Marxism is amphetamines, biopolitics is cocaine: Social science theories as drugs.

Okay so hear me out, I have a new bit: Social science theories as drugs.

Biopolitics is cocaine. Fine in small doses, and I can see why others REALLY like it, but there’s something about it that just doesn’t quite do it as a mainstay. Leaves you feeling a bit empty and unsatisfied.

Affect theory is LSD. Everything is suddenly clear and illuminated, everything is connected! Holy shit! Makes the world more fun and interesting to interact with. Compatible with literally everything else because that’s how good it is.

Actor-network theory is caffeine. Bizarrely popular, and I can see the appeal I guess, but why would you need it in your life when Marxism/amphetamines exist? The French think theirs is the best but they’re wrong.

Decolonialism is peyote. If you’re not Indigenous or being guided by an Indigenous person, there’s a high chance you’re doing it wrong and are going to trip over your own ass and look like an idiot.

Moral philosophy is Xanax. It can be very useful and comforting, but be careful or you will become insufferable to everyone around you. Extremely easy to overdo.

Marxism is amphetamines. Needed to survive, it keeps you going on a daily basis. Without it, you feel exhausted and confused, and eat too much. It makes you want to get up out of your chair and get shit DONE. Works best when blended with others to take the edge off.

Human evolutionary ecology is weed. I dabbled too much in my youth, and now it makes me paranoid and anxious. Every time I use it around other people I regret it. People who make it their whole thing are weirdos.

Evolutionary psychology is synthetic cannabis. Why? Why are you doing that when there are hundreds of better options that actually work? Stop staring at my chest, get away from me, UGH

Critical race theory is ketamine. It’s like seeing into the Matrix. So good you’ll be angry that more people can’t see how useful it is. Once you get it you will defend it with your life.

Feminism is mushrooms. It connects you to the earth and makes everything make sense. If anyone insults it you can immediately dismiss them as an ignorant asshole. Too much on its own can make you feel cold and nauseous, but life without it is sad and colourless. Makes you want to call your mom and tell her you love her.

Neoliberalism is huffing gas by breaking the natural gas pipes in your apartment building. What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re going to get us all killed with your bullshit.

Intersectionality is polydrug use. You’ve gotta try it, man, it rocks. You take one thing and put it with another thing and it becomes a WHOLE NEW EVEN BETTER THING!

The ontological turn is alcohol. Difficult to relate to, it has its uses I guess, but I do not understand the appeal and think people who use it exclusively probably just need to try some other stuff. Is there anyone who really LOVES it who isn’t also kinda problematic?

Dialectics are DMT. I haven’t been able to make it work for me yet but it looks cool and I’m sure it’s great once you figure it out. Marxists seem to love it. Indigenous people invented it a long-ass time ago and don’t get credit for it.

Postmodernism is MDMA. It’s amazing if you haven’t tried it before, and it’ll do so much for you! You will make friends and heal trauma from a lifetime of objectivism. But do NOT use it too often or you WILL destroy your brain.

Anarchism is kratom. I don’t know very much about it but I like a lot of people who do it so, cool! Sounds good to me! (From David Graeber: “People get all excited because it seems too good to be true and insist it must be really bad for you somehow, but they can never give you a convincing reason why.”)

Capitalist realism is ayahuasca. You will be extremely ill while you figure it out, but afterwards you’ll never be the same again. The world looks different forever.

Positivism is tobacco. It’s addictive and gives you a thrill, but it sucks and you need to quit immediately before it kills you.

Reflexivity is GHB. It’s misunderstood and co-opted by people who don’t understand it, but it’s so good and can totally replace more harmful stuff if you do it right.

Market economics is black market steroids. You think it makes you look really cool, but everyone around you is grossed out and wants you to stop. If you find yourself vehemently defending it, you might want to re-evaluate your life choices.

Structural-functionalism is laudanum. We have opium and heroin, so why bother? What is it, 1902?

Object-oriented ontology is salvia. It makes you go temporarily insane and then has no actual long-term effect on your thinking. Only for people who have too much time on their hands and have fried their brains trying everything else first.

Cultural relativism is nitrous oxide. It just straight-up rocks. It has limits, but the world would be a better place if more people tried it. It makes everything so much more interesting.

White feminism is krokodil. Not even once.

(Credit to @emknird on Twitter for the laudanum idea, and @LericDax for the salvia connection!)


If you like my writing, please consider supporting me on Patreon, or sending some diapers for my baby from my Amazon list 🙂 I’m a low-income grad student and new mom trying to fight against the devastation of the Drug War—every little bit helps.

Find me on Twitter ranting about drug policy, criminal justice reform, capitalism, psychedelics and anthropology: @HilaryAgro

“Drugs are bad,” he said, sipping his beer: Legality vs. social acceptability

I’ve found it highly interesting to hear drug users trash talk other drugs, even while they’re high on their own preferred substance. Gina* thinks that alcohol is the worst drug around, and only smokes pot. Albert drinks, and takes MDMA or coke whenever it’s offered, but he shakes his head when he sees his friends smoking cigarettes. They both think GHB is for idiots, and neither of them, of course, thinks that a drug’s legality has anything to do with its acceptability.

