin the beneficence of the market to all, but aonly if they reemmber that ‘business is business’ and that they must always ‘think for themselves’. People can only be this individualistic when they are unencumbered by loyalties to their family, friends, traiditional obligations, customs, trade unions, or guilds. Acting on traditional loyalties is criminal or unethical in free-market society because it constitutes nepotism, favouritism, or discrimination. Nor can people in a free-market society be encumbered by the transcendental values of a religion, culture, ethnic group, or nation. As a single, classic example, the free market in labour, in its original form, used the threat of starvation to force masses of people into tedious, meaningless toil in factories. Forms of society that guaranteed that whatever food there was would be shared by all had to be destroyed so that the market could supply the labour needs of the free-market society. In a similar way, traditional sources of psychosocial integration in every type of society came to be identified as ‘market distortions’ that had to be eliminated.
For these reasons, the ideal form of free-market society would inevitably create universal dislocation. Although today’s global society falls glaringly short of the ideal form of free-market society in many ways, none of the deviations from the free-market ideal, including government subsidies and bailouts, corporate collusion, vast transnational conglomerates, non-compete agreements, or widespread corruption decrease the dislocation that globalising society falls scandalously short of the free-market ideal, governments and corporation leaders strive to impose ‘market discipline’ on their underlings–and sometimes on themselves–in the name of the ideal.
To the degree that Western civilisation approximates a free-market society, dislocation is not the pathological state of a few but the general condition. Because the expanding reach of free-market economics engulfs ever more aspects of life, dislocation is increasing.

Addiction3 is a way of adapting to sustained dislocation

To say that an addiction is ‘adaptive’ is not to imply that it is desirable, either for the addicted person or for society, but only that, as a lesser evil, it may buffer a person against the greater evil of unbearable dislocation. Addictions3 do not have the depth or breadth to produce ‘wholeness’ (a term Erikson used interchangeably with psychosocial integration) and so addicted people do not find the contentment they are seeking. In their futile attempts to achieve psychosocial integration by narrowing their lives, addicted people often exacerbate their own dislocation; for example, by stigmatising themselves, by ruining their health, or by irrevocably alienating the people who care most about them.
It is possible to dream that society will benefit from teh insatiability that comes with addiction through the brilliant achievements of addictively competititve Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), the economic stimulus of addictively spreading consumers, and huge government revenues from those who pour their livelihoods into slot machines and lotteries. However, such dreams pale in the face of the long-range costs of corporate and government corruption, stress diseases, family devastation, environmental destruction, and so on. Nevertheless, corporations compete by systematically encouraging addictive consumption in their customers and addictive work habits in their employees, thus acting as ‘pushers’ for the most common addictive habits of our times. Their incessant advertising lulls us in our pallid dream.
At best, addictions can be narrowly creative and marginally socially acceptable, as in the case of some bohemian artists, high-tech wizards, or brilliant mathematicians. More usually, however, addictions are banal and harmful, as in the case of a thieving street junkie; an irresponsible alcoholic; a youth ready to kill or be killed for his gang; a driven, ruthless CEO; a compulsive ‘consumer’ who bankrupts his or her family and deplets irreplaceable resources; or a religious or political fanatic, willing to kill indiscriminately for the casue. Often addicted people concoct unique combinations of addictive pursuits, far more complex than the familiar ones described here.
Only chronically and severely dislocated people are vulnerable to addiction. Why would anybody who was not suffering from an agonising lack of psychosocial integration ever devote his or her life to a narrow, dangerous, offensive lifestyle.

As psychosocial integration is  a fundamental human need, and free-market society, by its nature, produces mass dislocation at all times (not just during times of collapse), and as addiction is the predominant way of adapting to dislocation, addiction is endemic and spreading fast. Free-market society can no more be addiction-free than it can be free of intense competition, income disparity, environmental destruction, unequal access to life-saving medical care, or dishonest business practices. There can be no ‘technical fix’ or ‘market solution’ for problems that are built into the structure of society itself. Instead, today’s society must either modify its free-market structure enough to keep its side effects under control or watch these side effects continue to spread.

A junkyard of false dichotomies
False dichotomy 1: ‘medical problem’ or ‘clinical problem’?

