Celestin Büche, MSc
University College London
The De-Politicisation of Psychedelics
This research seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the ongoing psychedelic renaissance. By carrying out a Foucauldian-inspired discourse analysis of popular media, I have identified four discursive constructions of psychedelics that dominate the Anglo-Saxon realm: The medical discourse frames them as medicine for treating various debilitating conditions such as depression, alcoholism or PTSD among others; the neo-spiritual discourse promotes psychedelics as tools for individual, neo-spiritual growth and development; the cognitive enhancement discourse is carried by the desire to boost brain power and promises to give the user a competitive edge over others; and the sensationalist discourse constructs them as dangerous by using language that is in line with the War on Drugs. By rebranding psychedelics as medicine, neo-spiritual compounds and as cognitive enhancers, they are increasingly divorced from their historical, countercultural connotations and, ultimately, de-politicised. However, I will argue that the motivations underlying the efforts to legitimise the psychedelic experience are still political and not so different to the ones that drove the counterculture movement of the 1960s – namely the conviction that psychedelics can lead to a spiritual transformation of society – but are now camouflaged under the seemingly neutral language of science or put in line with neoliberal rhetoric.
Celestin Büche holds a master degree in Global Governance and Ethics from the University College London, where he dedicated most of his studies assessing the potential of consciousness transformation as a means to bring about shifts in the way we perceive ourselves vis-a-vis our environment. His research focussed on the potential role of psychedelics in strengthening our connection with nature, both on an individual as well as collective level, as well as with the (historical) relationship between psychedelics and Western culture more broadly.