Proletarian Hunger Killers: the Socially Acceptable Addiction

The issue of using proletarian hunger killers such as coffee, tea, chocolates, and tobacco has taken on the appearance of addiction (Mintz, 1986). Indeed, users of these products are akin to ordinary addicts in the manner that they depend upon these commodities to maintain a functional predisposition. There are questions regarding whether these commodities actually contribute to the overall performance of employees or if they are mere luxuries.

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Comparatively, why are these substances, which are designed to make workers more productive, socially acceptable; yet, why are recreational substances considered taboo? It is noteworthy that each of the aforementioned substances – coffee, tea, chocolates, and tobacco – has psychoactive properties. For instance tea, coffee, and chocolate contain caffeine which is a renowned stimulant used to increase alertness among users (Ryan et al., 2002). It is this stimulating substance which has addictive properties that keep employees hooked to proletarian hunger killers. Tobacco on the other hand contains the addictive substance nicotine which acts to increase dopamine secretions in the brain similarly to other illicit drugs (Sanyal, 2012). Luxuries, or performance enhancing stimulants, what are the determinants and sociological effects regarding the consumption of proletarian hunger killers in the workplace?

It is evident that the addictive properties of these commodities have contributed to a culture of addiction to these commodities at the workplace (Mintz, 1986). Nevertheless, it is worth acknowledging that other factors also come into play with regard to the propagation of these habits. These include socio-cultural and political-economic contexts that serve to increase the likelihood of an employee developing a habit of using proletarian hunger killers at the workplace. There are various drivers and social pressures which contribute towards the development and prevalence of these habits. For example, tobacco is an important economic commodity which is sold to the masses and readily available (Davis et al., 2016). This therefore points towards an economic element in the development of tobacco addiction.

Additionally, the prevalent socio-cultural outlook towards tobacco consumption is disdain with most cultures and societies averse to the habit. In extreme cases, tobacco consumption is regarded as a taboo and expressly forbidden (Katainen, 2010). Therefore, the emergence of the e-cigarette has seen the use of tobacco take on a discreet clandestine outlook which hides any evidence of smoke while also masking the scent. Consequently, more people are drawn to smoking tobacco as they can do so without coming under societal scrutiny. Technological advancement therefore plays a role in the propagation of the habit of using nicotine as a proletarian hunger killer. This is obviously a socio-cultural element which is causative of an increased likelihood of developing this habit among employees at the workplace.

The consumption of tea, chocolate, and coffee was previously regarded as a social activity but is increasingly becoming a major part of employees’ daily operations. Indeed, coffee and tea play important roles in the life of the contemporary employee by increasing psychological arousal and overall alertness – this translates into enhanced performance and productivity. Caffeine based products are essentially stimulating and this causes them to be preferred by employees as they are both legal and readily available (Ryan et al., 2002). Caffeine is akin to other psychoactive substances as it causes increased secretions of dopamine in the brain leading to euphoric sensations. Furthermore, these items are generally acceptable within most socio-cultural contexts thereby lending credence to the notion that the prevalent culture also increases one’s likelihood for developing these habits.

The Socio-Ecological Model

The interpersonal relationships which a person has at their workplace could contribute towards a habit of using proletarian hunger killers or its lack thereof. The peer domain which a person works in can influence their likelihood of consuming proletarian hunger killers at the workplace (Davis et al., 2016). Interactions with fellow employees can result in peer-pressure-influenced engagement in habits such as cigarette smoking. Employees of all ages and all age groups are equally vulnerable to such peer pressure driven influences. According to Connell et al., (2010) seeing one’s peers engage in any habit is the primary risk factor for engagement among people from all demographic groups.

This socio-ecological model also extends to the household as continued use of these proletarian hunger killers from domestic influences can persist to the workplace (Mintz, 1986). Indeed, these behaviors and habits can be attributed to the lifestyles which people lead as well as their familial relationships. Interactions with people on the domestic front can contribute to increased likelihood of one developing all of the aforementioned addictions. The social behavior associated with the consumption of tea, coffee, or chocolates is thus contributory as well (Ryan et al., 2002). It is also noteworthy that this social behavior arose from the domestic front with the consumption of caffeine-based beverages being especially noteworthy. Once again, the peer domain can be seen as a major influence in one engaging in a behavior which can persist to the workplace. This is also true for people from all demographic groups.

