The Political Brain: The Brain as a Political Invention

04/06/2017, 4:00 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Jan De Vos (Ghent University)

The Metamorphoses of the Brain – Neurologisation and Its Discontents (Palgrave, 2016)

Reading Seminar on Chapter 7:  The Political Brain: The Brain as a Political Invention

Co-sponsored by the Department of Rhetoric and the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society

*** For a PDF copy of the chapter, please contact David Bates --
In the chapter “The Political Brain: The Brain as a Political Invention,” I interrogate William C. Connolly’s neuropolitics and Brian Massumi’s politics of affect, in particular their claims to have finally transcended a politics grounded in rationalist and subjectivist rationales. Through recourse to Robert Pfaller’s and Slavoj Žižek’s concept of interpassivity, it is first argued that the brain might be the ultimate expression of interpassivity (that is, we outsource our being to our brains). Then, from rereading Benjamin Libet’s famous experiments on how an intention becomes conscious, in conjunction with Daniel Dennett’s critique of Libet, the chapter reinterprets the old slogan “the personal is political”. Finally, concluding that the interpassive brain is an explicitly political issue, it is subsequently claimed that both Connolly and Massumi risk reproducing the rationale of today’s neuropsycho-politics and neuropsycho-economy.

About the book: 
What are we exactly, when we are said to be our brain? This question leads me to examine the different metamorphoses of the brain: the educated brain, the material brain, the iconographic brain, the sexual brain, the celebrated brain and, finally, the political brain. This first, protracted and sustained argument on neurologisation, which lays bare its lineage with psychologisation, should be taken seriously by psychologists, educationalists, sociologists, students of cultural studies, policy makers and, above all, neuroscientists themselves.
1. The Educated Brain. A Critique of Neuro-education
2. The Material Brain. A plea for the uselessness of psychoanalysis
3. The iconographic brain. An inquiry into the culture of brain imaging
4. The Sexual Brain. Against neuro-plasticity
5. The Celebrated Brain. The role of the brain in the society of the spectacle
6. The Political Brain. The brain as a political invention