In a free-market society, addiction is best understood as a political problem, rather than a medical or criminal one. If the political process does not find new wellsprings of social meaning and membership to replace those that have been paved over by globalising free-market society, ever more people will become addicted, ever more severely with terrible consequences for society. Saying that addiction is a political problem does not make it solely the domain of professional politicians, however. Citizens, who collectively hold the ultimate political power, must exercise it for the common good when politicians do not, if society is to address its deepest problems.

False dichotomy 2: ‘out of control’ or ‘acting of their own free will’?

False dichotomy 3: ‘psychological’ or ‘physical’ addiction?

False dichotomy 4: drug prohibition or legalisation?

Chapter 4 – Psychosocial Integration is a Necessity

Darwin’s evolutionary anthropology

Another way to say this is that the urge for social belonging is just as essential to human well-being as the urge to individual competition, and the two instinctive, but conflicting, motives exist for the same reason–evolution. It follows that individuals must always experience a conflict between one set of motives that impels them towards individual competition and another that impels them towards social integration and cooperation. In my opinion, all psychological thinking will be greatly advanced when the implications of Darwin’s dual view of human motivation are fully recognised, but this book restricts itself to the topic of addiction.

Darwin’s reliance on group selection as an explanatory device for the evolution of human cooperativeness and sympathy has been the subject of bitter controversy, as group selection has been scorned as unscientific by many contemporary biologists who agreed with Darwin about the role of group selection and the importance of the ‘social instinct’. Currently, the tide appears to be turning in Darwin’s favour. The evidence for Darwin’s view has been powerfully argued by many scholars, notably DAvid Wilson and Elliot Sober. Wilson and Sober extended Darwin’s general ideas on this topic into a ‘multilevel selection theory’ and cited evidence from biology as well as anthropology that human beings are adpated by evolution to live in ommunal and egalitarian communities. The disdainful rejection of group selection by a majority of biologists in the recent past is probably better explained by the political climate than by the weight of evidence. Group selection does not fit with the dominant free-market ideology. Free-market ideology portrays unceasing individual competition as the path to universal wealth, progress, and happiness, and therefore regards individual gratification as the singular basis of all human motivation. The individualistic competition that Darwin described in the Origin of Species has been a matter of great importance to free-market ideologists since the book was first published in 1859, as Darwin himself was well aware because of his family connections to the British Whig Party.

Kropotkin’s anthropology

In support of his conclusion that hte strongest peasant motivations were communal, Kropotkin cited the long history of determined peasant resistance to the destruction of village communes, a destruction that had been instituted all over Europe with the rise of modern nation states and industrial agriculture. The true ‘tragedy of the commons’ was not that commons-based farming broke down because individual peasants grabbed more than their fair share (as has been claimed) but that the commons lan ds were relentlessly destroyed by administrative and military force in order to provide land and people for the free markets in real estate and labour. Late in the 19th entury, when some states, notably France, Germany, and Russia, relaxed the laws in a way that allowed peasants to own their land in common again, large numbers of people who had been forced previously to live in a market society in which land was individually owned re-pooled their land to reinstitute communal agriculture. Kropotkin also found support for his observation of the naturally communal psychology of modern agricultural people in various Anabaptist sects, such as Mennonites and Hutterites, which endured violent persecution and fled en masse from place to place in order to retain their communal way of life.

Polanyi’s economic anthropology

Polanyi pointed out that the profound demoralization caused by colonialisation of primitive people was not due primarily to economic exploitation, for the demoralisation was as great in cases where the colonized people realized a net economic gain. Rather, the demoralization arose from the destruction of their cultures, without which people were individually, as well as collectively, shattered. Without their societies, primitive people are everywhere seen ‘dying of boredom… or wasting their lives and substance in dissipation’.
Nor did free-market societies form any part of the ancient Western world, although it was a settled agricultural civilisation with highly sophisticated economic activity. There was not hint of free markets in Plato’s idealised Republic. Athens’ famous free marekt in food, the agora, may well have been the beginning of the free-market culture in Western civilisation, but it was a rare exception in its day. Aristotle made it clear in his Politicsthat subsistence farming (a so-called ‘householding economy’) is the normal way for people to live and the production for individual gain is ‘not natural to man’.

