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Exploring how neoliberalism has discovered the productive force of the psycheByung-Chul Han, a star of German philosophy, continues his passionate critique of neoliberalism, trenchantly describing a regime of technological domination that, in contrast to Foucault’s biopower, has discovered the productive force of the psyche. In the course of discussing all the facets of ne Exploring how neoliberalism has discovered the productive force of the psycheByung-Chul Han, a star of German philosophy, continues his passionate critique of neoliberalism, trenchantly describing a regime of technological domination that, in contrast to Foucault’s biopower, has discovered the productive force of the psyche. In the course of discussing all the facets of neoliberal psychopolitics fueling our contemporary crisis of freedom, Han elaborates an analytical framework that provides an original theory of Big Data and a lucid phenomenology of emotion. But this provocative essay proposes counter models too, presenting a wealth of ideas and surprising alternatives at every turn.


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Exploring how neoliberalism has discovered the productive force of the psycheByung-Chul Han, a star of German philosophy, continues his passionate critique of neoliberalism, trenchantly describing a regime of technological domination that, in contrast to Foucault’s biopower, has discovered the productive force of the psyche. In the course of discussing all the facets of ne Exploring how neoliberalism has discovered the productive force of the psycheByung-Chul Han, a star of German philosophy, continues his passionate critique of neoliberalism, trenchantly describing a regime of technological domination that, in contrast to Foucault’s biopower, has discovered the productive force of the psyche. In the course of discussing all the facets of neoliberal psychopolitics fueling our contemporary crisis of freedom, Han elaborates an analytical framework that provides an original theory of Big Data and a lucid phenomenology of emotion. But this provocative essay proposes counter models too, presenting a wealth of ideas and surprising alternatives at every turn.

30 review for Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Insightfully thinks through how neoliberalism compels people to voluntarily auto regulate and optimize themselves. Riffing off Foucault’s concept of biopolitics, Han claims that the state, in close collaboration with Big Data, has started to rule by psychopolitics, a new form of power based on controlling not the body but the mind. At times he overstates his case, denying that “psychopolitics” applies best to postindustrial countries, but the argument’s full of interesting contentions to unpack. Insightfully thinks through how neoliberalism compels people to voluntarily auto regulate and optimize themselves. Riffing off Foucault’s concept of biopolitics, Han claims that the state, in close collaboration with Big Data, has started to rule by psychopolitics, a new form of power based on controlling not the body but the mind. At times he overstates his case, denying that “psychopolitics” applies best to postindustrial countries, but the argument’s full of interesting contentions to unpack. Each of the essays goes by so quickly that no one point is much developed, but the collection’s thought provoking and leaves plenty to reflect on.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Owlseyes

    "The Panopticon is a type of institutional building and a system of control designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The scheme of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched" (from the WIKIPEDIA) (...YOU) "Facebook is the global Church, Synagogue (literally the congregation) of the digital" Byung-Chui "The Panopticon is a type of institutional building and a system of control designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The scheme of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched" (from the WIKIPEDIA) (...YOU) "Facebook is the global Church, Synagogue (literally the congregation) of the digital" Byung-Chui Han (Of course the Cambridge Analytica files were unknown to Byung by the time he wrote this book; nor any Congress hearings had happened. After last week’s 2-days hearings one can always wonder about some sham involved, as Facebook added a $24 billion to its market cap; though some compensations are due to those whose private data had been abused. Added 17th April 2018) Thus far very interesting, the concept of Psychopolitics. But I have some objections. Apparently, to Byung, the Orwell age, or paradigm, doesn't fit the ongoing age. He suggests we don't live under an Orwellian state, with big screens and a Ministry of Truth and torture chambers. Byung is far from the truth. The truth-of-the-matter is: we, in fact, live in the age of the Truth-search (or Lie-bashing; it goes either way). How about the 2016 US presidential campaign and the debate on "fake news"? We can always wonder, as some did, that "fake news" played a role in the election; still, some just don't agree. But, in France, Macron wanted to control the phenomenon; he had a project to control "fake news"; the immediate (political) objection would be: who