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  • Dialectics of Alienation and Abnormality

    Jeremiah Morelock, Felipe Ziotti Narita

    Chapter from the book: Morelock J. & Narita F. 2021. The Society of the Selfie: Social Media and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy.


    This chapter portrays dialectically intertwined issues of alienation (in the Frommian sense of estrangement from self and others), abnormality, anxiety, and authenticity. Giddens theorizes that modern society is undergoing a ‘transformation of intimacy’, where love and sex are freed from patriarchal traditions, and people increasingly value ‘pure relationships’ where authentic connection is the only motive and can be fully realised. We claim that this desire for authenticity extends beyond this in the society of the selfie, the persistent unrequited thirst for it directly clashes with the alienated status quo. ‘Authenticity strain’ haunts the social terrain with loneliness, anomie, and the threat of volatility and transgression of personal boundaries. The desire for authenticity, and the moral sense that surrounds it, dovetail with the frustrated voyeurism of life under the spectacle in the age of Web 2.0. Fromm says that the inability to genuinely connect with other people can inspire people toward sadomasochism instead, which primes them for authoritarian social movements. And once again we turn to Foucault, to describe his theories about the designation of ‘abnormal’ people. Today, the fear of abnormalities of self and Other, both inner and outer—of becoming or falling victim to predatory, psychologically unhinged Others such as cyberstalkers, violent obsessives, pedophiles with fake avatars, mass shooters, etc.—has become a rampant new nightmare. It is a nightmare that fuels a common desire for greater protection from ‘deviants’ and outsiders through an increase of coercive force, i.e., for authoritarianism.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Morelock J. & Narita F. 2021. Dialectics of Alienation and Abnormality. In: Morelock J. & Narita F, The Society of the Selfie. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book59.e

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    Published on Dec. 14, 2021