Other Support

Human beings must satisfy both their need for individual autonomy and their need for social belonging. There is no adequate substitute for either one. This si why Chairman Mao, in his period of immense popularity and power, was unable to purge China of individualism. This is also why the United States, in a century of military and political dominance, was unable to purge South America of communism. One current reminder of this duality in human motivation is the strong and persistent ambivalence of the citizens of the former East Germany, who lived under a collectivitst regime for half a century, and, having rejected it, were warmly welcomed intot he free-market society of West Germany in 1990. Poignant accounts of their nostalgia for the unfree, unproductive, but stable social life of East Germany–as well as their appreciation fo the new freedoms and opportunities in the west–illustrate the complexity of human motivation.

Chapter 5 – Free-market Society Undermines Psychosocial Integration

the second principle of the dislocation theory of addiction is that globalisation of free-market society produces a general breakdown of psychosocial integration, spreading dislocation everywhere. After defining free-market society, this chapter reviews historical and contemporary evidence that free-market society is spreading irrepressibly, producing mass dislocation in every stratum of world society.
A free-market society is one in which virtually every human activity is structured by competitive markets that are only regulated to the extent necessary to maintain their economic efficiency. Polanyi explained that a free-market society:

…must comprise all elements of industry, including labor, land, and money. …But labor and land are no other than the human beings themselves of which every society consists and the natural surroundings in which it exists. To include them in the market mechanism means to subordinate the substance of society itself to the laws of the market.

Thus, within free-market society, the competitive marketplace becomes the matrix of human existence. As a free-market society expands, its scope becomes ever more engulfing and its corporations become multinational Goliaths. Activities that formerly fell outside the market become gradually commercialised, while objects that formerly existed outside the market are gradually commoditised and capitaliseed. Public information media ceaselessly promote the ideology of free-market society and advertise its glittering products. The ideal of free-market society, stated in language derived from Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Margaret Thatcher, and the soc-called ‘Washington Consensus’, is built into globalisation as it is understood in today’s world.

the birth of free-market society

The route towards the modern practice of embedding social life in the structure of the market, rather than the other way around, has been most thoroughly documented in England. This economic evolution was not uniquely English by any means, but England eventually set the pace and style for the rest of the modernising world and dominated the world in the 19th century because it made the system work, most effectively. In the 20th century, the United States assumed the leading role. For this reason, the current language of globalisation is English and the uniform of globalisation is the American version of the English business suit. Fortunately, the cuisine of globalisation is more varied.

Growing industrial development provided the basis for indomitable English military and naval power based on modern finance, technology, and mass production of strategic supplies. Businessmen and soldiers carried the principles of the free-market society from England to the rest of the British Isles and to the British colonies abroad, where English unions and humanitarians had little to say about it. Particularly visible instances of dislocation acquired their own names, such as the ‘slave trade’ that carried millions of blacks from African villages to the cane and cotton fields of the New World, ‘clearances’ of the clan society from the Scottish highlands, ‘transportation’ of thousands of convict labourers from England to settle in Australia, and the ‘grand derangement‘ of the Acadian population of maritime Canada. Around the world, British setlers, traders, and colonial administrations reproduced their own dislocation by devastating aboriginal and other pre-modern societies everywhere–including Canada–and harnessing the energy of the dislocated ‘coloured’ people as producers and consumers in the global free markets. This process degraded stable pre-modern societies around the globe into what is now called ‘the Third World’.

As time passes, the ravages of dislocation are becoming more and more evident among rich nations as well as poor ones, entrepreneurs as well as subsistence workers, libertarians as well as socialists. Free-market society exploits human cultures in the same relentless way that it exploits the earth’s minerals, eventually leaving behind only low-grade ore and depleted tailings. Even the people who benefit the most from free-market society cannot escape the feeling that something fundamental is missing from their live of affluence, longevity, and independence. Moreover, many of the compensations that free-market society provides for dislocated people are eminently suitable as objects of addiction. Some earliest items of international trade in the new global markets–opium, tobacco, and rum–quickly became infamous for their capacity to provide addictive solace on a mass scale. Other major trade items turn out to facilitate addiction in ways that took longer to become apparent. For example, relatively cheap sugar, furs, and cotton fabrics enabled addictive consumption of food and fashions.

