The Social Life of the Brain: Neuroscience in Society

Neuroscience is viewed by a range of actors and institutions as a powerful means of creating new knowledge about ourselves and societies. This article documents the shifts in expertise and identities potentially being propelled by neuroscientific research. It details the framing and effects of neuroscience within several social domains, including education and mental health, discussing some of the intellectual and professional projects it has animated therein (such as neuroethics). The analysis attends to the cultural logic by which the brain is sometimes made salient in society; simultaneously, it points towards some of the parameters of the territory within which the social life of the brain plays out. Instances of societal resistance and agnosticism are discussed, which may render problematic sociological research on neuroscience in society that assumes the universal import of neuroscientific knowledge (as either an object of celebration or critique). This article concludes with reflections on how sociotechnical novelty is produced and ascribed and the implications of this.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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