The analysis of why employees are becoming increasingly addicted to proletarian hunger killers is required to develop an in-depth comprehension of this problem. Studies that exist pertaining to this issue do not capture differences among individuals, subcultures, and the larger population (Mintz, 1986). Sociology is especially useful as a disciplinary lens upon which the issue can be examined because of its direct relevance to the problems that plague society. The discipline of Sociology examines the establishment, development, and functionality of human social systems as well as the inherent social problems (Newes, 2000). Sociology research should therefore answer “how” employees become exposed to the social pressures that lead to the development of these habits. It should also provide theoretical insight on how interactions among various levels of the environment can contribute to these habits and addictions.

Sociologists believe that the world is controlled by the nature of interactions among human beings according to Katainen (2010). In the same vein, sociologists posit that the propensity to use proletarian hunger killers at the workplace is a construct of environmental variables interacting at multiple levels such as the surrounding culture, the larger community, and one’s interpersonal relationships. Habits such as tobacco consumption can be evidently derived from within one’s environment as a result of peer pressure acting in the manner explained above. Nevertheless, sociologists also acknowledge that these habits are caused by complex interactions of socio-cultural and economic-political factors.

Similarly, an increased uptake of caffeine-based products at the workplace can also be brought about by peer influences. This is largely circumstantial however considering that most people find no aversion in these beverages and chocolate therefore negating the need for peer pressure within their interpersonal interactions. Nevertheless, even individual factors can play a role in one developing an addiction towards caffeine based products. For example, the consumption of coffee and tea to increase alertness and psychological arousal can be driven by an individual need to perform better at the workplace (Ryan et al., 2002). It is also noteworthy that the modern day employee is increasingly restricted to certain time frames during which their productivity is expected to be optimal. Such standardized labor procedures therefore require an individual to be optimally functioning by the time work commences and this can drive someone towards consuming increased quantities of coffee, tea, or chocolate (Ryan et al., 2002).

The Socio-Economic Class

As per the socio-ecological model, the individual characteristics of the individual form the first layer of their environment outside of the individual. With regard to the development of proletarian hunger killers’ addictions, the personal circumstances of an individual could presumably play a role. People can become vulnerable to developing habits such as nicotine addiction simply as a result of their socio-economic class (Davis et al., 2016). As a general rule, people from low income neighborhoods and the working class are bound to be more predisposed towards tobacco addiction. This is largely fueled by the increased likelihood of seeing people engaging in the same habit within their immediate vicinity and this can form some sort of social pressure according to Connell et al., (2010).

As a construct of sociology, a socio-economic class is a group of people who share similar socio-economic characteristics (Matto, 2004). In general, people of the same class share similar education levels, income, and socio-economic positioning – they occupy the same niche. It is the differences among these social classes that result in social stratification. With regard to cigarette and e-cigarette addiction specifically, the association with an increased risk factor is attributed to the lower income segments of the society. The drivers of substance abuse are more prevalent among people from low income communities and tobacco is no different (Fuemmeler et al, 2013). It is also noteworthy that the disparity evident in the rates of tobacco addiction among people from lower classes versus higher income earners is a plausible cause of health inequality. Tobacco consumption is majorly fueled by the environmental variables in this regard.

With regard to caffeine addiction, the issue of socio-economic class is also apparent. People from within the working class communities are tasked with being productive during the hours on the job – typically between nine in the morning to five in the evening – creating some sort of economic pressure. Standardized labor production compels people to behave in a manner that increases their risk of addiction. Consumption of caffeine based products so as to increase arousal and alertness is therefore more pronounced among these working class communities (Ryan et al., 2002). In this way, the socio-economic class of the individual plays a role in their increased likelihood of becoming addicted to coffee, tea, or chocolate. Economic factors also play a role in the aggressive marketing which these commodities enjoy ensuring they are always within the conscience of the average American employee.

