Psychotropy and the Patterns of Power in Human History


Human cultures have exploited bottlenecks in commodities or resources in order to gain power and control. This essay looks at two examples of psychotropic mechanisms being used in this way. Although psychopharmacological substances are one way to create changes in the brain and alter behavior, there are other ways to tap into the brain’s reward and pain system. In the medieval period, sermons were used to elicit emotional responses from large crowds of people and heighten feelings of solidarity. Similarly debt-recovery techniques used violence and humiliation to reaffirm patterns of social hierarchy.