author of The Happiness Industry
, provides an analysis of the demographics of Brexit. This article originally appeared at the Political Economy Research Centre blog
and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.
The Geography Reflects the Economic Crisis of the 1970s, Not the 2010s
It became clear early on in the night that Leave had extraordinary levels of support in the North East, taking 70% of the votes in Hartlepool and 61% in Sunderland. It subsequently emerged that Wales had voted for Leave overall, especially strongly in the South around areas such as Newport. It is easy to focus on the recent history of Tory-led austerity when analysing this, as if anger towards elites and immigrants was simply an effect of public spending cuts of the past 6 years or (more structurally) the collapse of Britain's pre-2007 debt-driven model of growth.
To coincide with World Mental Health Day on October 10th 2015, we present the following extract from William Davies' The Happiness Industry. Charting how, from the 1970s onwards, the diagnosis and treatment of mental health has been been influenced by the drive for quantifiabilty and empirical 'rigour', Davies argues that the psychological state of the individual now becomes a target for the accumulation of capital—to the extent that it is no longer clear whether pharmaceutical products are created to treat illnesses, or 'disorders' themselves are defined into existence to conjure a market for drugs.
The viciousness of this system is compounded by the specificity of neoliberal capitalism, which sees competitiveness as the ultimate virtue and failure as an individual vice. Society will force you to be happy: if you're not, you only have yourself to blame.