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The substance of consumption : alchemy, addiction and the commodity.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date09/2002
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Studies
Number of pages20
Original languageEnglish


This article reconsiders the category of 'commodity' by exploring its historical and contemporary articulation with the category of 'drug' and the way in which both have been figured as transformative. I argue that ideas of substance, substance-dependency, willpower, structures of feeling and social struggles over power amass or materialize at particular moments in their cultural circulation. They coalesce temporarily into a structure conventionally apprehended as a commodity. Thus, values, norms, ideals and feelings substantialize in the form of the commodity. In turn, our relationship to commodities is called on to substantiate or legitimize a particular framing of our social order and control of social groups structured around 'good commodity-drugs', 'bad drugs' and so-called addictive consumption practices. Through such a framework, I analyse the category of 'commodity' as transformational prism which tracks its complex discursive trajectories through pathology, social order, materiality, willpower and feeling.