Continuing dislocation in today’s Third World
International financial aid

Stiglitz has recounted in detail how the imposition of orthodox free-market principles by international lending agencies caused economic disaster and personal dislocation in Argentina, Thailand, Russia, and many other countries. These principles included wholesale privatisation of government enterprises, whether they were functioning efficiently or not; removal of tariff protections for industry, including industries that were vital for local employment and stability; elimination of food subsidies for the poor, even when mass starvation was the foreseeable result; stripping countries of their political power to protect their own economies, thus leaving them at the mercy of ‘market forces’; forcing elementary schools to collect ‘cost recovery’ fees, even when it meant that huge numbers of children could not attend; closing local banks or subjecting them to ruinous competition by foreign banks; and forcing balanced budgets on governments at all points in their economic cycles. Each of these structural adjustments has caused severe hardships, including large-scale starvation and disease in some countries, as well as local rebellions that had to be suppressed by military force.

Dislocation of the rich in today’s developed world

As the market continues its encroachment into social life, rich and poor people are finding themselves capitalised as well as commoditised. Perhaps uncomfortable with being treated as ‘labour’, people find themselves upgraded to ‘human resources’ or ‘human capital’. People’s friends can be calculated along with other assets as ’emotional capital’. Their writings become ‘intellectual property’, ‘proprietary knowledge’, and ‘good will’ that are parts of the capitalization of large corporations. Their songs, shorn of cultural meaning, become ‘product’ that is bought and sold in bulk lots. Event eh ordinary words of their language, the ultimate commons, can be construed as private ‘brands’ and their use restricted by law for commercial purposes that profit their new owners. In Canada, which will host the Winter Olympics in 2010, the words ‘medals’ and ‘winter’ are now among those words that are legally protected as marketing tools.

In Dufour’s analysis, modernity gave way to post-modernity after World War II. The difference between the two is that, even though modernity destroyed tribal and medieval psychosocial integration, it maintained a symbolised environment, which at least offered people symbolic sources of belonging and identity. European people, for example, could identify themselves as members of the Church of Rome, or followers of a Protestant sect, or citizens of a powerful nation, or respected authorities in their field of knowledge, or part of the intellectual community, or strong fathers or nurturing mothers, or members of a proud race, or any combination of these. By contrast, post-modernity is a ‘desymbolised’ environment, in which the symbolic potency of religion, nationality, intellectual achievement, authroity, gender, and race must be discredited in order to make people maximally responsive to a continually changing economy. People must be flexible workers and trendy consumers with all their options open.
Although desymbolisation may well mitigate some horrors of religious, nationalistic, or racial fanaticism, which reached a peak before and during World War II, fanaticism continues to spread in the desymbolising world of the 21st century, while the psychosocial integration afforded by a wholesome identification of people with deeply rooted symbols has been sacrificed to the needs of the market.

Some economists admit to being shocked by the fact that the vast increases in wealth in the rich countries have not led to measurable increases in happiness. However, they rarely recognise dislocation as a casue. More typically, they fall back on a supposed psychological principle to explain why depression is spreading where happiness should abound–people are naturally insatiable! No matter how abundantly the free market satisfies their deepest needs, people will not be happy, because they will always want more of what the free market can deliver. However, innate human insatiability exists only in the imagination of economists. Historians, sociologists, and anthropologists report long periods of stability among various peoples outside free-market society, who seem to have achieved contentment without ever-expanding consumptions. Psychologists have traditionally understood human motives as satiable.

Chapter 6 – Addiction is a Way of Adapting to Dislocation: Historical Evidence

After the American Revolution free the former colonies from the economic restraints and traditional values of a colonial system, however, life was transformed. Explosions of expansion, urbanisation, immigration, innovation, and wealth occurred within a scarcely regulated free-market economy. Along with its creative benefits, the new economic and social regime fractured the traditional society of former colonies.

Chapter 7 – Addiction is a Way of Adapting to Dislocation: Quantitative Research, Clinical Reports, and ‘Spam’

The third principle [of the dislocation theory], however, also leads to predictions about differences between individuals within a society. For example, it predicts that: (i) The individuals who are the most dislocated within any society, no matter what the cause, will be the most prone to addictions; (ii) Addicted individuals within any society will be using addiction as a functional way of adapting to their dislocation, either consciously or unconsciously; and (iii) Individuals should be able to overcome their addictions if their psychosocial integration is restored. These predictions from the dislocation theory can be evaluated with evidence from both quantitative social science research and clinical studeis of individuals in treatment–the conventional source of evidence in the addictions field. This evidence generally supports the three predictions above, and provides other kinds of support for the third principle of the dislocation theory as well.

