Nikolas Rose, “Governing Conduct in the Age of the Brain”

Nikolas Rose, “Governing Conduct in the Age of the Brain” from Clinical Ethnography on Vimeo.

How did we go from understanding and acting upon ourselves as psychological selves with inner depths to understandings and acting upon ourselves as corporeal beings with biological characteristics?

Two main epistemological shifts:

  1. The emerging of a neuromolecular gaze (the brain becomes seen as an organ like any other)
  2. Neuroplasticity (the brain becomes seen as open to modulation throughout the life course)

The brain becomes seen as an open dynamic system, shaped across the whole life course. In doing so the brain becomes opened up to calculated interventions.

Four main technological shifts:

  1. Psychopharmaecuticals (knowledge of molecular mechanisms generated in the search to explain mode of action of dugs –> axiomatic assumption that action of each drug explicable in terms of specific biochemical & molecular properties, with concomitant assumption that every normal or pathological function also must have molecular specificity which explains the capacity of a drug to impact upon it)
  2. Animal models (the mass testing of drugs on animals entrenches this sense of neurospecificity but does so on the basis of behaviourist assumptions e.g. drug reduces anxiety in a mouse = drug reduces what’s taken to be anxiety behaviour in a mouse. The experimental setup leads to a creeping epiphenomenalism over time i.e. the mental states themselves gradually slip out of the account)
  3. Genomics (didn’t entirely follow this bit and, to be honest, wasn’t that interested)
  4. Imaging the living brain (leads to a spurious localisation, on the basis that blood flow meant energy usage which meant function i.e. a picture of structure can be taken, through this line of argument, to be a picture of function)


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