Introduction to Damage

Capitalist society damages us, in ways both adaptive and otherwise.

Introduction to Damage

In view of the actual and potential damage that at present can be wreaked upon humankind by its administrators, the need to protect sexuality has something crazy about it.

Theodor Adorno, Sexual Taboos and Law Today


Objects can be damaged or used up; only subjects can be hurt.

Thomas Ogden, The Primitive Edge of Experience


Capitalist society is immiserating, in that it leads to vast disparities in wealth and poverty, and instability for the large majority of people. It is alienating, in that people are separated from the things they produce, the ways in which they produce, their specifically human capacities, and other people. And it is destructive, in that it is quickly making the planet uninhabitable.

But capitalist society also wounds and maims its subjects in very personal ways: it degrades, stupefies, humiliates, makes anxious, generates rage, and encourages an instrumental coldness in our interactions with other human beings. In short, it damages us, in ways both adaptive and otherwise.

It goes without saying that the preponderance of economic and material factors governing life make any attempt to explain the conditions of society by the psyches of its victims ridiculous. However, society drills all the way down: in the tradition of analytic social psychology, Damage Magazine seeks to uncover the variety of ways in which current social conditions shape and control our thoughts and emotions. By doing so, we hope to uncover the ways in which social structures are registered in our inner lives, and how the various forms of internalization of social demands help reinforce the status quo.

We do not do so in order simply to be “aware”. We rather hope to plumb the depths of contemporary irrationality as a way of reinforcing a commitment to the necessity of structural change and highlighting the subjective impediments to political thinking and action. The stakes must be made clear, and self-defeating pathologies on the left must be overcome. In brief, the “appraisal of the damages wrought by inhumanity” must advance radical politics, and if it does not, it is but another strategy of adaptation to an inhumane world.

The first run of articles published here represents a few of the currents that comprise the general trajectory of Damage. Ted Weezy’s “Politics as Affirmation” and Aurora Borealis’s “Everything All of the Time” are the first in our series on “Pathologies of the Left.” For the first time in decades, it’s once again exciting to be a leftist, but you don’t need to go to many socialist meetings to realize that a wide variety of bad and indeed anti-political tendencies beleaguer a left that is trying to emerge from isolation after decades of retreat. Our “Pathologies of the Left” series will examine these tendencies with an eye toward their transcendence.

During the course of his research for his book Current of Music in 1938‐1941, Theodor Adorno wrote a brief essay called “The Problem of a New Type of Human Being.” There he argues that the psyche as Freud had envisioned it had, under the conditions of late capitalist society, given way to a “new anthropological type,” one more adaptable to inhuman conditions, less rent with neurotic conflict, and largely incapable of achieving the critical cultivation implied by the enlightenment concept of autonomy. In our series “The New Type of Human Being,” we will wonder about the existence of this new type, beginning with Katie Jenness’s contribution on the “self-fetishization” she sees in college students today, and Amber Trotter’s exploration of the “Digital Claustrum.”

The “mental health” industry is ill-equipped to deal with the panoply of conditions treated under its aegis, for reasons that both legitimate and undermine the current social order. Our “Politics of Mental Health” series will seek the help of clinicians to illuminate the dark corners of this underworld, which constitutes an important sphere of contemporary social reproduction. Allan Scholom’s “The Politics of Evidence-Based Practice” examines the complicity of psychologists and other mental health professionals with the imperatives of corporatized healthcare in America.

Every society produces words and phrases that unwittingly reflect its truth-content: “hard,” for instance, as it is employed today to describe a personality type that has toughened itself to adverse conditions. In our “Responses and Reviews” series, we will “get hard” (the resonances of which should resound in their full splendour) to take on the towering idiocy of both the remnants of the public sphere and the academic knowledge industry. “We Are All Very Bad Materialists,” a response to a set of “theses” produced by the Institute for Precarious Consciousness on the function of anxiety today, is the first attempt by people accustomed to the soft noises to produce the requisite “hardness.”

Damage is also committed to reprinting and translating classic analyses of the subjective impediments to thinking and psychological damage wrought by capitalist society, beginning with Harry Chang’s influential “Dialectics of Racial Categories.” Future pieces will include analyses of the continued intersections of art, culture, and the history of psychoanalytic thinking, especially in those areas where the radical experience of art comes closest to the dream of subjectivity beyond the stunted forms purveyed by mass culture; critiques of the remains of intellectual life as found in the modern academy; and searching explorations of social life in bodily orifices. We hope to see you down the line.