The Privatization of Stress
The privatisation of stress is a perfect capture system, elegant in its brutal efficiency. Capital makes the worker ill, and then multinational pharmaceutical companies sell them drugs to make them better. The social and political causation of distress is neatly sidestepped at the same time as discontent is individualised and interiorised. Dan Hind has argued that the focus on serotonin deficiency as a supposed `cause’ of depression obfuscates some of the social roots of unhappiness, such as competitive individualism and income inequality. Though there is a large body of work that shows the links between individual happiness and political participation and extensive social ties (as well as broadly equal incomes), a public response to private distress is rarely considered as a first option.13 It is clearly easier to prescribe a drug than a wholesale change in the way society is organised. Meanwhile, as Hind argues, `there is a multitude of entrepreneurs offering happiness now, in just a few simple steps’. These are marketed by people `who are comfortable operating within the culture’s account of what it is to be happy and fulfilled’, and who both corroborate and are corroborated by `the vast ingenuity of commercial persuasion’. Psychiatry’s pharmacological regime has been central to the privatisation of stress, but it is important that we don’t overlook the perhaps even more insidious role that the ostensibly more holistic practices of psychotherapy have also played in depoliticising distress. The radical therapist David Smail argues that Margaret Thatcher’s view that there’s no such thing as society, only individuals and their families, finds `an unacknowledged echo in almost all approaches to therapy’.14 Therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy combine a focus on early life (a kind of psychoanalysis-lite) with the self-help doctrine that individuals can become masters of their own destiny. Smail gives the immensely suggestive name magical voluntarism to the view that `with the expert help of your therapist or counsellor, you can change the world you are in the last analysis responsible for, so that it no longer cause you distress’ (p7). × 4 × neoliberalism × capitalism × market economy × public health “There are things to celebrate here and there, but there is no momentum behind the positives. All of the momentum is in the opposite direction; every year we get a little poorer, the schools get a little more defunded, the textbooks get a little more revisionist history and industry-sponsored “science”, the corporations get a little more human in court, the jobs with benefits become a little rarer, the playing field gets a bit less level, and the feeling that things have changed for the worse in a very fundamental way nags a bit more insistently.”
"On the Invention of Money" - David Graeber"
“The persistence of the barter myth is curious. It originally goes back to Adam Smith. Other elements of Smith’s argument have long since been abandoned by mainstream economists—the labor theory of value being only the most famous example. Why in this one case are there so many desperately trying to concoct imaginary times and places where something like this must have happened, despite the overwhelming evidence that it did not?
“It seems to me because it goes back precisely to this notion of rationality that Adam Smith too embraced: that human beings are rational, calculating exchangers seeking material advantage, and that therefore it is possible to construct a scientific field that studies such behavior. The problem is that the real world seems to contradict this assumption at every turn. Thus we find that in actual villages, rather than thinking only about getting the best deal in swapping one material good for another with their neighbors, people are much more interested in who they love, who they hate, who they want to bail out of difficulties, who they want to embarrass and humiliate, etc.—not to mention the need to head off feuds. Even when strangers met and barter did ensue, people often had a lot more on their minds than getting the largest possible number of arrowheads in exchange for the smallest number of shells.”
“A prominent concept in economics is that of homo economicus, an individual who, single-mindedly and rationally, seeks optimally to satisfy his preferences. Such imaginary creatures are not good approximations of persons in the real world. But, as various studies have shown, they do approximate pretty well the kind of people we find in business schools and economics departments – people who cannot comprehend how it could possibly make sense to tip a waiter in a place one does not intend to revisit.”—Thomas Pogge
“Actually, the existence of gifts - even in Western societies - has always been something of a problem for economists. Trying to account for them always leads to some variation of the same, rather silly, circular arguments. Q: If people act to maximize their gains in some way or another, then how do you explain people who give things away for nothing? A: They are trying to maximize their social standing, or the honor, or prestige that accrues to them by doing so. Q: Then what about people who give anonymous gifts? A: Well, they're trying to maximize the sense of self-worth, or the good feeling they get from doing it. And so on. If you are sufficiently determined, you can always identify something that people are trying to maximize. But if all maximizing models are really arguing is that "people will always seek to maximize something", then they obviously can't predict anything, which means employing them can hardly be said to make anthropology more scientific. All they really add to analysis is a set of assumptions about human nature. The assumption, most of all, that no one ever does anything primarily out of concern for others; that whatever one does, one is only trying to get something out of it for oneself. In common English, there is a word for this attitude. It's called "cynicism". Most of us try to avoid people who take it too much to heart. In economics, apparently, they call it "science".”—Graeber, David: Towards an anthropological theory of value. New York, 2001. S. 8.
so im doing research about neoliberal subjectivity and right across from me is a pack of about 5 business majors going absolutely CRAZY… i wish i could share some of Foucault’s insights to calm them but all they talk about is excel, cell boxes and formulas- we clearly dont speak the same language, oh well.
oh and i think i finally mastered usage of the word ‘irony’
“American women are entering a phase called “Me-Covery” - a post-recessionary phase where they are focusing on how they feel, re-evaluating old choices, seeking the right kind of support and taking responsibility for creating their own happiness and well-being.”—After just a couple of weeks of Neoliberalism and Ethnomedicine, it’s crazy to read something like this, about a study done on health habits, and see [governmentality/social control/social education/reification/etc.] in action. Look at all the self-encapsulation, the individualism, the emphasis on choice and investment. Homo economicus in action, I guess.
“The concept in some economic theories of humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. This theory stands in contrast to the concept of Homo Reciprocans, which states that human beings are primarily motivated by the desire to be cooperative and to improve their environment”.
I can only imagine which of these I am.
Castillo de cristal
De tanto leer sobre el duelo, los cuerpos, lo indecible y la vida (in) digna de ser vivida me acordé de mi tía muerta, que no era mi tía sino la ex novia de mi mamá, que tampoco era mi mamá sino la mujer de la que sí era, formalmente, mi mamá. De que no tenía palabras para explicarle a mi viejo el dolor tremendo que sentía porque, ahora que lo pienso, ese vinculo tenía nombre porque lo que me hacia construrirlo, haber elegido a Marce como mamá, no tenía palabras frente a mi viejo. Como para él mi mamá era una sola, su ex mujer, no podía comprender mi tristeza y mi dolor. Entonces, como debía serme más duro explicarle a él mi haber elegido tener una segunda madre (porque seguramente él debía sentir, creería yo, una disminución en su función paternal que ya su violencia había hecho disminuir por sí misma), decidí que mejor me comía el dolor para mí sola y en su casa ni se habló del tema.
Eso es lo que hace Judith Butler en mí, hacerme volver a rincones sepultados de la memoria y reconstruir una historia melancólica para hacer un parcial. La academia no es un castillo de cristal.