How often do you see acknowledgements that social defeat and social depression are rampant in America?
If you do a search for social defeat, you find hundreds of links to studies of rodents. Here, we demonstrate that social defeat stress (R-SDS) impairs goal-directed motivation in male mice. “Social defeat is initiated when a male rodent is introduced into the home cage of an older, aggressive, dominant male.” “The social defeat stress model.” And so on.
When applied to humans, the definitions are generalized in psychological terms: “The definition of Social Defeat is the loss of power, status, or self-esteem as a result of verbal or physical abuse by others.” “Social defeat (SD) is defined as a feeling of having lost the fight leading to a loss of valuable status or of important personal goals.” And so on.
In my analysis, social defeat is a complex response to systemic economic, social and political inequalities. In other words, social defeat is the only possible outcome of structurally generated extreme asymmetries of wealth, income and power. Downward mobility excels in creating and distributing social defeat.
Social defeat arises in strict social hierarchies in which the few dominate the many. Overcrowding exacerbates the many ills of social defeat within these social hierarchies based on dominance.
In my lexicon, social defeat manifests as a spectrum of anxiety, insecurity, chronic stress, powerlessness, and fear of declining social status. Countless studies have identified the destructive consequences of chronic social defeat: social avoidance, passivity, depression, hyper-aggression, increased food intake and body mass, drug addiction, and so on.
What do you see when you look around? I see all the manifestations of widespread chronic social defeat. When the system has been rigged to favor the dominant few at the expense of the many, the only possible outcome is systemic social defeat which manifests as all the ills listed above.
Downward mobility and social defeat lead to social depression. Here are the conditions that characterize social depression:
1. Unrealistically lofty expectations of endlessly rising prosperity have been instilled in generations of citizens as a birthright.
2. Part-time and unemployed people are marginalized, not just financially but socially.
3. Widening income/wealth disparity as those in the top 10% pull away from the shrinking middle class.
4. A systemic decline in social/economic mobility as it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain middle class security or hold onto it.
5. A widening disconnect between higher education and employment: a college/university degree no longer guarantees a stable, good-paying job. (This is what historian Peter Turchin calls overproduction of elites.)
6. A failure in the Status Quo institutions and mainstream media to recognize social depression as a reality.
7. A systemic failure of imagination within state and private-sector institutions on how to address social depression issues.
8. The abandonment of middle class aspirations by the generations ensnared by the social depression: young people no longer aspire to (because they cannot afford) families or homeownership.
9. A loss of hope in the young generations as a result of the above conditions.
The rising tide of collective anger arising from social depression is visible in many places: road rage, violent street clashes between groups seething for a fight, the destruction of friendships for holding the “incorrect” ideological views, and so on.