• Lecture

Hungry Subjects: What the Appetites of Addicts and the Undead Can Tell Us About Our Society

In this lecture, A. Jamie Saries explores the issues of choice and need satisfaction through the lens of “addiction.” Beginning with a brief description of the treatment of a self-described “addict”, he examines the role of “appetites” in Western Social Theory. As growth and complexity have emerged as objects of anxiety, even apocalyptic fear, in the last few decades, the terms “addict” and “addiction” have seemed ever apt for modelling these concerns.  But other entities also serve this purpose, fictional entities, such as vampires and zombies. Jamie Saris argues that these ways of thinking through unchecked and damaging consumption are mutually enlightening.


A. Jamie Saris begins with a brief description of a woman whose subjectivity seems to emerge only in the play of her unmanageable desire for various pharmaceuticals. In other words, she is a self-described “addict.” This leads to an analysis of the centrality of what he calls “recursive need satisfaction” in much of Western (especially Anglophone and French) Social Theory which, as he argues, relies on a particular understanding of “appetite” in establishing the political-economic subjectivity that lies at the heart of market-oriented state. This same understanding also pushes this formation in a specific historical direction of increasing growth and organisational and technological complexity. As a globalised Western society in the last few decades has become ever more anxious of its place in the world, its impact on various interdependent systems, and the validity of the grand récits that served as its charter, such growth and complexity have emerged as objects of anxiety, even apocalyptic fear, and the terms “addict” and “addiction” have seemed ever more useful for modelling these concerns. Yet, emerging into literary and popular consciousness from about the same time as the modern notion of addicts and addiction are seemingly distinct species of the undead, vampires and zombies, who are also hungry. Like “addicits”, even when we are repulsed by them, we still find the undead good to think, and we use them to think through some of the same issues of unchecked and damaging consumption.

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Ort: IFK