Henning Næss
Henning Næss is a literature critic, Modern Times Review

Narcocapitalism is a short book about modern psychoactive pharmaceuticals, but also a theory of how to gain control over the social body.

Laurent de Sutter is a philosopher and professor of law theory at the Vrije University in Brussels. “How has one generally been trying to get manic-depressive people under control?” is the main question in his small book Narcocapitalism: Life in the Age of Anaesthesia. The author gives a short, but good answer: “By eliminating the exaggerated happiness.” “The only decent manic depressive is the depressive,” the author writes. But, of course, it´s not the “author” himself who believes that, he just reproduces what he perceives to be the norm in psychiatry. His own solution to the problem is highly unclear.

Comfortably Numb

The book provides useful information regarding the relationship between drug use and the modern capitalist society. Is it at all possible to feel happiness without using any kind of medication? Or is the relationship the opposite, that the best we can hope for is to “not feel anything”; that happiness is, like in the song by Pink Floyd, to be “comfortably numb”; that medication can make us happy through making strong feelings more subtle?
Laurent de Sutter is a brief overview of the relationship between psychology and pharmacology. It is also a study of modern medication´s “hacking” of the female body and of the ontological dimension of depression. We encounter Sigmund Freud and his “positive” and “active” cocaine use (Freud used cocaine in controlled amounts), and we get an insight into what the contraceptive pill does to a woman´s physiology.

Get Rid of Your Feelings

A longer sequence in the book highlights the serious side effects of the contraceptive pill. Even though most modern women see the pill as the “liberation pill”, the side effects are many and undeniable. Unlike antidepressants, used by patients suffering from depression, the pill transforms the hormonal balance of healthy women.

«The book is a study of modern medication´s “hacking” of the female body.»

It´s probably not the author´s aim to moralize. He points to the close connection between the use of narcotics on a legal basis (the book is less concerned about illegal drugs), and demonstrates the close connection between capitalism and legal drug use, from cocaine to hormone inhibitors, as well as the extensive use of sleep derivatives in modern society. Is natural sleep also to be taken away from us? Sleep, as seen in a capitalist perspective, is a very unproductive state. Presented to us is a study of how our sleep is invaded by chemical agents and an interesting look into the relationship between Coca-Cola and Cocaine.
The author expresses some rather bold statements including that modern people have forgotten what natural happiness is because our spontaneous feeling of happiness has been weakened. We are not healed from our depression and our apathetic way of life, despite the frequent and massive use of medication, and we do not understand why the medication makes us feel worse.

Laurent de Sutter

The author makes it a bit easy for himself. He does not adequately discuss his main argument, namely that the capitalist social system is to blame for the massive use of medication in happiness society. The book becomes a kind of anti-capitalist crocodile that takes on too much, which eventually dislocates its jaws.

Destructive Pleasure

The history part of the book is the most interesting section. This part takes the year 1846 as a starting point, when Charles Thompson Jackson and William Green Morton, both from Boston, submitted a patent application at the United States Patent Office, which referred to “improvement of surgery inside the body.”

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