Culture Writer and Editor, SonntagsZeitung, Zurich; Visiting Scholar, Zurich University of the Arts / Professor of Neuropsychology, Swiss Epilepsy Centre, University of Zurich, Neuroscience Center Zurich
There is good reason to assert the existence, or at least the emergence, of a new type of capitalism: neurocapitalism. After all, the capitalist economy, as the foundation of modern liberal societies, has shown itself to be not only exceptionally adaptable and crisis-resistant; in every phase of its dominance, it has been capable of producing the scientific and technological wherewithal to analyze and mitigate the self-generated “malfunctioning” to which its constituent subjects are prone. In doing so – and this too is one of capitalism’s algorithms – it involves them in the inexorably effective cycle of supply and demand. In globalized capitalism the mental resources of attention, emotion, and memory are being overloaded by the general acceleration of social processes. This makes mental resources scarce, thus favoring their capitalist exploitation as a commodity. Today, the neurosciences enjoy a similar prestige as psychoanalysis in the twentieth century. Despite the immense costs for healthcare systems, the fear of depression, dementia, and attention deficit disorder legitimizes the boom in neuropsychotropic drugs. In a performance-driven society that confronts the self with its own shortcomings, neuroscience serves an expanding market.
For the individual, this development has meant a change in self-awareness and also in the most prevalent psychopathological symptoms, which are increasingly manifesting themselves as bipolar affective attention deficit disorder.
Ewa Hess is culture writer and editor at the Swiss SonntagsZeitung, Zurich and teaches at the Zurich University of Fine Arts. In addition to her activities as a newspaper journalist she devotes her research to the subject of neurocapitalism. Together with the Zurich clinical neuropsychologist Hennric Jokeit she publishes scientific studies on the links of capitalistic interests and laws with the neurosciences and neuro-enhancement. She co-edited Chaos, Wahnsinn: Permutationen der zeitgenössischen Kunst (with Wolfgang Denk, Johannes Gachnang, and Konrad Tobler; 1996).
Hennric Jokeit studied psychology at the Humboldt University of Berlin, earning his Ph.D. in 1991. In 1990, he was a guest researcher at the Institute of Medical Psychology of the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich. From 1991–1992 he worked there as a member of the research staff. In 1993 he won a DFG postdoctoral educational grant for a research project with Scott Makeig at the Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, USA. From 1994–2001 he was senior neuropsychologist at the Bethel Epilepsy Surgery Program in Bielefeld, Germany. In 2000 he completed his habilitation in physiological psychology at the University of Bielefeld, and in 2002 he completed his habilitation in neuropsychology at the University of Zurich. Since 2001 he has been senior neuropsychologist at the Swiss Epilepsy Centre in Zurich. Since 2002 he has been head of the institute of neuropsychological diagnostics and functional imaging (INDB) at the Swiss Epilepsy Centre and research group leader of the Neuroscience Center Zurich. He is also a professor of neuropsychology at the University of Zurich. His current research topics include: mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, social cognition and epilepsy, and cognitive side-effects of antiepileptic drugs. Selected publications: “Epileptic Activity Influences the Speech Organization in Medial Temporal Lobe Epilepsy” (with J. Janszky, D. Heinemann, R. Schulz, F. G. Woermann, A. Ebner), Brain 126 (Pt 9; 2003); “Aging Limits Plasticity of Episodic Memory Functions in Response to Left Temporal Lobe Damage in Patients with Epilepsy” (with Hans J. Markowitsch), Adv Neurol. 81 (1999); Long-term Effects of Refractory Temporal Lobe Epilepsy on Cognitive Abilities: A Cross Sectional Study (with A. Ebner; 1999).