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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  7 Social units, though forming a discontinuous aggregate, achieve by language a transmission of impulses which, in individual aggregates, is achieved by nerves. But now, utilizing the molecular continuity of wires, the impulses are conveyed throughout the body-politic much faster than they would be were it a solid living whole. Including times occupied by taking messages to and from the offices in each place, any citizen in Edinburgh may give motion to any citizen in London, in less than one-fourth of the time a nervous discharge would take to pass from one to the other, were they joined by living tissue (P. 96-97). This insight has an indispensable importance to this discussion; the seemingly logical combination of market rationality and pharmacology becomes apparent in the common communicative but even more manifest in the depths of individual subjectivity and alienation which characterize late capitalism. This is most easily evidenced in the very creation and circulation of drug brand names as the market-pharmaceutical palliative works to effect a smooth functionality and perceived social normativity or, perhaps more appropriately, a malleable docility, in the subject. Michel Foucault (1977) observes in theorizing a ubiquitous Panoptical form of power as “a perpetual victory that avoids any physical confrontation and which is always decided in advance” (203). Foucault left commodification out of this power equation, and yet this is the most basic mechanism of a for-profit media system. Following Marx (1906) a commodity becomes such once it there is a distinguishable exchange value recognized via its placement in the market of goods. Commodities take on qualities vis-à-vis each other in the marketplace; they are, in other words, fetishized. Marx maintained that “fetishes were worshipped on account of the powers that they were believed to possess in and of themselves alone” (Jhally 1990, p. 53). Advertising imbues the given object with exchange value and the fetish may be understood as the necessary psycho-social penumbra of commodification. Since the early 1990s there has been a marked resurgence in

Authors: Tracy, James.
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7
Social units, though forming a discontinuous aggregate, achieve by
language a transmission of impulses which, in individual aggregates, is
achieved by nerves. But now, utilizing the molecular continuity of wires,
the impulses are conveyed throughout the body-politic much faster than
they would be were it a solid living whole. Including times occupied by
taking messages to and from the offices in each place, any citizen in
Edinburgh may give motion to any citizen in London, in less than one-
fourth of the time a nervous discharge would take to pass from one to the
other, were they joined by living tissue (P. 96-97).
This insight has an indispensable importance to this discussion; the seemingly
logical combination of market rationality and pharmacology becomes apparent
in the common communicative but even more manifest in the depths of
individual subjectivity and alienation which characterize late capitalism. This is
most easily evidenced in the very creation and circulation of drug brand names
as the market-pharmaceutical palliative works to effect a smooth functionality
and perceived social normativity or, perhaps more appropriately, a malleable
docility, in the subject. Michel Foucault (1977) observes in theorizing a
ubiquitous Panoptical form of power as “a perpetual victory that avoids any
physical confrontation and which is always decided in advance” (203).
Foucault left commodification out of this power equation, and yet this is
the most basic mechanism of a for-profit media system. Following Marx (1906) a
commodity becomes such once it there is a distinguishable exchange value
recognized via its placement in the market of goods. Commodities take on
qualities vis-à-vis each other in the marketplace; they are, in other words,
fetishized. Marx maintained that “fetishes were worshipped on account of the
powers that they were believed to possess in and of themselves alone” (Jhally
1990, p. 53). Advertising imbues the given object with exchange value and the
fetish may be understood as the necessary psycho-social penumbra of
commodification. Since the early 1990s there has been a marked resurgence in


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