would control it, and: "what are, really, fake news"?... to start with. “Thousands of propaganda accounts on social networks are spreading all over the world, in all languages, lies invented to tarnish political officials, personalities, public figures, journalists,” Macron said, adding that “if we want to protect liberal democracies, we must have strong legislation.” * To Byung, we live in the 'panopticon digital' age, of smarthphones, Google Glass, of "posting" and "tweeting". He doesn't mention these activities are under close scrutiny by several security and intelligence agencies in the USA (check on the Senate hearings on Facebook, Google and Twitter, a apropos the supposed Russian influence on the 2016 election**). No, the Orwell state isn't away; that's my guess. There's certainly something to question about when Byung says "transparency and information replace truth". Byung is too benevolent; his lines look naive. The New Technologies are too powerful to be left un-politicized. In fact, they are. Propaganda is not a thing of the past; nor, media control. "In the 'digital panopticon', the Big Bother Brother which extracts from us information against our will, doesn't exist". Again, Byung is utterly wrong. Facebook and other companies are truly mining on us.*** Nevertheless, Byung-Chul is right: people expose themselves by their own initiative, in some cases, too much. The book, being a collection of essays, certainly has great ideas to explore. But it remains a very critical approach (tainted Marxist at times) of the digital era. Few references are made to the positive side of the digital ; if carefully and responsibly used. After all, it's a "DIGITAL REVOLUTION". PS Dear Sir Byung-Chul, I hope you will enjoy this piece of digital wonder "Der preis der Macht" [image error] PPS Byung-Chul Han is a German author. *https://www.theatlantic.com/internati... **https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/us... ***http://bgr.com/2016/02/11/why-faceboo... https://www.theguardian.com/world/201... https://www.fastcompany.com/40477441/... https://www.rt.com/news/419033-belgiu... UPDATE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/op... UPDATE: https://time.com/5602363/george-orwel...

  3. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Well, Big Data comes across as waay too villainized here. I believe that instruments, such as Big Data, should not be villainized, their masters should be. After all, no instrument works on its own, always there are some operators behinds the scenes. Well, well, well... Data as the new sexy... I've always found it funny when I heard of 'sexy' professions. The author takes this feeling to a whole new level of wrong. Q: Freedom will prove to have been merely an interlude. Freedom is felt when passing Well, Big Data comes across as waay too villainized here. I believe that instruments, such as Big Data, should not be villainized, their masters should be. After all, no instrument works on its own, always there are some operators behinds the scenes. Well, well, well... Data as the new sexy... I've always found it funny when I heard of 'sexy' professions. The author takes this feeling to a whole new level of wrong. Q: Freedom will prove to have been merely an interlude. Freedom is felt when passing from one way of living to another – until this too turns out to be a form of coercion. (c) Q: As the entrepreneur of its own self, the neoliberal subject has no capacity for relationships with others that might be free of purpose. Nor do entrepreneurs know what purpose-free friendship would even look like. Originally, being free meant being among friends. ‘Freedom’ and ‘friendship’ have the same root in Indo-European languages. Fundamentally, freedom signifies a relationship. A real feeling of freedom occurs only in a fruitful relationship – when being with others brings happiness. But today’s neoliberal regime leads to utter isolation; as such, it does not really free us at all. (c) Q: Neoliberalism represents a highly efficient, indeed an intelligent, system for exploiting freedom. (c) Q: Initially, the internet was celebrated as a medium of boundless liberty. Microsoft’s early advertising slogan – ‘Where do you want to go today?’ – suggested unlimited freedom and mobility on the web. As it turned out, such euphoria was an illusion. Today, unbounded freedom and communication are switching over into total control and surveillance. More and more, social media resemble digital panoptica keeping watch over the social realm and exploiting it mercilessly. We had just freed ourselves from the disciplinary panopticon – then we threw ourselves into a new, and even more efficient, panopticon. (c) Q: Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon isolated inmates from each other for disciplinary purposes and prevented them from interacting. In contrast, the occupants of today’s digital panopticon actively communicate with each other and willingly expose themselves. ... Of our own free will, we put any and all conceivable information about ourselves on the internet, without having the slightest idea who knows what, when or on what occasion. This lack of control represents a crisis of freedom to be taken seriously. Indeed, given the data that people make available willy-nilly, the very idea of protecting