Byung-Chul Han on mind/body optimization and psychopolitics

“But neoliberalism, a further development -indeed, a mutated form- of capitalism, is not primarily concerned with ‘the biological, the somatic, the corporal’. It has discovered the psyche as a productive force. This psychic turn -that is, the turn to psychopolitics– also connects with the mode of operation of contemporary capitalism. Now, immaterial and non-physical forms of production are what determine the course of capitalism. What gets produced are not material objects, but immaterial ones -for instance, information and programs. The body no longer represents a central force of production, as it formerly did in biopolitical, disciplinary society. Now, productivity is not to be enhanced by overcoming physical resistance so much as by optimizing psychic or mental processes. Physical discipline has given way to mental optimization. And neuro-enhancement differs from the disciplinary techniques of psychiatry fundamentally.

Today, the body is being released from the immediate process of production and turning into the object of optimization, whether along aesthetic lines or in terms of health technology. Accordingly, orthopaedic intervention is yielding to aesthetic intervention. Foucault’s ‘docile body’ has no place in this production process. Cosmetic surgery and fitness studios are taking the place of disciplinary orthopaedics. That said, physical optimization means more than aesthetic practice alone: sexiness and fitness represent new economic resources to be increased, marketed and exploited.”

Bonus: Mark Fisher in Capitalist Realism

“Foucault painstakingly enumerated the way in which discipline was installed through the imposition of rigid body postures. During lessons at our college, however, students will be found slumped on desk, talking almost constantly, snacking incessantly (or even, on occasions, eating full meals). The old disciplinary segmentation of time is breaking down. The carceral regime of discipline is being eroded by the technologies of control, with their systems of perpetual consumption and continuous development.”

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