Book Review: A History of Drugs by T. Seddon

Published: October 2010

Toby Seddon’s starting point in this authoritative analysis of the ‘drug problem’ is to understand its contemporary formulation by adopting a historical analysis that focuses upon changing paradigms of governance. Central to his argument is the relationship between the regulation of drugs and conceptions of freedom, which are mediated by changing notions of the will under different manifestations of liberalism. Addiction, it is argued, is a governmental concept that has made possible the assembling of particular strategies and practices to govern human conduct. Seddon bases his analysis around three pieces of legislation (discussed below), which, he argues, are particularly significant in terms of illustrating how the drug problem has been imagined and regulated. Despite being a relatively slim volume, A History of Drugs is rich in detail and sophisticated analysis, drawing upon the works of Foucault, Garland and Braithwaite, among others, to depict the ‘drug problem’ in historical perspective as a ‘multi-layered mosaic’.

Authors / Editors

Prof Gill McIvor

University of Stirling

Research Themes

Violence, Drugs and Alcohol