Never has a reconsideration of the place of drugs in our culture been more urgent than it is today. Drugs are seen as both panaceas and panapathogens, and the apparent irreconcilability of these alternatives lies at the heart of the cultural crises they are perceived to engender. Yet the meanings attached to drugs are always a function of the places they come to occupy in culture. This book investigates the resources for a re-evaluation of the drugs and culture relation in several key areas of twentieth-century cultural and philosophical theory. Addressing themes such as the nature of consciousness, language and the body, alienation, selfhood, the image and virtuality, the nature/culture dyad and everyday life – as these are expressed in the work of such key figures as Freud, Benjamin, Sartre, Derrida, Foucault and Deleuze – it argues that the ideas and concepts by which modernity has attained its measure of self-understanding are themselves, in various ways, the products of encounters with drugs and their effects. In each case, the reader is directed to the points at which drugs figure in the formulations of ‘high theory’, and it is revealed how such thinking is never itself a drug-free zone. Consequently, there is no ground on which to distinguish ‘culture’ from ‘drug culture’ in the first place.
This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this book, which is about the place of drugs in culture or in cultural theorising. The book comprises a series of experimental readings of a number of texts by writers whose own diverse inquiries into the condition of modernity have found prominence in the annals of twentieth-century philosophy and cultural theory. These include the works of Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. The book analyses texts and contexts that collectively illustrate how theoretical impulses, trajectories and decisions are shaped and directed by an encounter with drugs, illustrating the sense in which high modernity is a form of culture on drugs.
Derrida's recreational pharmacology and the rhetoric of drugs
This chapter examines Jacques Derrida's pharmaceutical thinking, which is a form of philosophy on drugs, and the conceptual authoritarianism that attempts to control drugs and all matters relating to them, which it questions. It analyses Derrida's The Rhetoric of Drugs and suggests that Derrida clearly rejected the role of drugs in any notion of the passage to ‘the other side’, and has, in many contexts, sought to expose the mystical and scientific claims to the truth. The chapter also considers the ancient concept of Medusa's blood.
This chapter explores whether it is possible to exploit drugs to disrupt the many attempts to contain them, and whether deconstruction could ‘take drugs’ in order to inaugurate a cultural ‘new deal’ on drugs that would enable culture to get along with drugs. It tries an experimental mixture of drugs and deconstruction in an attempt to discern the nature of the peculiar relation between them. The chapter also shows that theme of drugs is as useful a way to elucidate the workings of deconstruction as deconstruction is a means of reworking our understanding of drugs and their effects, making each serve as a user's guide to the other.
This chapter analyses Sigmund Freud's ‘cocaine papers’ and Irma's injection. It explains that, in Project for Scientific Psychology, Freud attempted to develop a conceptual framework in which it is possible to account for psychological phenomena in terms that are consistent with neurological principles based on a theory of underlying neuropsychological mechanisms, of which the ‘drive’ is a key example. The chapter describes Freud's encounter with cocaine and suggests that there is a sense in which his relationship to cocaine made him a pioneer of the theory of mixed treatments, even though he tended to resist the very idea.
This chapter examines Walter Benjamin's thoughts about intoxication. It explains the narco-analytic thrust of Benjamin's thinking with reference to several of his well-known texts, and argues that Benjamin's frequent, but often seemingly ambivalent, remarks about the critical value of intoxication to revolutionary thinking provide a key to understanding his method of dialectical images. The chapter argues that drugs and intoxication were in several ways central both to Baudelairean flânerie and surrealism, as well as to the original critical pathway of Benjamin's own distinctive materialist cultural critique.
This chapter analyses the role of the discussion of hallucination in the development and direction of such theory represented by Jean-Paul Sartre's The Psychology of Imagination and Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception. It looks at how their accounts of hallucination prove crucial to overcoming the rationalist/empiricist hiatus that the phenomenological approach aims to accomplish. The chapter also discusses the importance of an account of hallucination in Sartre's general theory of consciousness and his own philosophical commitment to the basic premises of Husserlian phenomenology.
This chapter examines the dialogue on the subject of drugs, madness and philosophy that can be traced in several texts by Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. It addresses the question of the relationship between drugs, literary art, artistic life and the processes of theorising itself in the context of their own intellectual movements away from the humanistic modernity. The chapter considers how drugs and drug effects may be considered to figure in their respective attempts to overcome anthropocentric modernity, and also shows that the drug effects which circulate in culture at large are related to specific materialisations of individual existence.
This chapter focuses on narcotic modernity and the entry of heroin into motion pictures. It explains that the advent of the cinematic technology provided a new means for the distribution of narco-mythology, and that cinema extended the cultural scope of heroin. The entry of heroin into the world of the moving image began with the 1984 film The Opium Joint. The chapter also analyses generic forms of cinematic heroin, including French Connection, Pulp Fiction and Pandaemonium.