The age of addiction How bad habits became big business

David T. Courtwright, 1952-

Book - 2019

We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. What can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the global enterprises whose "limbic capitalism" creates and caters to our bad habits.--Provided by publisher.

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Subjects
Published
Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2019.
Language
English
Physical Description
325 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780674737372
0674737377
Main Author
David T. Courtwright, 1952- (author)
  • Newfound pleasures
  • Mass pleasures
  • Liberating enslaving pleasures
  • Anti-vice activism
  • Pro-vice activism
  • Food addictions
  • Digital addictions
  • Against excess.
Review by Choice Reviews

Courtwright (Univ. of North Florida) is a historian whose previous work on the context of addiction includes Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (CH, Oct'01, 39-1090). Despite its title, this new book is a history not only of addiction but also of the pleasures that can lead to excess and of their commodification. Courtwright's study draws on diverse fields of study. It begins in ancient agriculture, which yielded alcohol and tobacco, and extends to modern digital addictions. It covers illegal and legal drugs, sugar and tobacco, pornography and prostitution, and many other "vices," demonstrating how "limbic capitalism" spread their popularization. Courtwright's tone makes it difficult to avoid reading moral judgment into his writing. He critiques anti-vice movements as well as the commercial forces that have promoted pleasures and gives passing acknowledgment to the value of some comforts, but his position is not neutral; he sees the commodification of pleasure as a harmful phenomenon that must be acted against. Well-defined chapter topics and an index lead to specific forms or eras of commodified pleasures, but a larger argument runs through the book. Courtwright's case is thoroughly researched, convincingly argued, and informative. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels.--W. L. Svitavsky, Rollins CollegeWilliam L. SvitavskyRollins College William L. Svitavsky Choice Reviews 57:01 September 2019 Copyright 2019 American Library Association.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Historian Courtwright (Forces of Habit) offers a sweeping, ambitious account of the evolution of addiction: rooted in humans' natural instinct to seek pleasure, helped along by scientific breakthroughs and the development of state power and the global economy, and continually reinforced by the efforts of entrepreneurs and advertisers. The author terms this limbic capitalism, "a technologically advanced but socially regressive business system in which global industries... encourage excessive consumption and addiction the part of the brain responsible for feeling and quick reaction." Courtwright begins by considering the pursuit of pleasure in the form of "food-drugs" (such as alcohol, tobacco, and opium) and enthralling games such as chess, furthered by globalization, industrialization, and urbanization in the 18th century. In the modern era, affordability, advertising, and anomie promoted addiction to a variety of substances and commodities so that, by the new millennium, "multinational distribution and marketing machines had built a scaffolding of persuasion... around a range of products that carried a serious risk of habituation and harm." Courtwright considers the contemporary debates about digital addiction, and concludes by reminding the reader of the benefits of moderation in all things, including public health policy. This bold, thought-provoking synthesis will appeal to fans of "big history" in the tradition of Guns, Germs, and Steel. (May) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. What can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the global enterprises whose "limbic capitalism" creates and caters to our bad habits.--Provided by publisher

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"The addiction expert and author of ""Forces of Habit"" presents a controversial, authoritative history of how sophisticated global businesses have targeted the human brain's reward centers, driving everyday people towards addictions to prescription meds, social media and other mainstream vices."

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Though giving the criticism of the term and concept "addiction" a hearing, Courtwright uses it as a concise and universally understood way of referring to a pattern of compulsive, conditioned, relapse-prone, and harmful behavior. His goal here is to explain why that pattern of harmful behavior has become more conspicuous and varied over time. He covers newfound pleasures, mass pleasures, liberating-enslaving pleasures, anti-vice activism, pro-vice activism, food addictions, digital addictions, and against excess. Annotation ©2019 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 4

We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. What can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the global enterprises whose “limbic capitalism” creates and caters to our bad habits.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

From a leading expert on addiction, a provocative, singularly authoritative history of how sophisticated global businesses have targeted the human brain’s reward centers, driving us to addictions ranging from oxycodone to Big Macs to Assassin’s Creed to Snapchat—with alarming social consequences.We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. Sugar can be as habit-forming as cocaine, researchers tell us, and social media apps are hooking our kids. But what can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the history and character of the global enterprises that create and cater to our bad habits.The Age of Addiction chronicles the triumph of what Courtwright calls “limbic capitalism,” the growing network of competitive businesses targeting the brain pathways responsible for feeling, motivation, and long-term memory. We see its success in Purdue Pharma’s pain pills, in McDonald’s engineered burgers, and in Tencent video games from China. All capitalize on the ancient quest to discover, cultivate, and refine new and habituating pleasures. The business of satisfying desire assumed a more sinister aspect with the rise of long-distance trade, plantation slavery, anonymous cities, large corporations, and sophisticated marketing. Multinational industries, often with the help of complicit governments and criminal organizations, have multiplied and cheapened seductive forms of brain reward, from junk food to pornography. The internet has brought new addictions: in 2018, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its International Classification of Diseases.Courtwright holds out hope that limbic capitalism can be contained by organized opposition from across the political spectrum. Progressives, nationalists, and traditionalists have made common cause against the purveyors of addiction before. They could do it again.