Gambling and the contradictions of consumption: A genealogy of the “pathological” subject


This article argues that the emergence of "problem gambling" as a distinct social phenomenon is the result of a particular convergence of discourses and socioeconomic formations that express the underlying contradictions of late-modern consumer societies. Although historically gambling has been criticized for undermining the ethic of production, today the notion of problem gambling is articulated in terms that are oppositional to the ideology of a "consumption ethic" based on the values of self-control, self-actualization, responsibility, and reason. This is related to wider socioeconomic trends whereby the decline of external forms of regulation is matched by rising demands for individual self-control, which is conducted through consumption. In the case of gambling, the liberalization and deregulation of the industry and the simultaneous expectation that individual players govern themselves express the tensions inherent in consumer capitalism and create the conditions for the emergence of the problem gambler as a unique historical type.

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