privacy (Datenschutz) is becoming obsolete. (c) Q: Today, we are entering the age of digital psychopolitics. It means passing from passive surveillance to active steering. As such, it is precipitating a further crisis of freedom: now, free will itself is at stake. Big Data is a highly efficient psychopolitical instrument that makes it possible to achieve comprehensive knowledge of the dynamics of social communication. This knowledge is knowledge for the sake of domination and control (Herrschaftswissen): it facilitates intervention in the psyche and enables influence to take place on a pre-reflexive level. (c) Q: In order to heighten productivity, emotional capitalism also enlists playing and games – which should, in fact, be the Other of Work, its opposite. Emotional capitalism is gamifying the life- and working world. Playing games lends an emotional, indeed a dramatic, charge to working – which in turn generates more motivation. Because games rapidly deliver a sense of success and reward, the result is higher performance and a greater yield. A person playing a game, being emotionally invested, is much more engaged than a worker who acts rationally or is simply functioning. (c) Q: The gamification of work exploits homo ludens. The player subjugates him- or herself to the order of domination in the very act of playing. Today, the gamification logic of ‘Likes’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Followers’ means that social communication is also being plugged into and subordinated to a game mode. The corollary of the gamification of communication is its commercialization. That said, this process is destroying human communication. (c) Q: Dataism has taken the stage with the fervour of a second Enlightenment. During the first Enlightenment, statistics was thought to possess the capacity to liberate human knowledge from the clutches of mythology. ... Now, transparency is the buzzword of the second Enlightenment. Data are supposed to be a pellucid medium. As Brooks describes them, data afford a ‘transparent and reliable lens’. The imperative of the second Enlightenment declares: everything must become data and information. The soul of the second Enlightenment is data totalitarianism, or data fetishism. Although it announces that it is taking leave of all ideology, dataism itself is an ideology. It is leading to digital totalitarianism. Therefore, a third Enlightenment is called for – in order to shine a light on how digital enlightenment has transformed into a new kind of servitude. (c) Q: Now, numbers and data are not just being absolutized – they are becoming sexualized and fetishized. This amounts to nothing other than libidinal energy flowing into today’s ‘Quantified Self’. On the whole, dataism is displaying libidinous – indeed, pornographic – traits. Dataists mate with their data. In the meanwhile, there is even talk of ‘datasexuals’. They are ‘relentlessly digital’ and consider data ‘sexy’. The digitus is starting to play the part of the phallus. (c) Q: Today, Big Data is not just taking the stage as Big Brother – it is also taking the form of Big Business. First and foremost, Big Data is a vast, commercial enterprise. Here, personal data are unceasingly monetized and commercialized. Now, people are treated and traded as packages of data for economic use. That is, human beings have become a commodity. Big Brother and Big Business have formed an alliance. The surveillance state and the market are merging. Acxiom is a company trading in the personal data of about 300 million US citizens – in other words, practically all of them. By now, Acxiom knows more about Americans than the FBI. The company divides people into seventy categories. In the catalogue, they are offered up like goods for sale. For any need, there is something to buy. People with a low economic value are designated as ‘waste’ – that is, ‘trash’. Consumers with a higher market value are found in the group ‘Shooting Star’. From ages thirty-six to forty-five they are dynamic, get up early to go jogging, have no children but are married, like to travel, and watch Seinfeld. (c)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    One of the last things Foucault come up with was the idea of biopolitics. The short version is that much of the regulation of society is concerned with the regulation of the body. This book references that idea by Foucault, as should be obvious from the name of this one. The point being that biopolitics, because it focuses on disciplining bodies, is really now an old and outmoded way of social control, and so today social control is better understood as focused more on our souls than on our bodi One of the last things Foucault come up with was the idea of biopolitics. The short version is that much of the regulation of society is concerned with the regulation of the body. This book references that idea by Foucault, as should be obvious from the name of this one. The point being that biopolitics, because it focuses on disciplining bodies, is really now an old and outmoded way of social control, and so today social control is better understood as focused more on our souls than on our bodies. Now, Foucault would probably just shrug at this. He might, for instance, refer Han to his ‘Discipline and Punish’ which starts off by