Neurocapitalism

Ewa Hess and Hennric Jokeit in Merkur, translated in Eurozine:

Today, the phenomenology of the mind is stepping indignantly aside for a host of hyphenated disciplines such as neuro-anthropology, neuro-pedagogy, neuro-theology, neuro-aesthetics and neuro-economics. Their self-assurance reveals the neurosciences’ usurpatory tendency to become not only the humanities of science, but the leading science of the twenty-first century. The legitimacy, impetus and promise of this claim derive from the maxim that all human behaviour is determined by the laws governing neuronal activity and the way it is organised in the brain.

Whether or not one accepts the universal validity of this maxim, it is fair to assume that a science that aggressively seeks to establish hermeneutic supremacy will change everyday capitalist reality via its discoveries and products. Or, to put it more cautiously, that its triumph is legitimated, if not enabled, by a significant shift in the capitalist world order.

There is good reason to assert the existence, or at least the emergence, of a new type of capitalism: neurocapitalism. After all, the capitalist economy, as the foundation of modern liberal societies, has shown itself to be not only exceptionally adaptable and crisis-resistant, but also, in every phase of its dominance, capable of producing the scientific and technological wherewithal to analyse and mitigate the self-generated “malfunctioning” to which its constituent subjects are prone. In doing so – and this too is one of capitalism’s algorithms – it involves them in the inexorably effective cycle of supply and demand.

Just as globalisation is a consequence of optimising the means of production and paths of communication (as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels predicted), so the brain, as the command centre of the modern human being, finally appears to be within reach of the humanities, a field closely associated with capitalism.

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