Judging other users doesn’t inherently make you a hypocrite, because not all drugs are created equal–I myself think crack is incredibly destructive and that weed is practically harmless, even though I don’t use either. But the opinions are just so strong on all sides that, just for fun (oh yes, this is indeed my idea of fun), I created a visual expression of the general spectrum of legal/illegal, acceptable/unacceptable drugs based on my interviews and fieldwork in the Toronto rave scene:

Perceptions of the social acceptability of party drugs versus their legality

Subjective perceptions of the social acceptability of party drugs versus their legality. (Click to embiggen.)

Having ecstasy, LSD, marijuana (for now), or cocaine on your person can get you thrown in jail. Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco, you can consume to your little adult heart’s content. However, these drugs’ legal status doesn’t reflect how people view them in terms of their perceived morality.

There are ‘moral’, socially acceptable or legitimate, drugs, and there are immoral/unacceptable/illegitimate drugs. While many in the mainstream accept the status quo of conflating a drug’s legality with its acceptabilityI never get tired of hearing a drunk person say “I don’t use drugs!”, it kills me every timemost people and groups have their own personal categorizations of what substances are acceptable or unacceptable to consume. In particular, to those who choose to use both legal and illegal drugs, a drug’s morality by no means correlates with its legality. Just ask Gina and Albert.*

The reasons behind deeming a drug as socially or morally acceptable are complex, but they most often involve a combination of personal experience, family/peer group/media influence, perception of addictive potential, and cost/benefit analysis in terms of harms and pleasures. Right now I could still make a different graph for different age groups, levels of user experience, and what people say vs. what their behaviour actually indicates. I know that every single person has a different version of this in their own head, but I’m curious about what this graph would generally look like for where you live. Where would these drugs fall on the spectrum for your social group or city? Have you noticed differences based on music sub-genres?

Note: Check out the interesting discussion of this post on reddit, where I find out that I’m wrong about nitrous’ legal status, and also have to explain the concepts of subjectivity and perspective about fifty times.

Not my image. Google gave it to me. How duz I copyright law.Some notes:

  • This chart is a rough first version – it still needs some adjusting. (Well, it doesn’t need anything because it doesn’t even need to exist. But still.) But more importantly, my research is ethnographic, not scientific; this is all very unofficial, I just did it for fun and to help visualize a theme I’m working on.
  • Corrections: The “level of abuse potential” should say perceived level of abuse potential. Also, nitrous is not illegal in Canada.
  • The bottom left I have affectionately termed the “Boogeyman Corner” because those drugs are ironically still subject to the same stigma that, in the mainstream, equally affects these ravers’ preferred drugs.
  • Obviously, everything in existence has abuse potential, including all of these drugs. I took that fact as given when assigning levels of abuse potential as it would be pointless for every single one to have a lightning bolt.
  • The “legal” axis is less strictly defined. I sort of put things there based not only on whether or not they’re legal (which is a yes or no question) but on how restricted their use is, how close they are to potentially being legalized in the future, the degree of care I see people using to hide their use of each drug, the fear of potential law enforcement from users of each one, etc. Things like prescription drugs are hard to place because they’re technically legal but used recreationally (and thus illegally) by people at events. They should probably be on the illegal side but whatever.
  • So many different drugs fit into the Reseach Chemicals (RCs) category that it’s just a can of worms I didn’t feel like opening. Hence the generalized categorizations.
  • Most ravers have little or no experience with opiates, since they’re the least compatible with the main point of electronic music events, which is dancing.
  • The social acceptability of many of these (note the ones with a *) is context-dependent and very ambiguous (which makes them extra interesting!):
    • Alcohol, for example, tends to be the one that people both criticize and consume most frequently. It’s especially criticized in comparison to other recreational drugs, but still used more frequently than any other, mainly due to a) its wide availability and legal status, and b) the ability to easily and progressively manage dosage.
    • Cocaine is similarly badmouthed by some and loved by others (sometimes both at once from the same person). I could maybe even switch its place with ketamine.
    • GHB is very context-dependent in that it’s the drug that causes the most frequent overdoses, so people use the derogatory term “G’ed out” a lot, but using it responsibly is acceptable.
    • Mushrooms are considered perfectly acceptable in general, but most people say they wouldn’t feel comfortable using them at crowded music events.

*Gina and Albert are aggregate people I just invented to make a point. But they definitely represent the opinions of real people I’ve met.


If you like my writing, please consider supporting me on Patreon, or sending some diapers for my baby from my Amazon list 🙂 I’m a low-income grad student and new mom trying to fight against the devastation of the Drug War—every little bit helps.

Find me on Twitter ranting about drug policy, criminal justice reform, anti-capitalism, psychedelics and anthropology: @HilaryAgro