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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  12 Adams 2002, Levine 2001). The field of psychiatry and its sundry “disorders” such as depression are an apt corollary for the commodification and sale of pharmaceuticals that allegedly address such maladies because diagnoses are arbitrarily based on observation and “professional opinion” rather than objectively verifiable physical evidence. This provides for both profit accumulation via profligate prescription writing and the omnipresent institutional control of which Foucault writes. For example, anyone who answers yes to whether they are “Sad? Anxious? Stressed? Hyper?” as the placard for Wyeth-sponsored depression screenings reads, may in fact be diagnosed and treated with a psychoactive drug. Yet to be sad, anxious, stressed, or hyper is also to be fundamentally human, and such emotions may be reactions against what are often hostile and demanding environmental stimuli. Physician Bruce E. Levine sees this as a “common sense” observation. Many of our emotional and behavioral problems are natural human reactions to the growth of institutional society and a resulting loss of (a) autonomy, or self direction, experience of potency, and capacity and ability to self-govern, (b) community, or strong bonds among small groups that provide for economic security and emotional satisfaction, and (c) humanity, or the variety of ways of being human, the variety of satisfactions, and the variety of negative reactions to feeling controlled rather than understood (Levine 2002). These observations are not necessarily new. Erich Fromm notes how the modern individual’s life-energy is bound in a “reversed independence” to a destructive impulse. “Those individual and social conditions that make for suppression of life produce the passion for destruction that forms, so to speak, the reservoir from which the particular hostile tendencies – either against others or against oneself – are nourished” (1969 [1941] p. 207). Conversely, psychiatry and pharmaceuticals may further act as the

Authors: Tracy, James.
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Adams 2002, Levine 2001).
The field of psychiatry and its sundry “disorders” such as depression are
an apt corollary for the commodification and sale of pharmaceuticals that
allegedly address such maladies because diagnoses are arbitrarily based on
observation and “professional opinion” rather than objectively verifiable
physical evidence. This provides for both profit accumulation via profligate
prescription writing and the omnipresent institutional control of which Foucault
writes. For example, anyone who answers yes to whether they are “Sad?
Anxious? Stressed? Hyper?” as the placard for Wyeth-sponsored depression
screenings reads, may in fact be diagnosed and treated with a psychoactive drug.
Yet to be sad, anxious, stressed, or hyper is also to be fundamentally human, and
such emotions may be reactions against what are often hostile and demanding
environmental stimuli. Physician Bruce E. Levine sees this as a “common sense”
observation.
Many of our emotional and behavioral problems are natural human
reactions to the growth of institutional society and a resulting loss of (a)
autonomy, or self direction, experience of potency, and capacity and ability
to self-govern, (b) community, or strong bonds among small groups that
provide for economic security and emotional satisfaction, and (c)
humanity, or the variety of ways of being human, the variety of
satisfactions, and the variety of negative reactions to feeling controlled
rather than understood (Levine 2002).
These observations are not necessarily new. Erich Fromm notes how the modern
individual’s life-energy is bound in a “reversed independence” to a destructive
impulse. “Those individual and social conditions that make for suppression of
life produce the passion for destruction that forms, so to speak, the reservoir
from which the particular hostile tendencies – either against others or against
oneself – are nourished” (1969 [1941] p. 207).
Conversely, psychiatry and pharmaceuticals may further act as the


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