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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Introduction Since 1997 the US pharmaceutical industry has been allowed to appeal to potential customers via commercial advertising in a variety of media as part of a larger effort to promote and market prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies contend that drug advertising educates the public on potential remedies while consumer groups and some physicians interpret the onslaught of messages as being problematical for a variety of ethical and professional reasons. Beneath the controversy lies a more complex set of relations which concurrently illustrates a deeper dimension of the accelerated economic, technological, and scientific territorialization of geographic space and human social consciousness. In fact, a closer look suggests the extent to which the surveillance and manipulation of our very physical and mental being is the necessary and logical corollary to the already wide-ranging control of mass consciousness. Theoretical Considerations The advertising of pharmaceutical drugs comprises a particularly illuminating and exemplary juncture of modern thought and capitalist economic logic and practice; one wherein popular and mythic conceptions of technology coalesce with and are reinforced by strategic designs toward the domination and control of subjective consciousness and collective behavior. Social theorists have for the much of the 20 th century considered the modern scientific project and pointed to its contradictory and irrational tendencies that have veered beyond the grasp of humankind. Critics have reigned from a variety of theoretical orientations. Robert Park (1940) pondered if a rationalized design, “in awakening the vast energies that are resident in the material world” may have “brought into existence forces which science cannot hope to control.” C. Wright Mills (1959), in what was likely his most widely read treatise on the poverty of

Authors: Tracy, James.
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1
Introduction
Since 1997 the US pharmaceutical industry has been allowed to appeal to
potential customers via commercial advertising in a variety of media as part of a
larger effort to promote and market prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical
companies contend that drug advertising educates the public on potential
remedies while consumer groups and some physicians interpret the onslaught of
messages as being problematical for a variety of ethical and professional reasons.
Beneath the controversy lies a more complex set of relations which concurrently
illustrates a deeper dimension of the accelerated economic, technological, and
scientific territorialization of geographic space and human social consciousness.
In fact, a closer look suggests the extent to which the surveillance and
manipulation of our very physical and mental being is the necessary and logical
corollary to the already wide-ranging control of mass consciousness.
Theoretical Considerations
The advertising of pharmaceutical drugs comprises a particularly
illuminating and exemplary juncture of modern thought and capitalist economic
logic and practice; one wherein popular and mythic conceptions of technology
coalesce with and are reinforced by strategic designs toward the domination and
control of subjective consciousness and collective behavior. Social theorists have
for the much of the 20
th
century considered the modern scientific project and
pointed to its contradictory and irrational tendencies that have veered beyond
the grasp of humankind. Critics have reigned from a variety of theoretical
orientations. Robert Park (1940) pondered if a rationalized design, “in
awakening the vast energies that are resident in the material world” may have
“brought into existence forces which science cannot hope to control.” C. Wright
Mills (1959), in what was likely his most widely read treatise on the poverty of


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