Automations, Technological and Nervous: Addiction Epidemics from Athens to Fake News

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2019 Number 98

Automations, Technological and Nervous: Addiction Epidemics from Athens to Fake News
Gerald Moore pages -
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:98.08.2019


Building on work by Bertrand Gille (1978), Bernard Stiegler argues that waves of technological automation tend to be characterised by periods of social ‘disadjustment’, when the rapid pace of change leaves political and social support systems inadequate to the task of ensuring societal cohesion. In the absence of adequate rules for the government of consumption, we can see this technological disadjustment symptomatised in a phenomenon of ‘generalised addiction’. We are living through one such period, struggling in the wake of disintegrating older social norms, and prior to the birth of new ones better able to mitigate the toxic potential of our technological pharmaka. But emerging work in addiction research facilitates the argument, made here, that epidemics of generalised addiction are not unique to the digital era. The works of Plato can be interpreted as a response to an addiction epidemic in fifth-century Athens, which was attributable, in turn, to the technological revolution of alphabetic writing. The comparison of then and now, two periods of technological change bringing political turmoil, throws up multiple parallels with the ongoing transformations of digital culture. Athenian symposia functioned as sanctuaries where aristocrats, displaced from their traditional position at the heart of an increasingly chaotic city, retreated to experiment with religious, poetic and pharmaceutical oblivion. They accordingly bring to mind both the anxiety-relieving ‘zones’ of escape and disavowal sought out by addicts in using, and the internet echo chambers into which we retreat from an increasingly fragmented public sphere. In a move that hints at an exit strategy for our own period of generalised addiction, Plato builds on the logical thinking made possible by the new technology of writing to reinvent and readjust a dislocated political morality. 

SORRY - you are not registered as being permitted online access to the full text of this article

You have the following options:

  1. If you are viewing this via an institution or academic library you can ask that your institution takes out a Subscription to this journal.
  2. If you already have a Personal Subscription please login below

    Forgotten your username / password? Click here to locate

  3. Purchase an annual Personal Subscription
    PRINT + DIGITAL personal subscription (£45 / year)
    DIGITAL personal subscription (£30 / year)
    A Personal Subscription provides immediate access not only to the single article you are seeking, but also to all past and future articles in this journal up to the expiry of your annual (calendar year) subscription.
  4. Purchase immediate access to this single article (UK£7.00) - Buy article Coming Soon

To cite this article
Gerald Moore (2019) Automations, Technological and Nervous: Addiction Epidemics from Athens to Fake News, New Formations, 2019(98), -.

Share this