Adaptation is a ‘lesser evil’

Hibernation is a familiar instance of a costly adaptive process. Hibernation protects animals from the harshness of winter or other environmental stringencies through a pre-programmed reduction in food intake and diminution of metabolic activities. This protective retardation of function comes at the cost of weakening the hibernating creatures, taxing their physiological systems to the limit, and making them vulnerable to predators. Yet hibernation and other lengthy types of ‘animal anorexia’ are recognised as adaptive in large numbers of vertebrate species. According to the third principle of the dislocation theory, addiction, like hibernation, occurs when an individual cannot meet the demands of the environment and survives by adopting a diminished mode of functioning until the opportunity for more complete activity reappears.

Social Worlds of addiction: real and imaginary
Communities of drug addicts

Authors of recent studies of non-addicted heroin users observed that ‘rejection of the “junkie” identity played an important role, albeit subconsciously in many cases, in maintaining their control over heroin use’. They avoided becoming addicted to heroin by rejecting the junkie identity and sub-culture rather than by rejecting heroin use!

Imaginary or virtual communities

The Internet has an enormous capacity to enhance the illusion of interactivity at low cost to the merchant, and thus can provide highly profitable mass substitutes for psychosocial integration. Therefore, it can serve an addictive function very well. Perhaps this is the reason that Internet pornography has been so much more addictive than books or magazines of the sort that little boys guiltily passed from hand to hand in earlier generations.

Chapter 8 – Addiction is a Way of Adapting to Dislocation: the Myth of the Demon Drugs

Part II – the Interaction of Addiction and Society

Chapter 9 – Addiction and Society

Chapter 10 – the Role of Addiction in the Civilised Madness of the 21st Century

This chapter shows that fanatical devotion to socially destructive ideas can be a desperate attempt to adapt to severe dislocation–the same dynamics that underlie addiction. Because this is so, the spread of addictive dynamics in a dislocated society is a far more deadly issue than society recognises, even during a War on Drugs. Addiction is more than a medical problem that afflicts unfortunate individuals and leaves the rest in peace, and more than an inescapable glitch in human nature that must be endured with grudging good humour. Addiction exacerbates the madness of the modern world, at times producing misery, death, environmental destruction, financial instability, and further dislocation. Because it exacerbates dislocation, addiction is self-perpetuating. Thus, addiction contributes handsomely to the lunacy that is currently drawing an already weakened civilisation towards self-destruction.

Environmental madness

Irreversable harm has been done to vital ecosystems everywhere: the atmosphere, the oceans, the rivers, the forests, the grasslands, the polar regions, and even the miraculous hidden life of the desert. Moreover, the rate of damage is increasing steadily, and some of the most circumspect scientists believe that the consequences soon will be catastrophic. Yet the earth’s political leaders and popular media have had little to say about it, except during occasional waves of public panic. For decades, political leaders and media have reported the evidence, if at all, in a scattered way, as if they want it never to reach a critical mass that would set off public alarm. The public has tolerated this, at least until very recently. …
But what greater madness is there than to ignore cascading, irreversible damage to our planetary home?

How is evironmental madness possible?

Free-market society requires the sacrifice of psychosocial integration for the benefits fo wealth. The resulting poverty of the spirit leaves each person, to a greater or lesser degree, desperate for something that will provide a sense of meaning and belonging. At the saem time that the free market dislocates people, it proffers pseudosolutions for the misery of dislocation. As corporations know that affluent people’s real material needs are already satisfied, they peddle a multitude of consumer products that are designed to fill the void of dislocation: enormous houses, modish clothing, personal beauty prodcuts, lottery tickets, electronic games and gadgets, gas-guzzling cars, sexual enhancements, exotic foods, weight-loss schemes, and on and on. Because these productss can only partly or temporarily fill the psychosocial void, they are difficult to consume in moderation. When they are consumed in excess, their ever-increasing environmental and social costs must be pushed to the periphery of consciousness, as in addictive denial.

