Cover: The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business, from Harvard University PressCover: The Age of Addiction in PAPERBACK

The Age of Addiction

How Bad Habits Became Big Business

Add to Cart

Product Details

PAPERBACK

$17.95 • £14.95 • €16.00

ISBN 9780674248229

Publication Date: 01/19/2021

Trade

336 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

24 photos

Belknap Press

World

“A mind-blowing tour de force that unwraps the myriad objects of addiction that surround us… Intelligent, incisive, and sometimes grimly entertaining.”—Rod Phillips, author of Alcohol: A History

“A fascinating history of corporate America’s efforts to shape our habits and desires.”—Vox

We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. Sugar can be as habit-forming as cocaine, researchers tell us, and social media apps are hooking our kids. But what can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the history and character of the global enterprises that create and cater to our bad habits.

The Age of Addiction chronicles the triumph of what Courtwright calls “limbic capitalism,” the growing network of competitive businesses targeting the brain pathways responsible for feeling, motivation, and long-term memory. We see its success in Purdue Pharma’s pain pills, in McDonald’s engineered burgers, and in Tencent video games from China. All capitalize on the ancient quest to discover, cultivate, and refine new and habituating pleasures. The business of satisfying desire assumed a more sinister aspect with the rise of long-distance trade, plantation slavery, anonymous cities, large corporations, and sophisticated marketing. Multinational industries, often with the help of complicit governments and criminal organizations, have multiplied and cheapened seductive forms of brain reward, from junk food to pornography. The internet has brought new addictions: in 2018, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its International Classification of Diseases.

Courtwright holds out hope that limbic capitalism can be contained by organized opposition from across the political spectrum. Progressives, nationalists, and traditionalists have made common cause against the purveyors of addiction before. They could do it again.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America, by T. H. Breen, from Harvard University Press

Q&A with T. H. Breen, author of The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America

In most histories of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers are foregrounded. In The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America, T. H. Breen recovers the forgotten history of our nation’s true founders—ordinary Americans. We spoke with him about what he discovered while writing the book, and what relevance it might have to today’s politics