1. bookVolume 21 (2021): Issue 1 (June 2021)
Journal Details
First Published
15 Jun 2014
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
access type Open Access

Growing Appetites and Hungry Subjects: Addicts, the Undead, and the Long Arc of Theory in Western Social Science

Published Online: 20 Nov 2021
Volume & Issue: Volume 21 (2021) - Issue 1 (June 2021)
Page range: 102 - 133
Journal Details
First Published
15 Jun 2014
Publication timeframe
2 times per year

This paper explores the Western philosophical idea of “appetites” through the lens of “addiction.” I begin with a brief ethnographic description of a woman whose subjectivity seems to emerge only in the play of her unmanageable desire for various pharmaceuticals. In other words, she is a self-described “addict.” I then look at the relationships between addicts and the undead, especially vampires and zombies, who are seemingly enslaved to their appetites. This leads me to an analysis of the centrality of what I am calling “recursive need satisfaction” in much of Western (especially Anglophone and Francophone) Social Theory that, I argue, relies on a particular understanding of “appetite” in establishing the political-economic subjectivity that lies at the heart of market-oriented state. This same understanding also pushes this formation in a specific historical direction of increasing growth and organisational and technological complexity. As a globalised Western society in the last few decades has become ever more anxious of its place in the world, its impact on various interdependent systems, and the validity of the grand récits that served as its charter, such growth and complexity have emerged as objects of anxiety, even apocalyptic fear, and the terms “addict” and “addiction” have seemed ever more useful for modelling these concerns. I end with some reflections on how we use both zombies and addicts to think through some of the same issues of unchecked and damaging consumption.


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