Political and economic fanaticism
Faith in the ‘Market God’

Harvey Cox, a distinguished American Christian scholar, provided a theological analysis of the free-market doctrine in his famous article, ‘The Market as God’. He recounted how he began reading the financial newspapers, for the first time in his life, following the world-wide financial crisis sparked by the Asian currency collapse of the late 1990s. HIs encounter with the Market God took him by surprise:

Expecting a terra incognita, I found myself instead in the land of deja vu. The lexicon of The Wall Street Journal and the business sections of Time and Newsweek turned out to bear a striking resemblance to Genesis, the Epistle to the Romans, and Saint Augustine’s City of God. Behind descriptions of market reforms, monetary policy, and the convlutions of the Dow, I gradually made out the pieces of a grand narrative about the inner meaning of human history, why things had gone wrong, and how to put them right. Theologians call these myths of origin, legends of the fall, and doctrines of sin and redemption. But here they were again, and in only thin disguise: chronicles about the creation of wealth, the seductive temptations of statism, captivity to faceless economic cycles, and, ultimately, salvation through the advent of free markets, with a small dose of ascetic belt tightening along the way, especially for the East Asian economies
The East Asians’ troubles, votaries argue, derive from their heretical deviation from free-market orthodoxy–they were practitioners of ‘crony capitalism’, of ‘ethnocapitalism’, of ‘statist capitalism’, not of the one true faith. The East Asian financial panics, the Russian debt repudiations, the Brazilian economic turmoi, and the US stock market’s $1.5 trillion ‘correction’ momentarily shook belief in the new dispensation. But faith is strengthened by adversity, and the Market God is emerging renewed from its trail by financial ‘contagion’. Since the argument from design no longer proves its existence, it is fast beomcing a post-modern deity–believed in despite the evidence. Alan Greenspan vindicated this tempered faith in testimony before Congress last October. A leading hedge fund had just lost billions of dollars, shaking market confidence and precipitating calls for new federal regulation. Greenspan, usually Delphic in his comments, was decisive. He believed that regulation would only impede these markets, and that they should continue to be self-regulated. True faith, Saint Paul tells u, is the evidence of things unseen.

Addictive faith in the Market God

Many people are heavily addicted to free-market ideology–including entrepreneurs, political leaders, and invidduals of modest means and station. Like their counterparts in the Communist Vanguard, they fiercely deny that their economic system has any fundamental faults. They deny that any alternative to it is worth consideration, and impugn the morality and intelligence of all who oppose them. They quickly become tiresome in their single-mindedness and, sometimes, dangerous in their zeal. Like toher addicts, they appear immune to all historical evidence and rational argument. Truly inspired fanatics can face direct evidence of environmental, social, and economic catastrophe growing from free-market economics without deviating from their doctrine even slightly. Their logic is sometimes jaw-dropping.

Perhaps addiction to the Market God is the most dangerous addiction of all. Survivial of this ailing civilisation depends on the ability to perceive the dangers of hypercapitalism, and to subordinate its imperatives to the more essential needs including psychosocial integration, environmental preservation, global peace, social justice, and financial stability.

Chapter 11 – Getting by

Some people manage to create fulfilling, psychosocial integrated lives, even in the most dislocated of modern societies. Such people seldom, if ever, suffer from depression, addiction, anxiety, loneliness, family dysfunctin, boredome, or bitterness, and finish their lives with a palpable sense of contentment and fullness. Unfortunately, I cannot claim membership of this talented and fortunate group myself, although I have the pleasure of knowing a few people who probably can. The larger number of people who manage to live without visible addictions might better be described as ‘getting by’. These people–of whom I am one–cope with sustained dislocation less than brilliantly, but still without becoming sufficiently addicted or depressed to breach the limits of toleration of their friends and relatives. Their ways of adapting to sustained dislocation contribute much to the coloration of life in free-market society.

the ‘tragically cool’

Desymbolisation means that people came to agree that the great value systems of the past, based on religion, nationalism, and critical intellectuality are no longer tenable, either singly or in combination, in the face fo the intimidating achievements of modern science and the awesome power of what Dufour calls ‘total capitalism’. Moreover, the free-market system demands every more flexibility of people to enable the market to keep expanding and changing:

…neoliberalism needs to work with a personality that is uncritical and fragmented. In other words, a person who will connect with each new trend, who lacks strong roots, who is infinitely open to the flow of new merchandise and communication technologies, and who always needs more consumer goods: in sum, a precarious person, whose percarious identity is valuable in a market that can use it as a new opening to sell goods that can serve as identity kits or images with which people can identify.