Interpersonal Relationships

Interpersonal relationships form the next level of the socio-ecological model. These are the interactions with other people within the immediate environment (Katainen, 2010). The role of the peer domain is more pronounced at this level. Even at the employment level, colloquial interactions are bound to occur among peers and this can increase the aforementioned social pressures to partake in these proletarian hunger killers. The interactions of employees with people of a similar age or those who share certain similar attributes can lead to an increased likelihood of developing addictions of proletarian hunger killers or its lack thereof. In fact, up to 90% of all cases of substance usage are directly attributable to peer pressure inclusive of tobacco – this is especially true for younger employees (Connell et al., 2010). When considering the socio-ecological model, it is evident that the peer domain plays a prominent role in the development of these habits or their lack thereof.

The consumption of caffeine based products at the workplace can also be increased by interpersonal interactions. Granted, the fact that these commodities are legal and their consumption is regarded as something of a social activity then it is plausible that interactions with fellow professionals are contributory towards employees’ increased consumption of beverages. It is not uncommon for people to bond over a cup of coffee and this socio-cultural belief pervades to formal employment and the corporate world. It is also worth noting that drinking a cup of coffee is considered a ritual by several people within employment circles and this behavior obviously persists to their places of work. It is almost a part of office furniture for a place of work to have a coffee-maker according to Ryan et al., (2002). The consumption of coffee in a manner akin to dependency therefore is a habit which most people actually begin at early ages before being formally employed.

Community Level

The next level of the socio-ecological model considered by sociologists is the community level. Behaviors such as cigarette addiction are more acceptable within other communities than others while the reverse is also true (Matto, 2004). A culture of substance usage within a community will increase the likelihood of people within the vicinity becoming more at risk of adopting the same habit. Readily available of tobacco products, community disorganization, and high rates of substance use are contributory factors behind the disparity in rates of tobacco addiction over others (Rogers et al., 2018). These contributory agents are essentially risk factors that increase the likelihood of becoming addicted to tobacco.

Conversely, a culture which perceives tobacco smoking as a form of deviance will reduce the likelihood of one becoming addicted to cigarettes and e-cigarettes (Rogers et al., 2018). The behavior is increasingly being looked down upon as a result of the increasing awareness of the dangers of inhaling second-hand smoke. Consequently, the likelihood of employees becoming addicted to tobacco within such communities is lowered. Nevertheless, the issue of tobacco addiction persists within most modern day societies due to manufacturers’ aggressive marketing strategies working in conjunction with the aforementioned factors. Indeed, mainstream media plays a role in these marketing efforts by continually broadcasting these advertisements despite their obvious hazards – it is noteworthy that disclaimers are often placed as afterthoughts showing the capitalist tendencies of manufacturers at play.

The prevalence of coffee and other caffeine based products among employees is arguable more than that of tobacco. Indeed, the role which caffeine plays in the personal and professional lives of individuals has been harnessed into multi-billion dollar businesses (Ryan et al., 2002). Indeed, the production of the aforementioned beverages and confectionery is a major aspect of capitalist industrial endeavors thus highlighting economic interests in their increased consumption. It is within the interests of manufacturers that the vast market remains consistent to maintain the demand margins. Coffee, tea, and chocolate are therefore marketed just as aggressively as tobacco products and this means they are always within the reckoning of most people (Ryan et al., 2002).

Similarly, there are communities which are more tolerant of caffeine compared to others. There are socio-cultural contexts where caffeine addiction is frowned upon such as the Mormon religion. The larger American population is however accepting of caffeine based products and this contributes to the popularity of the substance despite its addictive hazards. As previously stated the average individual is surrounded by coffee and tea shops as well as their respective marketing strategies at every turn (Ryan et al., 2002). Chocolate is also readily available and marketed aggressively to ensure the commodity is a mainstay of modern day American conscience. The ready-availability of these caffeine-based commodities is therefore indicative of environmental variables contributing to the popularity of these proletarian hunger killers.