documenting how punishment had once been about punishing bodies, but has since moved more and more towards ‘the panopticon’ where people became subjects by subjugating themselves to the self-surveillance of social norms and expectations. Han basically says that this is all true enough, but that we have now moved beyond the panopticon. That is, the panopticon was a prison where there was always the possibility that the guard you could not see would one day appear at your cell door and punish you for the transgressions you had made. There was always the possibility that Big Brother would eventually stomp on your face with their jackboot for all eternity. But today’s panopticon is significantly different from that of 1984. We are not forced to install spy cameras in our houses, we actively choose to install them ourselves, we are not required to make confessions, we freely confess all we know and do, and we even attach increasingly more sophisticated measuring devices to our bodies so as to more fully track ourselves, the exercise we do, our location, even photographing what we eat, even measuring the depth of our sleep, so we can more fully report on our state of being. But even this is only part of the problem. We once made sense of the world less by counting than by recounting – a recount is a story, and stories are never just additive, but rather narrative. Today we are ‘free’ in strange ways. Free in ways that almost avoid the possibility of choice. This sounds strange at first, but the point is that the world of big data is a world of correlations and those correlations stand almost without causation. Rather than us knowing why we do things, big data can predict we will do things. That is, the data can tell us that two things go together, even if it doesn’t tell us why they go together. And what that means is that we can be made to do things, not so much against our will, but without either us, or the people who want to make us do those things, ever knowing why we are doing them. That is, big data is about counting, rather than recounting, it is about knowing we will do certain things even if not know why we might do them – and so big data can get us to do things in ways that make us still feel ‘free’, even though we have had our buttons pressed so that we behave as predicted and as required, even if this remains to us truly subconscious. All spheres of life are starting to resemble each other. There once had been a distinction between what it meant to be a citizen and what it meant to be a customer, but now those look increasingly alike. Big data, again, has access to our deepest desires and even though it does not necessarily understanding why we desire certain things, it doesn’t care either. All that matters are the correlations, the cause can be left for the sociologists or theologians to argue over, take your pick, both are as irrelevant to the transaction in progress as the other. And that transaction is also becoming increasingly about desire rather than the thing in itself. We have moved from ‘use values’ to ‘emotive values’, we no longer buy things to satisfy our physical needs, but rather are psychological needs. And this moves through all of society, so that even ‘rational management techniques are being replace by emotional management’ – and the whole EQ movement has become but one manifestation of this. The chapter of this I found most interesting was the one that came immediately after this idea of the emotions as the productive force of late modern capitalism. It talked about the gamification of society and of capitalism. And this is something else I’ve been reading a lot about lately – how work will increasingly be made to be a kind of game. Where the shift to an information society will mean that finding ways to get people to fill in the sorts of dreary forms necessary for big data to gain its data, will mean finding ways to turn this boredom into challenging and rewarding game frontends. Games aren’t rational, they get us to be emotionally engaged. As he says at one point, this means that the Marxist revolution to transform society is becoming increasingly impossible, because labour is increasingly becoming the kind of game it is becoming harder and harder to ever escape from. Or as he says, we are moving away from being exploited by others to being the main instrument of our own exploitation, from allo- to auto-exploitative. He ends by talking of the idiot as a possible way out of what looks otherwise as a kind of dystopian labyrinth and nightmare – I didn’t really understand this part of the book at all, to be honest. But the dystopian parts of the book up until then might have already cast me too far into the abyss of despair, so that whatever hope he might have been offering at the end simply wasn’t enough to drag me back out into the light. And talking of despair, the bit of this book that I have thought about quite a bit since I first read it about two months ago is the idea that there is a difference between anxiety and fear. You see, fear always has an object – and since we have been talking about 1984 a bit in this review, the idea of fear and rats is a case in point. But anxiety might not have any concrete referent at all. We might have no idea why we are feeling anxious, but that doesn’t make anxiety less of a problem than fear, but rather infinitely more of a problem. Anxiety doesn’t go away when you remove yourself from the object you fear – anxiety just hangs around, eating away at your soul, and not providing you with any reason to explain its power. There is so much more to this book, but I did need to finally get around to writing this review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Philipp