Chapter 12 – Spiritual Treatment for Addiction: the ‘Fifth Pillar’

Why eclectic spirituality cannot control addiction in free-market society

4. Although compassionate love is an element of psychosocial integration, it si by no means the whole of it: psychosocial integration includes shared beliefs, differentiated social roles, and economic interdependence as well. It is well known that people who try to substitute intensive romantic love relationships for psychosocial integration are not likely to succeed. In fact, they tend to fall into a sad state that is rightly called ‘love addiction’. Agape has the same limitation as romatnic love–it is only part of what its missing; it cannot suffice, although in cases where a person is on the verge of achieving an important life change, it can provide an additional boost that may swing the balance.

Chapter 14 – From Blindness and Paralysis to Action

Ancient wisdom, modern history, and common sense all point towards the same conclusion. Addiction is one of the major ways that people adapt to dislocation. As free-market society spreads dislocation around the globe, the dark shadow of addiction will keep pace.

Civilised paralysis

Collective blindness about the connections between free-market society, dislocation, and addiction has diminished somewhat in the last decade because most of the glittering promises that were made about the new post-Cold War globalised world have failed to materialise. Society owes its clearer view of addiction and other side effects of globalisation to eye-opening disasters that made it possible to think again about the pros and cons of hypercapitalism.

This paralysis does not result from lack of information, for the facts are available to anyone who knows how to use Google[tm]. Nor does the paralysis result from lack of coruage, for people act bravely in their personal crises. The paralysis results most of all from bewilderment. Free-market society has been the nursery of our understanding. Our minds stand alone and afraid without the comforts of its intellectual pap and swaddling. Malnourished on a diet of marketbabble from infancy, we struggle weakly to discern what is important and to act well. Sensible ideas, mocked and distorted by corporatised media, appear no more substantial than the great puffball slogans [N.B. derived from Gaelic word for “battlecry”] that dominate mass culture. Those who dream of a better world await a unifying symbol, an incontrovertible syllogism, a prophet, Godot.

From blindness and paralysis to personal action

Effective action on addiction at a personal level can only be achieved by people who have, to some degree, overcome their own blindness and paralysis. For most of us, overcoming blindness and paralysis does not begin with academic study, but with reflection on the struggles with addciton that we observe in family members and friends or in ourselves. Recognising that the highly publicised suffering of junkies and alcoholics is essentially the same as the addictive miseries that we observe in our personal worlds can begin this reflection. The enxt step may be simply overcoming the denial that shields an intimate’s or one’s own drug or alcohol addiction from conscious understanding. More likely, however, the next step requires the more complex recognition of addictive dynamics that are not connected to drugs and alcohol and thus are camouflaged in free-market society. These addictive dynamics may involve love, food, work, fantasy, narcissistic self-absorption, shopping, gambling, ideology, television, video games, or any of the other myriad new addictive possibilities that free-market society provides.

From blindness and paralysis to social action

When the pain of dislocation and addiction becomes unbearable–as I believe it already has–society must be changed to reduce dislocation. There is no easier solution.


