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April 05, 2011

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IanC

Excellent analysis, Will.
One could add to 'anomic suicide' a category of suicidal hedonism, eg self-destructive levels of drinking or drug use (post-1990 Russia is a case in point).
It is part of the logic of capitalism to maximise production, profit, market share and efficiency. It is part of the logic of neoliberal capitalism to urge the same pattern on citizens, reduced as they are to consumers and workers in the culture of the Long 1980s. And now it is part of the logic of the informational economy to maximise availability of information and opinion. The perspectives on the world of goods, information and possible roles and identities are, as Christopher Lasch argued, phantasmagoric and potentially unhinging. So we all need ways to limit ourselves and come to terms with limits, as a fundamental aspect of a healthy psychological economy. Limits and hope go hand in hand, in this view of things; and the denial of limits in the neoliberal and utilitarian vision of life is part of its essentially maniacal and sociopathic character.

Will Davies

What you're describing may possibly be classed as 'egoistic suicide', which Durkheim defines as follows:

The more weakened the groups to which he belongs, the less he depends on them, the more he consequently depends only on himself and recognises no other rules of conduct than what are founded on his private interests. If we agree to call this state egoism, in which the individual ego asserts itself to excess in the face of the social ego and at its expense, we may call egoistic the special type of suicide springing from excessive individualism.

Dick Pountain

The best account of egotism (and egoism) that I've read is George Santayana's. He distinguishes between "vital freedom", the understanding of one's being in the world and its limits, and "vacant freedom", the uncontrolled will told that it can be anything without limit. He traces its history: the ancient world came to understand vital freedom; after its collapse "barbarism" adopted vacant freedom; Christianity "tamed" Western humanity for some centuries but vacant freedom continued to lurk and reconquered via romantic idealist philosophy; that's where we are now.

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