Experts of the soul nikolas rose

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Transcript of Experts of the soul nikolas rose

  • Nikolas Rose

    Experts of the Soul1

    Nikolas Rose

    Zusammenfassung: In den liberalen demokratisch-kapitalistischen Gesellschaften des Westens hat sichpsychologisches Fachwissenunentbehrlich gemacht, nicht nur im H inblick auf die Regulation solcher Bereichewie z. B. der von der Fabrik bis zur Familie, sondern auch in ethischen Systemen, nach denen Brger ihr Lebenfhren. In diesem Beitrag werden einige Wege dargestellt, wie die Geburt dieser "Seeleningenieure" und derenStellung in verschiedenen sozio-politischen Arrangements verstanden werden knnen. Psychologie, so wirdargumentiert, schafft berechenbare Individuen, und so gestaltbare interindividuelle Rume, untersttztAutoritt mit ethisch-therapeutischer Begrndung und stellt eine ethische Technologie zur Verfgung, mit derdas autonome Selbst der Individuen geformt werden kann. Diese Kennzeichen der "techne" der Psychologiesind intrinsisch mit der Problematik liberaler Demokratien verbunden, die mit dem Anspruch von Privatheit,Rationalitt und Automie regieren. Ferner haben diese Kennzeichen Bedeutung fr die gegenwrtigengesellschaftlichen Umgestaltungsprozesse in "Osteuropa".

    Summary: In the liberal democratic capitalist societies of "the west", psychological expertise has made itselfindispensable, not only in the regulation of domains from the factory to the family, but also in the ethical systemsaccording to which citizens live their lives. This paper suggests some ways to comprehend the birth of these"engineers of the human soul" and their place within different socio-political arrangements. Psychology, itargues, makes individuals who are calculable, makes intersubjective spaces that are manageable, underpinsauthority with an ethico-therapeutic rationale and provides an ethical technology for the shaping ofautonomous selves. These features of the 'rechne' of psychology are intrinsically linked to the problematics ofliberal democracies which seek to govern through privacy, rationality and autonomy. They also haveimplications for the current transformations in the societies of "Eastern Europe".

    It was, I believe, Joseph Stalin who refer-red to writers under his brand of socialism as`engineers of the human soul'. In the liberal,democratic and capitalist societies of theWest", the task of engineering the human soulhas fallen to a different sector - to professio-nals imbued with the vocabularies, theevaluations, the techniques and the ethics ofpsychology. Whether it be at home or at work,in marketing or in politics, in child rearing orin sexuality, psychological expertise has madeitself indispensable to modern life in suchsocieties. How should this phenomenon beunderstood?

    I suggest that we should not answer thisquestion in terms of the evolution of ideas, theappliance of science or the rise of a profession,but in terms of expertise. I use the term ex-pertise" to refer to a particular kind of socialauthority, characteristically deployed aroundproblems, exercising a certain diagnostic gaze,

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    grounded in a claim to truth, asserting techni-cal efficacy, and avowing humane ethical vi-rtues. Whilst the notion of professionalizationimplies an attempt to found occupationalexclusiveness an the basis of a monopolisationof an area of practice and the possession of anexclusive disciplinary base, expertise is hete-rogeneous. It amalgamates knowledges andtechniques from different sources into acomplex 'know-how'. The attempt to ratifythe coherence of this array of procedures andforms of thought is made retrospectively, andcharacteristically not by deriving them from asingle theory but by unifying them within apedagogic practice.

    The notion of expertise enables us todistinguish between the occupational advan-cement of a particular professional sector, thespread of a particular mode of thought andtechnique, and the transformation of practicesof regulation. For the social consequences of

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    psychology are not the same as the socialconsequences of psychologists. Psychology isa `generous' discipline: the key to the socialpenetration of psychology lies in its capacityto lend itself freely' to others who will `bor-row' it because of what it offers to them in theway of a justification and guide to action.Hence psychological ways of thinking andacting can infuse the practices of other socialactors such as doctors, social workers, mana-gers, nurses, even accountants. Psychologyenters into alliance with such agents of socialauthority, colonising their ways of calculatingand arguing with psychological vocabularies,reformulating their ways of explaining nor-mality and pathology in psychological terms,giving their techniques a psychological colo-ration. It is precisely though such alliances thatpsychology has made itself powerful: not somuch by occupational exclusiveness or mono-polization but because of what it has providedfor others, on condition that they come to thinkand act like psychologists.

