Move Over, Disaster Capitalism–Make Room for Addiction Capitalism

That monkey on your back comes in many forms.

We’ve all heard of Disaster Capitalism: the Powers That Be either initiate or amplify a crisis as a means of granting themselves “emergency powers” which just so happen to further concentrate the nation’s wealth and power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

Naomi Klein described the concept and cited examples in her 2008 book
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
, and summarized the core dynamic: “Disaster capitalism perpetuates cycles of poverty and exploitation.”

Move over, Disaster Capitalism–make room for Addiction Capitalism.

Addiction Capitalism is my term for the last-ditch / desperation method of guaranteeing sales and profits when everybody already has everything: reduce the quality so everything fails and must be replaced, and addict your customers to your product or service which–what a surprise–only you or your cartel provide.

And since you’ve bought up all the competition and moated your monopoly via regulatory thickets / regulatory capture, consumers must continue paying–or suffer the consequences. Addiction Capitalism is capital’s last best hope when the essentials of life and novelties are both over-supplied. So the only ways to juice demand and maintain profits are 1) lower the quality of goods so they must be constantly replaced (Cory Doctorow’s “ensh**tification”) and 2) addict consumers to services such as social media and products such as smartphones, or create dependencies which are equivalent to addiction, such as dependency on weight-loss medications.

Just as the addict is dependent on a drug, patients are dependent on medications that must be taken until the end of their lives.

Jonathan Haidt’s new book offers a scathing indictment of the intentionally addictive–and destructive–nature of social media and smartphones
The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness

For another example of how Addiction Capitalism works, consider how tech companies sell a basic accounting software system for a small sum until it becomes a standard for households and small businesses. Then they eliminate outright purchase of the software and switch to a high-cost subscription model. Nice little history of all your financial records you got there; it would be a shame to lose all that by refusing to pay our monthly fee.

Put another way: going cold turkey and refusing to pay the subscription / prescription is going to be painful. That monkey on your back comes in many forms: checking your phone 300 times a day, obsessively counting “likes,” binging on streaming TV and snacks, junk food, fast food, and other addictive glop–the list is long indeed.

Addiction Capitalism is neatly summarized in this scene from Bruce Lee’s 1973 martial arts film Enter the Dragon, where the villain Han reveals his opium empire to martial artist Roper, played by John Saxon:

Han: “We are investing in corruption, Mr Roper. The business of corruption is like any other.”

Roper: “Oh yeah! Provide your customers with products they need and, uh, charge a little bit to stimulate your market and before you know it customers come to depend on you, I mean really need you. It’s the law of economics.”

That’s Addiction Capitalism in a nutshell: “customers come to depend on you, I mean really need you.” That presents us with a choice: “and you want me to join this?”

New Podcast: 10 Geopolitical / Financial Risks to the Global Economy

My recent books:

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases originated via links to Amazon products on this site.

Self-Reliance in the 21st Century
print $18,
(Kindle $8.95,
audiobook $13.08 (96 pages, 2022)

Read the first chapter for free (PDF)

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 $3/month patron of my work via

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, John C. ($70), for your splendidly generous subscription
to this site — I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Thank you, Federico T. ($70), for your magnificently generous subscription
to this site — I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.


Thank you, Jay ($7/month), for your monumentally generous subscription
to this site — I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Thank you, Aaron W. ($70), for your superbly generous subscription
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 *