‘Modulated Perfectly’: Scotland’s Neoliberal Culture of Moderated Alcohol Dependency

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2021 Number 103

‘Modulated Perfectly’: Scotland’s Neoliberal Culture of Moderated Alcohol Dependency
Joe Jackson pages 94-112
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:103.06.2021


The popular, especially British, imaginary casts Scotland as a drunken nation, just as Thatcherite political discourse presents Scotland as welfare-addicted at an individual and national level, apparently drunk on English money. In this article, I argue that Scottish literary culture has written back through a ‘moderated’ alcohol dependency, wherein alcohol provides emergency psychotherapy for a neoliberal professional class. I examine four novels featuring alcohol-dependent focalisers which date from the mid-1980s through to peak British alcohol consumption in 2004, namely Alasdair Gray’s 1982, Janine (1984), Ron Butlin’s The Sound of My Voice (1987), Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1989) and A. L. Kennedy’s Paradise (2004). All of these texts look past the stereotypical immiseration of unemployed men in urban peripheral housing estates and towards a different constituency of alcohol addicts: qualified, productive, responsibilised, and self-modulating. In so doing, the works renegotiate physical, economic and constitutional dependency in Britain. But in a larger frame, they establish alcohol toxicomania in a larger context: that of the psychopathological economy – in which productivity can only be sustained through the palliation of neoliberalism’s mental health crises – and in late capitalism’s reordering of social relations, or what Bernard Stiegler calls a ‘liquidation of relations of fidelity ’.

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To cite this article
Joe Jackson (2021) ‘Modulated Perfectly’: Scotland’s Neoliberal Culture of Moderated Alcohol Dependency, New Formations, 2021(103), 94-112. https://doi.org/10.3898/NEWF:103.06.2021

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