The lubricant for The System is consumption. When debt is used for money and saving is actively discouraged (either by suppressing interest rates or making credit irresistible) then The System will keep working fine provided consumption not only continues, but rises. It isn’t enough to just keep consuming – if everybody did that the economy would not “grow” (as measured using politically acceptable government heuristics) and it would skid into a “recession” (although it would never be acknowledged to have done so until long after it purportedly ended).
No, what has to happen is that everybody has to keep consuming more. By ever increasing consumption, debt can be serviced and expanded.
It is considered “out-of-scope” to ask how consumption can keep rising indefinitely against a backdrop of finite resources. Those who are interested in knowing how (hint: it can’t) are encouraged to read Chris Martenson’s Crash Course.
For our purposes, Soma is analogous to the happy-joy-joy drug posited in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, wherein:
To maintain the World State’s Command Economy for the indefinite future, all citizens are conditioned from birth to value consumption with such platitudes as “ending is better than mending,” “more stitches less riches”, i.e., buy a new item instead of fixing the old one, because constant consumption, and near-universal employment to meet society’s material demands, is the bedrock of economic and social stability for the World State. Beyond providing social engagement and distraction in the material realm of work or play, the need for transcendence, solitude and spiritual communion is addressed with the ubiquitous availability and universally endorsed consumption of the drug soma. …
In the book, soma is a hallucinogen that takes users on enjoyable, hangover-free “holidays”. It was developed by the World State … as a self-medicating comfort mechanism in the face of stress or discomfort, thereby eliminates the need for religion or other personal allegiances outside or beyond the World State.
Within the context of The System, anything that serves the purpose of keeping everybody distracted from the fact they are enslaved by an utterly corrupt power structure that has lost all credibility can be referred to as “Soma”.
Soma can exist on both sides of legality – if it is legal it can be promoted within society as an acceptable distraction. If it is illegal it comes with the added bonus of criminalizing large tranches of addicts who can then be employed as slave labourers within the prison-industrial complex.
Soma need not be purely addictive substance abuse, it can also encourage compulsive behaviors such as gambling, gaming, shopping, watching TV, sex or eating. The main goal is that it saps the energy of as many serfs as possible and prevents them from self-actualizing.