Addiction Ideology (was Re: ideology, history, transhistory)

alec ramsdell a_ramsdell at
Sun Jul 12 13:58:40 PDT 1998

Louis Proyect writes:

>It's interesting, isn't it, that alcoholism seems to afflict Indians,
>blacks and Irish, the three nationalities who had tribal origins, as
>Theodore W. Allen pointed out. Something tells me that alcoholism in
>groups can be explained better by capitalist oppression rather than


The ideoology of addiction, if I can name certain popular cultural, medically and juridically discursive and operational responses to millions of peoples asocial, antisocial, and self-destructive bodily responses to the conditions of their lives (I'll say material conditions and social relations), seems to be behind the move to administer addiction by accomodating it--giving it it's safe little niche in the culture of recovery without seriously addressing the complexities bound up with a body's addiction. Though I'm not very comfortable with such overarching abstractions, yes, capitalist oppresion is the better feild to look at, rather than genetic propensity. The genetic argument is just part of a larger capitalist ideology of addiction.

Personally, I think the genetic argument is largely bogus and dangerous. Genetics may predispose one, but it is a shadowy area, and addiction is far from reducible to genetics. Genetics is the kernel of a propogating movement, as Eve Sedgwick points out in "Epidemics of the Will", that leads to diagnoses like "alcoholism is a disease." (In the same essay she remarks that the genetic argument serves only a tautological and explanatory function). There are countless political, socioeconomic, etc. implications of that (it's true: addicts can easily qualify for disability!), and completely haywire philosophical and medical treatment implications.

The field of addiction encompasses class and race. I think the move towards understanding how the social-ideological construction of race operates, reproduces itself, is key, always recognizing that, yes, empirically, certain racial and class compositions bear the rougher bodily brunt of it all.


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