Wednesday, May 07, 2008


From The Social Cognitive Neuroscience of Organizations (Annals of the New York ResearchBlogging.orgAcademy of Sciences, Vol. 1118) comes this new hyphenated neuroword from David John Farmer:

Neuroscience as Catalyst

Abstract: Neuroscience promises to act as a catalyst, in the longer run, in seeking re-unification of the fragmented social sciences (e.g., political science and economics) and social action subjects (e.g., public administration and business administration) that concern governance. Neuroscience can achieve this because it reveals that taken-for-granted concepts, and the language used to express them, should be challenged. What should be sought is a language called in this paper Neuro-Gov.
So Neuro-Gov is a language, not a neuroscientific approach to governance à la the recently maligned1 microfield of neurolitcrit (see Neuroaesthetics and Post-Structuralism for a summary).

A choice quote: 2
Does Neuro-Gov, among others, have the substance and the momentum to release the coming generation from the traditional, common-sensical languages speaking about governance? Substance is taken to mean catalytic power to generate, and momentum means "muscle" power to induce, to seduce—such compelling power as is exerted by hard science on the upswing. Reading neuroscience seems to highlight the undesirability of the social mis-construction of common sense—and to emphasize the desirability of deconstructing such misleading constructions.
Deconstructing! Yay! That misleading construction harks back to the unforgettable 1997 article,
Derrida, Deconstruction, and Public Administration

Derridean deconstruction is a significant resource for public administration thinking and practice. It facilitates antiadministration,3 for example. This article recognizes the severe difficulties that deconstruction presents. Yet, it supports the claim that deconstruction can help public administration. It does so by exploring the nature of deconstruction, by illustrating how bureaucratic deconstruction can be used in public administration and how it is useful, and by analyzing the most significant of deconstruction's difficulties.
But back to Neuro-Gov. The author mentions the emerging mini-fields of neuro-economics4 and neuropolitics, with the former being "further along" than the latter:
First, some neuro-political-scientists want to shape the choice of research questions, e.g., focusing on the political aspects, rather than leaving the neuro-field to economists. Second, some work directly with fMRI functional magnetic resonance imaging (imaging the workings of the living brain), and are not limited to passive using. This is mentioned only because it is suggestive of the range of interest. In my view, such positivist activity is incidental to the hermeneutic major league action; white coat-ism is not suggested. Neuropolitics is a fringe area of political science activity in terms of quantity, even though it is important at this margin.
Note that the highlighted sentence reveals disdain for the scientific method, which makes the Neuro-Gov project entirely neurrelevant for actual working scientists. Neuro-Gov is, after all, just another language game, as readily acknowledged by the author.


1 The article, by The Times Literary Supplement
Neuroaesthetics is wrong about our experience of literature – and it is wrong about humanity.
2 The language of Neuro-Gov is not universal.

3 Otherwise known as anarchy.

4 Among other hyphenated neurowords, such as neuro-afficianados, neuro-psychotherapy, neuro-benefits.


FARMER, D.J. (2007). Neuro-Gov: Neuroscience as Catalyst. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1118(1), 74-89. DOI: 10.1196/annals.1412.002

FARMER, D.J. (1997). Derrida, Deconstruction, and Public Administration. American Behavioral Scientist, 41(1), 12-27. DOI: 10.1177/0002764297041001003

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