From psychological selves to neurochemical selves

Human beings, characteristically try to reform and improve themselves. Inescapably, at any historical moment, they do so in terms of knowledges and beliefs about the kinds of creatures that they are. Over the first sixty years or so fo the twentieth century, human beings – at least in the advanced industrial and liberal democratic societies of the west – came to understand themselves as inhabited by a deep interior psychological space. They evaluated and acted upon themselves in terms of this belief. We need only to think of the rise of a psychological language of self-description: the language of anxiety, depression, trauma, extroversion, and introversion. Or the use of psychological tests of intelligence and personality from vocational guidance to military promotion. Or the rise of psy technologies for marketing commodities. Or the proliferation of psychotherapies. But over the past half century, we human beings have become somatic individuals, people who increasingly come to understand ourselves, speak about ourselves, and act upon ourselves – and others -as beings shaped by our biology. And this somaticization is beginning to extend to the way in which we understand variations in our thoughts, wishes, emotions and behaviour, that is to say, to our minds. While our desires, moods, and discontents might previously have been mapped onto a psychological space, they are now mapped upon the body itself, or one particular organ of the body – the brain. And this brain is itself understood in a particular register. In significant ways, I suggest, we have become “neurochemical selves”.

Nikolas Rose, The Politics of Life Itself, Pg 187-188 (Princeton 2007)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.