Class, Psychology, and Capitalism

A young veteran as just arrested for murdering homeless people in Los Angeles. Regardless whether he is actually guilty, a large number of terrible acts have been committed by returning veterans traumatized from the war. None of the studies of which I’m aware account for such costs (including the cost of imprisoning them) in their war costs.

This weekend, the Wall Street Journal mentioned two recent studies in psychology, suggesting how people can become conditioned to function better in our increasingly inhuman capitalist society. The first indicates that soldiers who played violent video games apparently were able to numb themselves from the horrors that they witnessed.

The second article found that religious people were more inclined not to discount the future as much; in effect, they were more future oriented or, as Joe Hill used to say, more concerned with pie in the sky. For two and a half centuries, economists, such as Adam Smith, tended to attribute people who attained status as a capitalist to their capacity to be more future oriented. Max Weber, and to some tiny extent, Marx himself tended to attribute the development of capitalism to Protestantism.

Apparently, to the extent we can train cannon fodder with violent video games and inculcate the rest of us with religion, we can succeed in maintaining an empire with a patient civilian population, who will be content to sit by until neoliberal policies can ultimately deliver pie-in-the-sky.

Gackenbach, Jayne, Evelyn Ellerman, and Christie Hall. 2011. “Video Game Play as Nightmare Protection: A Preliminary Inquiry with Military Gamers.” Dreaming, Vol. 2, No. 4 (December): pp. 221-45.

Soldiers who play video games to varying degrees were solicited to fill out a survey on dreams and gaming. A prescreening filtered out those who were not soldiers, who did not game, and who were suffering from various psychological problems in the last six months. The remaining soldiers filled out these inventories: general and military demographics, history of video game play, Emotional Reactivity and Numbing Scale (ERNS), and a Trauma Inventory. They were then asked to provide two dreams, one recent and one that was impactful from their military service. Following the military dream they filled out Impactful Dreams Questionnaire (IDQ) about that dream only. Dream content analysis was conducted using threat simulation, war content, and lucid/control/gaming content. High- and low-end frequency gamer groups were identified and compared on these dream content scales. Because the nightmare literature shows that affect load and distress are predictors of nightmare suffering, ERNS and Trauma history were covariates in the ANCOVA’s on gamer group × dream type. It was found that the high-end gaming group exhibited less threat and war content in their military dreams than the low-end group.

Cartera, Evan C., Michael E. McCullougha, Jungmeen Kim-Spoonb, Carolina Corralesa, and Adam Blakea. 2012. Religious People Discount the Future Less.” Evolution and Human Behavior. In Press

“The propensity for religious belief and behavior is a universal feature of human societies, but religious practice often imposes substantial costs upon its practitioners. This suggests that during human cultural evolution, the costs associated with religiosity might have been traded off for psychological or social benefits that redounded to fitness on average. One possible benefit of religious belief and behavior, which virtually every world religion extols, is delay of gratification — that is, the ability to forego small rewards available immediately in the interest of obtaining larger rewards that are available only after a time delay. In this study, we found that religious commitment was associated with a tendency to forgo immediate rewards in order to gain larger, future rewards. We also found that this relationship was partially mediated by future time orientation, which is a subjective sense that the future is very close in time and is approaching rapidly.”

2 comments so far

  1. Mike B) on

    Hmmm….delayed gratification. Planning would also fall into this category. Class divided civilisation itself, based on agriculture and animal husbandry would involve delayed gratification.

    I think life after death is a concept which appeals to humans’ ability to actually conceive of their demise. I’m not sure other animals think about death as much as devote their energies to survival. One of the ‘burdens’ of Reason I suppose.

    The process of turning subjects/humans into objects/things is part and parcel of the upside-down world of Capital and class society in general. Early on in class society, humans become wealth as war captured slaves. Women are treated as wealth in marriage rituals, especially arranged marriage rituals. Gaming is just another layer of alienation of humans from humans, a process which is accelerated with the ever accumulating commidification of social relations.

  2. William Gills on

    There’ll be pie in the sky when you die. It’s a lie. Do you want us to believe that the majority of the citizens of the United States are innocent victims of a Media-, Religion-, Technology-driven brainwash that has produced a pro-imperialist consensus in which these good citizens are left free of all responsability or complicity in the US crimes, state terrorism and atrocities committed on a daily basis all over the world, except perhaps at home?


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