    This is such a mixed bag, frustrating to read. The first half develops the thought of psychopolitics, the new form of power under neoliberalism. This is an amazing part. It's deliberately named after Foucault's biopolitics, except that under neoliberalism, the threat of bodily harm is eliminated. We believe ourselves to be free, but under neoliberalism, force is put on everyone in a much more nefarious, hidden way - you think you want to optimize yourself, or to become a better version of yoursel This is such a mixed bag, frustrating to read. The first half develops the thought of psychopolitics, the new form of power under neoliberalism. This is an amazing part. It's deliberately named after Foucault's biopolitics, except that under neoliberalism, the threat of bodily harm is eliminated. We believe ourselves to be free, but under neoliberalism, force is put on everyone in a much more nefarious, hidden way - you think you want to optimize yourself, or to become a better version of yourself, but in reality the system just wants you to become a better worker. Das Ich als Projekt, das sich von äußeren Zwängen und Fremdzwängen befreit zu haben glaubt, unterwirft sich nun inneren Zwängen und Selbstzwängen in Form von Leistungs- und Optimierungszwang. Rough translation: The I as a project, that believes itself to be free of external and foreign pressures, now subjugates itself to inner pressures in form of pressure to perform and optimize. From there it becomes apparent just why there is no organized resistance to it, no resistance that has any overarching theme (think of the splintered message of Occupy) - in these times, classes have disappeared, the modern knowledge worker is 'ein selbstausbeutender Arbeiter seines eigenen Unternehmens', a self-exploiting worker of his own company. I've seen these types of behaviors especially in two communities - programmers and scientists. Both work through the weekend - both are obsessed with improvement, self-measurement - both have side-projects etc. Scientists are the original self-exploiters, we've never really had a structure to protest against. If scientists go on strike all they do is sabotage their own product (has anyone written anything on what sociologists of work can learn about work from scientists?). The new knowledge workers have the same problem - if you're a digital nomad who works on contract-basis you have no power to change the system, you're your own boss in the worst sense. Neoliberalism has trained that into everyone, and subjugates people even more through forced transparency - everyone who participates in social networks feels the quick reaction of the entire network to anyone who deviates from the 'mainstream'. Expulsion of deviants isn't a new thing, but the quick and easy spread via social networks makes this effect extreme. The second half goes off on a tangent about Big Data and suffers enormously from the fact that the author completely believes the hype about Big Data - it describes a philosophy of Big Data that feels just wrong. For example, he calls the rise of statistics during Rousseau's time the 'first enlightenment' and the rise of Big Data (here sometimes 'dataism') as a second enlightenment. This completely falls for the Big Data hype, since to me Big Data is just statistics + a ton of hype. There is no difference! You still use the same old methods, just on bigger datasets. You still have to make sense! Or this one: Dataismus ist Nihilismus. Er verzichtet ganz auf Sinn. Daten und Zahlen sind additiv und nicht narrativ. Sinn beruht dagegen auf der Narration. Daten füllen die Sinnleere. Rough translation: Dataism is nihilism. It completely dispenses with reason. Data and numbers are additive and not narrative. However, sense depends on narration. Data fills the emptiness of sense. This ties into my above criticism - the goal of all Big Data algorithms is to extract sense from the data, there's no dispensing of reason, they rely on coming up with a story first and then checking it. Let's look at an example. I have a large dataset of DNA from cabbage. I want to use publicly available data from prior studies to predict what some of the stuff in my DNA is doing, predict genes, etc. I run some fancy algorithms to search for the known sequences in my cabbage-set, and get about 100,000 genes. I start to look through the results, but some of them are hits for known genes involved in human eye color. How is that possible? Do I have blue-eyed cabbage? Of course not, my prior studies are just contaminated with human data. It's still up to me (and in some ways, the algorithm) to come up with a narrative, and to make sense from the stuff that we're actually seeing - that's the holy grail of all of big data! There is no 'data fills the emptiness', you can't rely on the data alone, no-one does. And that's what annoys me so much about the critique of Big Data here, it's critiquing a fantasy thing invented by coked-up MBAs for press releases in order to look stronger to make investors love them, not what Big Data actually is in reality. Here's the worst sentence: »Quantified Self« etwa wird geradezu mit einer libidinösen Energie betrieben. Der Dataismus entwickelt insgesamt libidinöse, ja pornographische Züge. Dataisten kopulieren mit Daten. So spricht man inzwischen auch von »Datasexuellen«. Sie seien »unerbittlich digital« und hielten Daten »für sexy«.