In older cultures, the use of intoxicant drugs was integrated into the rhythms of social existence and bounded by rituals and taboos that ensured their dangerous forces were contained and channelled. In modern western societies, by contrast, the state and the institutions of society have washed their hands of any responsibility for assimilating the desire for intoxication into social existence, and by doing so have sponsored a free-for-all that has often had disastrous consequences for individuals and communities alike.
Why We Take Drugs provides a timely intervention in the growing debate about the wisdom of the ongoing ‘war on drugs’. Rather than adopting the assumption that drug and alcohol use is a problem that poses a threat to society, this book makes a case for the idea that society is a problem for intoxicant drug use and that it is society that poses a threat, by denying those who seek intoxication a legitimate and socially sanctioned space in which to experience these altered states. Scholarly yet approachable, it provides a new understanding of the meaning and role of intoxicant drug use in contemporary society, setting an in-depth phenomenological analysis of intoxication as an embodied experience within a wide sociological, anthropological and historical context. These ideas are brought to life by intimate and revealing accounts of ordinary drug users’ experiences with a wide range of substances.
This book will appeal to a wide range of students and scholars throughout the social sciences, particularly in the areas of drug and alcohol studies, body studies, cultural studies, anthropology and philosophy.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements 1. Introduction 2. Sacrificing the Rational Body: The Transgressive Economy of Intoxication 3. Seeking the Impossible: Expenditure Beyond Necessity 4. Traditional Time and Modern Time 5. From Bodies in Time to Time in the Body 6. Theorizing Community 7. Intoxication Liminality and Community Formation 8. Conclusion Appendix A: How the Interviews Were Conducted and Interpreted Appendix B: Who Was Interviewed Appendix C: Interview Schedule
Tom Yardley is currently working on a collaborative project looking at the changing boundaries and new convergences between prescription medicines, herbal remedies and legal and illegal recreational drugs.
'In asking why we take drugs, Tom Yardley poses the question that is crucially excluded from the familiar discourse of drug control and finds answers that open the subject up in powerful and original ways. Intoxication, he argues, is not deviant or pathological but a quintessential component of modernity: a corrective to a risk-averse society, an unmediated experience in an increasingly virtual world, a technology for reclaiming control of time and creating a subculture of reciprocity and community. Combining lucid critical theory with vivid oral testimony, Why We Take Drugs provides a compelling framework for understanding the enticements, epiphanies and excesses of modern drug culture.'
- Mike Jay, author of High Society
'...a very insightful, thoughtful and thorough text on intoxication, which takes into account the role of drugs in community formation, as a transgressive act and as a sacrificial gesture; intoxication as a social function as opposed a social menace.'
'There is a bubbling political undercurrent to this phenomenological analysis. The ‘war on drugs’ is often cited for its inability to provide a victory or resolution and indeed, as this text claims, could in fact be the cause of the dangers surrounding intoxication. Why We Take Drugs, however, goes a step further by bringing to light a number of important functions that drug intoxication can offer the social in itself; in both being part of an accepted social model and as a method of transgressing existing political boundaries. Overall, an excellent book that every student of drug theory should own.'
-Rob Dickins, Psychedelic Press UK, 10 April 2012