A More Comprehensive Understanding

The issue of employees increasingly becoming addicted to proletarian hunger killers is drawing more concern within American reckoning. These pose major problems to society especially considering the addictive properties of these proletarian hunger killers. There is much information which can be gleaned from the principles of sociology with regard to increasing use of proletarian hunger killers at the workplace. For example, the issue of increasing tobacco usage at the workplace is a contributory factor behind the health inequalities faced among different socio-economic classes. Similarly, the use of caffeine based products is a result of environmental variables which are largely driven by socio-cultural and political-economic interests.

Sociologists state that cigarette addiction is propagated by the interactions among people and that these risky interactions increase within low socio-economic classes. Environmental variables within different tiers of the socio-ecological model contribute towards an increased likelihood of developing the addiction. Tobacco is marketed aggressively and made readily available for people who are already at an increased risk of engaging in smoking. The consensus however is that cigarette addiction is a product of complex combinations of economic, social, and political factors working together with the aforementioned causative agents (Fuemmeler et al, 2013).

With regard to the consumption of coffee, tea, and chocolate, they are associated with a dependency on caffeine. This addictive substance serves as a stimulant to increase alertness and psychological arousal thus enhancing productivity and performance in the workplace (Sanyal, 2012). The rigid standardized labor production times adhered across most conventional organizations necessitate the need for caffeine during performance peak hours. Such stringent measures require the intake of this psychoactive substance so as to suffice the expectations of employers. It is also noteworthy that the consumption of coffee and tea specifically has long been regarded as a social affair – consequently, interactions among fellow professionals may take on this template which has been followed by the American society for much of civilized history (Ryan et al., 2002).

Nevertheless the use of these psychoactive substances has been found to increase alertness and psychological arousal based on their effects on the brain. Tobacco causes secretions of dopamine and a sense of exhilaration which allows people to carry on with their job related activities with a heightened sense of morale. Caffeine based products on the other hand stimulate the brain by suppressing the areas associated with sleep, concentration, and mood (Ryan et al., 2002). Caffeine lasts for up to four hours in the bloodstream allowing sufficient time for an employee to engage in work with a heightened psyche – this should typically imply enhanced performance as well as increased productivity.

References

Connell, C., Gilreath, T., Aklin, W., & Brex, R. (2010). Social-Ecological Influences on Patterns of Substance Use Among Non-Metropolitan High School Students. American Journal Of Community Psychology, 45(1-2), 36-48. doi: 10.1007/s10464-009-9289-x

Davis, J., Dumas, T., Wagner, E., & Merrin, G. (2016). Social Ecological Determinants of Substance Use Treatment Entry Among Serious Juvenile Offenders From Adolescence Through Emerging Adulthood. Journal Of Substance Abuse Treatment, 71, 8-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2016.08.004

Fuemmeler, B., Lee, C., Ranby, K., Clark, T., McClernon, F., Yang, C., & Kollins, S. (2013). Individual- and community-level correlates of cigarette-smoking trajectories from age 13 to 32 in a U.S. population-based sample. Drug And Alcohol Dependence, 132(1-2), 301-308. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.02.021

Katainen, A. (2010). Social class differences in the accounts of smoking – striving for distinction? Sociology Of Health & Illness, 32(7), 1087-1101. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01267.x

Matto, H. (2004). Applying an Ecological Framework to Understanding Drug Addiction and Recovery. Journal Of Social Work Practice In The Addictions, 4(3), 5-22. doi: 10.1300/j160v04n03_02

Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and power. New York, NY: Penguin Publishing Group

Newes-Adeyi, G. (2000). Theory and practice: applying the ecological model to formative research for a WIC training program in New York State. Health Education Research, 15(3), 283-291. doi: 10.1093/her/15.3.283

Rogers, J., Gilbride, D., & Dew, B. (2018). Utilizing an Ecological Framework to Enhance Counselors’ Understanding of the U.S. Opioid Epidemic. The Professional Counselor, 8(3), 226-239. doi: 10.15241/jlr.8.3.226

Ryan, L., Hatfield, C., & Hofstetter, M. (2002). Caffeine reduces time-of-day effects on memory performance in older adults. Psychological science: a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 13 (1), 68-71 PMID: 1189278

Sanyal, S. B. (2012). Understanding addictions: An accessible and practical guide to understanding and dealing with addictions. New Delhi: Lotus Collection.

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