The Suffering-free Society

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Esben Lejsgaard
4. term, Sociology, Master (Master Programme)
In today’s society most of us remove, prevent or limit suffering in our lives; few of us are aware of the consequences. The leading question of this paper is: what are the social conditions that enable prevention and removal of suffering to play a significant societal role in contemporary society? My critical perspective is my inquiry into what Bauman calls ‘the human waste’ which is the obsolete product of a new normative order arising from the compulsive urge of modernity to ‘weed out’ chaos and ambivalence. I identify the ‘transhumanist view of humanity’ as one such significant contemporary narrative influencing private and public thought. By tracing the development of the handling of suffering within the fields of pharmacology, embryo diagnostics, and the general surveillance trend of self-monitoring (through smart-wearable), it is contested that we’re moving in direction of a ‘suffering-free society’ (lidelsesfrie). The approach is formed by Critical Realism which entails to identify underlying generative mechanisms that have contributed to the rise of such society. Three such mechanisms were identified: 1) the narrative of expansive technological development permeates yet more spheres of modern life. As such technology has been promoted to the modern ‘problemcrusher’ of virtually any problem facing us. As a consequence, an increasing number of things are formulated within the technological solutionist domain thus becoming subjected to technological solutions. Inspired by the analysis of ‘motors of change’ by Rosa, and on the basis of the theoretical concept of technological solutionism as propped by Morozov I contest that 2) technology inhabit a double role in today’s society. By analyzing how the number of ‘things to suffer from’ have risen accordingly with the innovation of technological ‘solutions’ it stands out that technology is the paradigmatic go-to tool of society, but also a central agent to ‘what qualifies as a problem’ and subsequently what a ‘problem’ entails. A problem formulated within a technological framework entails a solution. This ‘conception of a problem’ necessitates 3) a ‘will to improve’. What is on offer is a wide partitioned and infinitely divisible possibilities of optimization and removal of suffering. The shift towards the suffering-free society is thus enabled by contemporary social conditions. Reinstating these societal conditions as a new object of inquiry I deploy Baumans ‘deconstruction of immortality’ to show that the developments towards a suffering-free society have been spurred on by the notion of suffering as a sign of death whereby individuals with the help of technology can momentarily defeat their death by deconstructing it.
Publication date5 Aug 2020
Number of pages102
ID: 337601314