If globalised civilisation survives its current crises, it will emerge neither as a socialist utopia nor as a free-market paradise, but as a true global society. Global society means much more than a planetary marketplace. Like any society, a global society will engender a sense of belonging and meaning in its members, along with respect for individual initiative and freedom. People will defend it and protect its resources for posterity becasue they know it to be their home. In the economy of the new global society, markets will serve to facilitate innovation and the production of material wealth, but iwll always be overseen and supplemented by institutions tha tput the deeper interests of society first. Market autonomy will be subordianted to the needs for psychosocial integration, social justice, planetary ecology, economic stability, and peace. If the economic religiong of the Market God survives, it will be recognised as one of many faiths tolerated by a pluralistic society, rather than an absolute truth. Hypercapitalism, which currently subordinates all other institutions of society to the needs of the economy, will be remembered in history books as a preliminary stage that civilisation tried and outgrew, like feudalism and slavery. Reduced addiction will be only one among many life-preserving consequences of these structural changes.
         For the most part, the emerging global society will be densely populated, urban, and highly technologised. Nonetheless, it will shepherd its resoruces to support both urban and rural families, protecting them from the economic pressures and volatitlity that currently reduce their capacity to nurture children, empower adults, honour elders, and maintain close, supportive conttat between family members. Moreover, the emerging society will provide welcoming schools and community centres with adequate resources for communities to pass on the skills they consider essential adn the values they cherish. The new global society will protect city neighbourhoods and rural settlement sfrom destructive market forces whether they take the form of environmental destruction, artificail real estate bubbles, encroaching freeways, hom ogenising retail franchises, industrial waste contamination, or abrupt relocation of essential industries.
At the same time the emerging glboal society supports families, communities, and the natural environment, it will recognise that social institutions inevitably change and that gradual, reflective change benefits society. It will welcome new institutions and social forms tha foster psychosocial integration and individual accomplishment when the old ones become insufficient. It is impossible to know what new institutinos will evolve, although many are now being tried. Some new institutions will utilize the Internet and other technological marvels; some will work through direct human contact. The emerging global society will consciously maintain a balance between stability and change, between social belonging and individual freedom. it cannot be expected to work miracles, beacuse the march of human folly will follow any route that it may embark upon. However, it will achieve the best balance that can be found for each time and place.
Local communities and nation states in the emerging world society will maintain relationships that are fair to both sides. Relationships between countries will be controlled so that ruinous wars and devastating economic exploitation are prevented. At the outset, this requires a redistribution of wealth between rich and poor countries and between rich and poor individuals because today’s obscene inequalities must appal any human being who is not blind or paralysed. In the long run, peace requires stable international institutions with the power to adjudicate international conflicts that could lead to war and to maintain a decent distribution of wealth.

Defining ‘we’

The conflict is not between simple absolutes like good people and bad people, left and right, rich and poor, or masculine and feminine. Rather it is between two overarching world views, both of which abide, at some level of consciousness, within most people in the globalising world. The tension between ‘we’ and ‘they’ expresses itself as much in inner conflict as in outer confrontation.

Chapter 15 – Social Actions to Control Addiction: Question Period

Reclaiming real estate
Native land claims

The problem of addiction in Canada and in other nations with a similar history cannot be solved without reducing the appalling dislocation of today’s native people. In part, this requires providing suitable environments for those who continue living in aboriginal tribal groups. Providing suitable environments for those who continue living in aboriginal tribal groups. Providing suitable environments, in turn, requires resolving the fearsomely complex issue of native ‘land claims’. In a more abstract sense, the essential issue underlying ‘land claims’ goes beyond native groups to the population as a whole.

Reviving Community Art

The arts are more than just entertainment. They also provide a necessary part of the imagery that holds communities together, contributing to people’s sense of identify and shared meaning. Artists from local communities played a major role in psychosocial integration before their function was largely usurped by mass-produced entertainment, with its glossy professionalism, instant availability, and its eerie capacity to create the illusion of local reality–people often discuss media personalities as if they were neighbours. Like the news media, mass-produced entertainment is richly subsidised by commercial advertisers. Community art struggles to compete with those high-budget production standards.
If dislocation is to be brought under control, community art must assume its central function again, enriching people’s awareness of their real neighbours and their own local issues. At the beginning of the 21st century, successful community art projects are being launched in many areas of the world with this aim in mind. Local granting agencies provide funds to support these ventures and local people participate enthusiastically.
Community art is not art therapy.

the missing, magical piece of the puzzle

A crucially important issue has not yet been mentioned, because it cannot be resolved in this book. Getting beyond the first steps of social action described here requires a global transformation in world view. The world view that underlies a civilisation is the source of both of its greatest strengths and its greatest weaknesses. When its weaknesses become catastrophic, the world view must change or the civilisation risks destroying itself. Western civilisation, which has now become the basis of global civilisation, appears to be in exactly that precarious position at the beginning of the 21st centruy. Its defining philosophy, which can be described from an economic point of view as free-market ideology, is leading to catastrophe on several levels at once. Widespread addiction is just one of these. The kinds of social change that are needed to avert a rising tide of addiction and the other catastrophes cannot be achieved fast enough to save the day until the underlying philosophy changes in the minds of the great majority of people.

In the meantime, idle hoping is not enough–determined social action is the task of the hour.



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