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“The Doctor Does a Good Job”: William Burroughs’s Critique of Control

  • Lawrence Driscoll

Abstract

In 1969 William Burroughs made the following prediction in his novel The Wild Boys: “The uneasy spring of 1988. Under the pretext of drug control suppressive police states have been set up throughout the Western world. … [T]he police states … maintain a democratic façade from behind which they denounce as criminals, perverts and drug addicts anyone who opposes the control machine.”1 This prediction, which sadly came true, raises the central issue of this chapter: the question of control. Whether it is control of bodies, races, or drugs themselves, our drug discourses since the mid-nineteenth century, both in England and America, have all aimed themselves at this target. Often the question of control is not limited to controlling our habits; it becomes the control, surveillance, and imprisonment of whole sections of society. Whether it was the fear of the Chinese and opium in the 1920s or the superhuman PCP user in our own moment, control is usually carried out and justified in the name of restraining a violent minority group. While the question of race will be dealt with more extensively in the next chapter, for the moment I would like to examine the possibility that in the case of drugs the application of control on any front will always be counterproductive. Through an examination of Burroughs’s ideas about control, I aim to explore in this chapter how we have to let go of our belief in the efficacy of control.

Keywords

Drug User Young Girl Drug Problem Drug Addict Female Drug User 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    William Burroughs, Three Novels: The Soft Machine, Nova Express, The Wild Boys (New York: Grove Press, 1988), p. 502.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    William Burroughs, Junky (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1987), p. xvi [hereafter Junky].Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (New York, Grove Press: 1990), p. 33.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    William Burroughs, The Burroughs File (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1984), p. 97.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    William Burroughs, The Adding Machine: Collected Essays (London: John Calder, 1985), p. 15 [hereafter AM].Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (New York: Grove Press, 1990), p. xix.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    William Burroughs, Ah Pook Was Here! (London: Calder, 1979), p. 25.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    Barry Miles, William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible (New York: Hyperion, 1993), p. 131.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    Jimmie Reeves and Richard Campbell, Cracked Coverage: Television News, The Anti-Cocaine Crusade and the Reagan Legacy (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1994), p. 63.Google Scholar
  10. 28.
    Daniel Odier The Job: Interviews with William Burroughs (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1989), p. 83.Google Scholar
  11. 39.
    Edward Halsey Foster, Understanding the Beats (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992), p. 161.Google Scholar
  12. 44.
    William Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night (New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1981), p. 274 [hereafter Cities].Google Scholar
  13. 51.
    Marek Kohn. Dope Girls: The Birth of the British Drug Underground (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1992), p. 106.Google Scholar
  14. 52.
    Sheila Henderson, Ecstasy: Case Unsolved (London: Harper Collins, 1997), p. 65.Google Scholar
  15. 70.
    Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix, trans. Brian Massumi. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 76.Google Scholar
  16. 86.
    William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, The Exterminator (The Auerhahn Press, 1960), p. 22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lawrence Driscoll 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Driscoll

There are no affiliations available

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