New York Times: The Dawn of ‘Neurocapitalism’

February 17, 2010 6:31 am Tom Kuntz

Today’s idea: We’re becoming a “neurocapitalist” world, an essay says. The demands of performance-driven, self-enhancing societies will expand markets for neuro-psychotropic drugs beyond those for depression, dementia and attention deficit disorder. And they will cost our health care systems dearly.

Historical forces are converging in favor of the neurosciences, write Hennric Jokeit and Ewa Hess in an essay translated on Eurozine (originally published last year in the German cultural journal Merkur). The authors, respectively a neuropsychologist and a journalist, both based in Zurich, say the neurosciences today enjoy a status comparable to psychoanalysis in the 20th century.

“Psychoanalysis was successful because it wove together medically relevant disciplines like psychiatry and psychology with art, culture, education, economics and politics, allowing it to penetrate important areas of social life,” they write.  “At the beginning of the 21st century, the neurosciences seem to be in a position to take on a comparable role in the future.”

But neuroscience has a leg up on psychoanalysis, the authors say in an article that doesn’t skimp on Marxist references:

… The neurosciences are extremely well funded by the state and even more so by private investment from the pharmaceutical industry. Their prominent status can be explained both by the number and significance of the problems they are attempting to solve, as well as the broad public recognition of these problems, and by the respectable profits to be made should they succeed. In other words, they are driven by economic and epistemic forces that emanate from the capitalism of today, and that will shape the capitalism of tomorrow – whatever that might look like. [Eurozine via Merkur]

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