“Our heart is restless, until it rests in you”. -St. Augustine, The Confessions
In this last section of the interview I asked Darrin about the theme of addiction that reoccurs in his work. As I say during the lead up to that question, I wrote my philosophy graduate thesis on the topic of desire and addiction, ultimately arguing that our environmental crisis is at bottom a spiritual one. I had found in my research a few political philosophers who were starting to use addiction as a political concept, and not just as a metaphor either, but something intrinsic to late stage consumer capitalism and its functioning. Darrin has also picked up on this growing dimension of reality- which is effecting the behavior of everyone from individuals to nation-states- and I appreciate the way he's using this insight in his writings.
In my question to Darrin I mention a 2010 book by Bruce Alexander called The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in the Poverty of the Spirit. I haven't yet read the book (it's still on my list) but I did read a couple of papers by Alexander while researching for my thesis, including a good one called The Roots of Addiction in Free Market Society. Drawing off the work of a whole host of thinkers before him, Alexander makes a powerful case for the link between forms of social organization and economic production (in integral terms, the lower-right quadrant) and the roots of mass addiction. In a review of The Globalization of Addiction, author Harry Levine writes:
Alexander insists that the rapidly-expanding, modern, free-market, global capitalist system is a kind of super hothouse for the creation of every sort of [social] dislocation, and therefore inevitably of all kinds of addiction. He stresses the disruptive, dislocating and even disintegrating powers of capitalist development.
Several authors have also noticed how a new strain of capitalism in the 20th century- a fiercely consumerist version- actively stimulates and promotes the acquisition of More as a central value, and thus deeply exacerbates the general situation. In his book After Theory, Terry Eagleton writes, "A more canny, consumerist kind of capitalism [as opposed to a puritanical early capitalism], persuades us to indulge our senses and gratify ourselves as shamelessly as possible. In that way we will not only consume more goods; we will also identify our own fulfillment with the survival of the system". And in his book Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens Whole, the political theorist Benjamin Barber writes, "Though greed and puerility are natural features of human psychology, they have been given a prominence in modern materialist man reflecting the artificial ambitions of an infantilist ethos trying to ensure capitalism’s survival".
For some more resources on this culture TJ wrote an early article called Escape, Avoidance and Instant Gratification: The Culture of Spoiled Brats, and I wrote an endnote to that piece exploring Slavoj Zizek's claim that the cultural superego injunction of our time is to 'Enjoy!'. After our interview with Darrin I also wrote an article that explored/utilized themes of addiction, called Zombie Politics and the Walking Dead, and I quote Darrin a couple of times in that piece. And lastly, for another couple of axes in this complex cultural matrix, I direct the interested reader to a recent piece of mine called The Roots of Inauthenticity in the Society of the Spectacle, which I believe contains a few more beams and struts of the overall story. I'm heartened to see that an awareness around mass addiction and its roots is coming more and more into the light, and I appreciated getting a chance to hear Darrin talk more about his understanding of the situation, as well as what we can do to begin walking the road to recovery.
To listen to Part IV, click here (right-click for download).
The earlier parts in this series:
“The message from the great religions is clear: we are all addicts. Why do we cling so deeply and desperately to our toys and trinkets if they ultimately cause so much pain? The great religions suggest that the answer lies in our false sense of identity. They claim that we are separated from the sacred and are thereby unaware of our true nature. This separation is described in various ways. In Judaism and Christianity it is called “the fall”. In Hinduism and Buddhism it is specifically the fall into the semiconscious state of maya, while in Taoism it is the apparent deviation from the Tao. But whatever it is called, its underlying message is the same: in falling into illusion we have forgotten our boundless, spiritual nature”. -Roger Walsh, Essential Spirituality- The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind