The emergence of Neurocapitalism? No, but close!


The development in the area of neurology is exploding and is spreading to new areas every day. It is inevitable that it will have huge implications on our society, and today I saw a new interesting term for the first time: Neurocapitalism. It was coined by Ewa Hess and Hennric Jokeit in an article in Eurozine which recently was translated from German to English.

[…] 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.


The lifting of temporal and geographical constraints on communication nurtures the illusion of unlimited accessibility and mobility. Just as the libertarian phase of capitalism offered ways for the individual to optimise his or her external appearance and status, so the imperative of the future will be to optimise cognitive and emotional resources as well. The availability of an unlimited supply of effective neuro-enhancers, the opportunity to exchange experiences of using them with others via the Internet, and the utilitarian approach to ethics taken by many individuals, are all preparing the ground for the market success of substances that today are still being experimented with in the laboratory.

[From Eurozine – Neurocapitalism – Ewa Hess, Hennric Jokeit]

I am a bit hesitant to use the word Neurocapitalism since the word is implying that neuro related aspects will dominate the capitalist logic, but the authors are really underlining an important point. We are without doubt heading into an age where the results from neurophysiological research will be one of the major drivers behind the transformation of a lot of things in our daily lives.

The real reason why neurophysiological knowledge will have huge impact is rather that we are heading into a world where 1st person experiences, emotions and perspective will dominate. This shift is very well matched to what neurophysiology is promising: e g to solve people’s (perceived) disorders and fix (perceived) shortcomings, but also to boost experiences and create (artificial) peace of mind. Institutions will, part from selling all the neuro-based drugs, devices and services to people, use the new knowledge to both manipulate people but also get new insight in what people wants in order to be able and develop and market products and services more efficiently and effectively.

So even if we will not have a Neurocapitalism, we will most likely have a market in where many, many products and services will be based on or transformed by the new knowledge, ideas and innovations that stem from neurophysiological research.