The growth of modern hedonism
The key to the development of modern hedonism lies in the shift of primary concern from sensations to emotions, for it is only through the medium of the latter that powerful and prolonged stimulation can be combined with any significant degree of autonomous control,something which arises directly from the fact that an emotion links mental images with physical stimuli. Before the full potential of emotionally mediated hedonism can be realized, however, various critical psycho-cultural developments have to have taken place. That emotions have the potential to serve as immensely powerful sources of pleasure follows directly from their being states of high arousal;intense joy or fear, for example, produces a range of physiological changes in human beings which for sheer stimulative power generally exceed anything generated by sensory experience alone. This is true no
The Spirit of Modern Consumerism
matter what the content of the emotion. It is certainly not the case that some emotions, such as gratitude or love, are pleasant, whilst others,such as grief or fear, are not, for there are no emotions from which pleasure cannot be obtained.21 Indeed, since the so-called 'negative' emotions often evoke stronger feelings than the others, they actually provide a greater potential for pleasure. The question, therefore, is not which emotions can supply most pleasure but what are the circumstances which must prevail before any emotion can beemployed for hedonistic purposes. An emotion may be represented as an event which is characteristically 'outside' an individual's control (or, at least, this is true biographically and historically, if subsequent developments are ignored). It is, in that sense, a behavioural storm which is endured, rather than an activity which is directed. Under the influence of very intense emotions, the behaviourof people is frequently so extreme and chaotic that they are said to be 'out of their minds', or 'to have taken leave of their senses', even, to be 'possessed'. Individuals may laugh or cry uncontrollably, dance, or run wildly about, even beat themselves or pull out their hair. Clearly experiences of this kind inundate the individual with such an excess of stimulation that there can be littlepossibility of enjoying it. What is more, as the examples suggest, such emotional arousal is merely part of a larger directive behavioural complex, involving overt motor activity, in the way in which fear is linked to flight or anger to aggression.22 Thus not only is the individual's capacity to 'appreciate' his aroused state negated by his being subjected to a form of sensory overload, but he alsohas his attention directed away from any introspective appreciation of the subjective dimension of his experience by the preparation and implementation of action. Before any emotion can possibly be 'enjoyed', therefore, it must become subject to willed control, adjustable in its intensity, and separated from its association with involuntary overt behaviour. This form of emotional control is not tobe confused with that ordering and regulation of affective responses which must necessarily be a feature of all social life. That process is primarily concerned with the co-ordination of patterns of emotional restraint and display, and is primarily achieved through common socialization experiences. It is obvious that all cultures require individuals to learn both when and how to suppress, as wellas express, emotions - a process which consists, in essence, of learning which situations are associated with what emotions. Control rarely extends, however, beyond the exercise of restraint in circumstances where no expressive response is permitted. In other words, it does not embrace a process of self-determination with regard to emotional experience, yet it is precisely in the degree to which...