The Addict as Prophet: Part 3, Addiction As the Mirror of Modernity

In this and the next three posts we get to what I think is the most interesting and provocative thesis of Kent Dunnington's book Addiction and Virtue.

After making the case that addiction is best viewed as a habit, rather than a choice or a disease, Dunnington turns to the second big thesis of his argument. Here's how he describes it in the Preface:
The second broad thesis of the book is that the prevalence and power of addiction indicates the extent to which a society fails to provide nonaddictive modes of acquiring certain kinds of goods necessary to human welfare. Addiction is therefore an embodied critique of the culture which sustains it. I propose that addiction as we understand it is a particularly modern habit, and that addiction can be viewed as a mirror reflecting back to us aspects of modern culture that we tend to overlook or suppress. Persons with severe addictions are among those contemporary prophets that we ignore to our own demise, for they show us who we truly are.

Christians must heed prophets. Christians, therefore, are called to appropriately describe the addictive experience and to consider how the church may be complicit in the production of a culture of addiction.
According to Dunnington, addiction is a disease of modernity. Addiction thrives because it uniquely and particularly addresses the failures of modernity to offer us any compelling vision of the good life. Lacking this vision we cannot flourish and thrive. Later in the book Dunnington writes, "Addiction, I contend, is the definitive habit of our time exactly because it offers the most powerful available response to this particularly modern lack." In this way, by holding up a mirror to modernity's failures, addiction functions as embodied social critique. The addict as prophet.

So what are the symptoms of modernity's failure?

Dunnington points to three symptoms of modernity: Arbitrariness, boredom and loneliness.

Dunnington then goes on, as we'll review in the next three posts, to show how addiction uniquely addresses all three symptoms.

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