    These alliances do not simply provide psy-chology with a means to gain its hold on socialreality, as it were, by proxy. They also providesomething for the doctors, nurses, social wor-kers and managers who enter into psychologi-cal coalitions: those engaged in the prolifera-ting practices that deal with the vagaries ofhuman conduct and human pathology andseek to act upon it in a reasoned and calculatedform. Psychology promises to rationalise thesepractices, to systematise and simplify the waysin which authorities visualize, evaluate anddiagnose the conduct of their human subjects,and conduct themselves in relation to them. Inpurporting to underpin authority by a coherentintellectual and practical regime, psychologyoffers others both a grounding in truth andsome formulae for efficacy. In claiming tomodulate power through a knowledge of sub-jectivity, psychology can provide social aut-hority with a basis that is not merely technicaland scientific but 'ethical'.

    Making psychology technical

    From the perspective of expertise, our ana-lysis of the proliferation of psychology connectswith a number of other reflections on trans-formations in social arrangements and formsof authority in European societies over the lastcentury. our focus shifts from psychologyitself to the modes in which psychologicalknowledges and techniques have graftedthemselves onto other practices. Psychologyis seen as offering something to, and derivingsomething from, its capacity to enter into anumber of diverse 'human technologies'. Theterm 'technology' directs our attention to thecharacteristic ways in which practices are or-ganized to produce certain outcomes in termsof human conduct: reform, efficiency, edu-cation, cure, or virtue. It directs analysis to thetechnical forms invented to produce theseoutcomes - ways of combining persons, truths,judgments, devices and actions into a stable,reproducible and durable form. But the notionof a human technology is not intended to implyan inhuman technology - one that crushes anddehumanises the essential personhood of tho-se caught up within it. Psychology has becomeenmeshed within such technologies, in part,because it answers to the wish to humanisethem, to make them adequate to the real natureof the Person to be governed.

    Unlike the ancient professions, psycholo-gy has no institution of its own: no churchwithin which to redeem sin, no court of lawwithin which to pronounce judgment, no ho-spital within which to diagnose or cure. Psy-chological modes of thought and action havecome to underpin - and then to transform -practices that were previously cognized andlegitimated in other ways - via the charisma ofthe persona of authority, by the repetition oftraditional procedures, by appeal to extrinsicstandards of morality, by rule of thumb. Itfinds its social territory in all those dispersedencounters where human conduct is probte-

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    matized in relation to ethical standards, socialjudgments or individual pathology. What is itthat psychology can offer to such encounters?

    Making individuals who are calculable

    Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, Lukacs, Haber-mas and Foucault each, in their different ways,suggested that calculation was central to thesocial arrangements and ethical systems of thecapitalist, bureaucratic and democratic socie-ties of North West Europe and North America,not only in the domination of nature, but alsoin relation to human beings. We have entered,it appears, the age of the calculable person,whose individuality is no longer ineffable,unique and beyond knowledge, but can beknown, mapped, calibrated, evaluated, quan-tified, predicted and managed.

    For those who take their cue from Marx, itis in the workplace and in the activity ofproduction that the rise of calculability is to begrounded, in the capitalist imperative of mana-gement, prediction and control of labour. Forthose who take their cue from Weber, calcu-lation is an inherent part of rational administ-ration, bound up with the desire for exactitude,predictability, and the subordination of sub-stantive or ad hoc judgment to the uniformityofarule. In each of these cases, the calculabilityof the person is seen as the effect or symptomof a process that has its roots elsewhere. Butwhat is at stake should not be seen as belongingto the order of effects. One should investigatemore directly the practical conditions and socialarrangements that made it necessary and pos-sible for the human individual to becomecalculable. Through what procedures of in-scription, differentiation and cognition did theknowledges and procedures emerge whichwould make of the human being a caiculableentity? How did this caiculation come to ap-pear, not the result of disputable value choicesor social goals, but of objective criteria, arisingout of scientific investigation, and madethrough technical rather than political proce-dures?