Look Around and What Do You See? Social Defeat

How often do you see acknowledgements that social defeat and social depression are rampant in America?


If you do a search for social defeat, you find hundreds of links to studies of rodents.

Here, we demonstrate that social defeat stress (R-SDS) impairs goal-directed motivation in male mice.

“Social defeat is initiated when a male rodent is introduced into the home cage of an older, aggressive, dominant male.” “The social defeat stress model.” And so on.

When applied to humans, the definitions are generalized in psychological terms:
“The definition of Social Defeat is the loss of power, status, or self-esteem as a result of verbal or physical abuse by others.”
“Social defeat (SD) is defined as a feeling of having lost the fight leading to a loss of valuable status or of important personal goals.”
And so on.

In my analysis, social defeat is a complex response to systemic economic, social and political inequalities.
In other words, social defeat is the only possible outcome of structurally generated extreme asymmetries of wealth, income and power. Downward mobility excels in creating and distributing social defeat.

Social defeat arises in strict social hierarchies in which the few dominate the many. Overcrowding exacerbates the many ills of social defeat within these social hierarchies based on dominance.

In my lexicon, social defeat manifests as a spectrum of anxiety, insecurity, chronic stress, powerlessness, and fear of declining social status. Countless studies have identified the destructive consequences of chronic social defeat:
social avoidance, passivity, depression, hyper-aggression, increased food intake and body mass, drug addiction, and so on.

What do you see when you look around? I see all the manifestations of widespread chronic social defeat.
When the system has been rigged to favor the dominant few at the expense of the many, the only possible outcome is
systemic social defeat which manifests as all the ills listed above.

Downward mobility and social defeat lead to social depression. Here are the conditions that characterize social depression:

1. Unrealistically lofty expectations of endlessly rising prosperity have been instilled in generations of citizens as a birthright.

2. Part-time and unemployed people are marginalized, not just financially but socially.

3. Widening income/wealth disparity as those in the top 10% pull away from the shrinking middle class.

4. A systemic decline in social/economic mobility as it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain middle class security or hold onto it.

5. A widening disconnect between higher education and employment: a college/university degree no longer guarantees a stable, good-paying job. (This is what historian Peter Turchin calls overproduction of elites.)

6. A failure in the Status Quo institutions and mainstream media to recognize social depression as a reality.

7. A systemic failure of imagination within state and private-sector institutions on how to address social depression issues.

8. The abandonment of middle class aspirations by the generations ensnared by the social depression: young people no longer aspire to (because they cannot afford) families or homeownership.

9. A loss of hope in the young generations as a result of the above conditions.

The rising tide of collective anger arising from social depression is visible in many places: road rage, violent street clashes between groups seething for a fight, the destruction of friendships for holding the “incorrect” ideological views, and so on.

The unwelcome reality is that America chose economic and financial policies that transferred $50 trillion from labor to politically powerful capital. If this doesn’t seem possible, please read the RAND study in its entirety:

Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018

Next, read the summary from Time.com The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90% —
And That’s Made the U.S. Less Secure

Here’s an excerpt:

There are some who blame the current plight of working Americans on structural changes in the
underlying economy–on automation, and especially on globalization. According to this popular narrative,
the lower wages of the past 40 years were the unfortunate but necessary price of keeping American
businesses competitive in an increasingly cutthroat global market. But in fact, the $50 trillion
transfer of wealth the RAND report documents has occurred entirely within the American economy,
not between it and its trading partners. No, this upward redistribution of income, wealth, and
power wasn’t inevitable; it was a choice–a direct result of the trickle-down policies we chose
to implement since 1975.

We chose to cut taxes on billionaires and to deregulate the financial industry. We chose to allow
CEOs to manipulate share prices through stock buybacks, and to lavishly reward themselves with
the proceeds. We chose to permit giant corporations, through mergers and acquisitions, to
accumulate the vast monopoly power necessary to dictate both prices charged and wages paid.
We chose to erode the minimum wage and the overtime threshold and the bargaining power of labor.
For four decades, we chose to elect political leaders who put the material interests of the
rich and powerful above those of the American people.

Those who gained the pilfered wealth credit their “hard work.” That’s not the full story. Policies stripmined labor and the middle class and funneled the trillions to well-connected capital via tax loopholes, subsidies, favorable tax write-offs, family trusts and many other policy decisions that could only benefit the top 0.1%, who now own more of America’s wealth than the bottom 80%.

While the bottom 50% of America’s households lost ground as their share of the nation’s wealth shrank by a third to a meager 3%, the share of the top 1% soared by 40% to 32%.

How often do you see acknowledgements that social defeat and social depression are rampant in America, and that the causes are systemic, the result of policies chosen by the nation’s leadership elites? Shall we be brutally honest and admit the answer is never?

And what do you expect to be served at the banquet of consequences of this systemic generation of social defeat and social depression? Perhaps a pendulum swing to the opposite extreme?

New Podcast:
Charles Hugh Smith on Getting Ready for a Real Recession (38 min)
(38 min)


My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print):

Self-Reliance in the 21st Century

Read the first chapter for free (PDF)

Read excerpts of all three chapters

Podcast with Richard Bonugli: Self Reliance in the 21st Century
(43 min)

My recent books:

The Asian Heroine Who Seduced Me
(Novel) print $10.95,
Kindle $6.95

Read an excerpt for free

When You Can’t Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal

$18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook;

Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States

(Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook)

Read Chapter One for free (PDF)

A Hacker’s Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet

(Kindle $8.95, print $20,


Read the first section for free (PDF)

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World

(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook)

Read the first section for free (PDF)

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake
$4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print);
read the first chapters
for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained
$6.95 Kindle, $15 print)

Read the first section for free

a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com

Subscribe to my Substack for free


NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email
remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Robert B. ($25), for your extremely generous contribution
to this site — I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

Thank you, Michael S. ($5/month), for your wondrously generous pledge
to this site — I am greatly honored by your support and readership.


Thank you, Paul S. ($5/month), for your splendidly generous pledge
to this site — I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Thank you, Kim T. ($1/month), for your most generous pledge
to this site — I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *