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Governing through the Brain

Neuropolitics, Neuroscience and Subjectivity

Nikolas Rose and Joelle Abi-Rached

This article considers how the brain has become an object and target for governing human beings. How, and to what extent, has governing the conduct of human beings come to require, presuppose and utilize a knowledge of the human brain? How, and with what consequences, are so many aspects of human existence coming to be problematized in terms of the brain? And what role are these new 'cerebral knowledges' and technologies coming to play in our contemporary forms of subjectification, and our ways of governing ourselves? After a brief historical excursus, we delineate four pathways through which neuroscience has left the lab and became entangled with the government of the living: psychopharmacology, brain imaging, neuroplasticity and genomics. We conclude by asking whether the 'psychological complex' of the twentieth century is giving way to a 'neurobiological complex' in the twenty-first, and, if so, how the social and human sciences should respond.