[49] Der digitus nähert sich dem phallus. Rough translation: Quantified Self is being run with an almost libidinous energy. The dataism itself is starting to develop libidinous, pretty much pornographic attributes. Dataists copulate with data. Now people talk of 'data-sexuals'. They are supposed to be 'adamantly digital' and hold data to be 'sexy'. The digit is moving closer to the phallus. ¯\(°_o)/¯ Han studied philosophy in Germany and it shows. After this short excursion into bizarro land we're actually getting back into interesting stuff - Han starts to develop (yet incomplete) thought on how a person can react to psychopolitics, how he or she could develop a free life. It's a short book so the author doesn't go far, but hopefully a future book will.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Liu

    Some good points on the novel mechanisms for disciplining used by neoliberalism ("Neoliberalism is the capitalism of 'Like'") and personalised ad targeting as emblematic of neoliberalism's turn toward "psychopolitics" as opposed to merely "biopolitics". Some good points on the novel mechanisms for disciplining used by neoliberalism ("Neoliberalism is the capitalism of 'Like'") and personalised ad targeting as emblematic of neoliberalism's turn toward "psychopolitics" as opposed to merely "biopolitics".

  7. 4 out of 5

    Philippe

    With the intensification of capitalism into neoliberalism - a process initiated barely a few decades ago - a new and subtle regime of coercion, or more precisely auto-coercion, started to manifest itself. We have now internalised the imperative of performance and self-actualisation to such a degree that we have become slaves to our own dear ambitions. Today we pride ourselves on being 'projects' and 'entrepreneurs'. But the energy invested in these ambitions merely responds to the dictate of Cap With the intensification of capitalism into neoliberalism - a process initiated barely a few decades ago - a new and subtle regime of coercion, or more precisely auto-coercion, started to manifest itself. We have now internalised the imperative of performance and self-actualisation to such a degree that we have become slaves to our own dear ambitions. Today we pride ourselves on being 'projects' and 'entrepreneurs'. But the energy invested in these ambitions merely responds to the dictate of Capital and is entangled in the competitive logic of the market. The resilience of this new regime of control resides in three main features. First, distinctive for this new form of coercion is that it presents itself as freedom. It operates seductively, not repressively. There are no disciplinary constraints and prohibitions. Instead, neoliberalism beams forth in positivity. Hence, we welcome it and embrace it. It is us who subordinate ourselves, willingly, to this new context of domination. "The self-as-a-work-of-art amounts to a beautiful but deceptive illusion that the neoliberal regime maintains in order to exhaust its resources entirely." Second, this kind of 'emotional capitalism' is supremely disempowering in the way that it erodes our confidence in ourselves and in our communities: _Success as an entrepreneur pivots on the ability to offer a unique selling proposition, to hold a distinctive position, and we instrumentalise our social relationships to make that happen. _"People who fail in the neoliberal achievement-society see themselves as responsible for their lot and feel shame instead of questioning society or the system." Class struggle has given way to an inner struggle against ourselves. As a result, disenchantment or disenfranchisement doesn't spark revolution but engenders depression. _Finally, neoliberalism has turned citizens into consumers who are indifferent to politics and disengage from actively shaping their communities. "Participation now amounts to grievance and complaint." Third, information technology (the author doesn't talk about life sciences) is a critical factor that reinforces the stranglehold of neoliberalism because it creates a panoptic regime of surveillance. Our daily life creates 'digital exhaust fumes' that someone, somewhere is tracing, labelling, packaging and selling to the highest bidder (*). Those who do not play by the rules or are found to be economically unattractive find themselves curtailed to an ever-shrinking opportunity space. Further, aggregating data from our daily choices and distilling patterns from these Big Data exposes us to ever more powerful mechanisms of influence and control. Han conjectures that Big Data may soon yield the psychogram of the unconscious itself. What can we do? Given that Capital represents a new kind of transcendence, it is extremely tough to subvert its logic. Han, like other authors who have theorised in this vein, seems to advocate some sort of quietism, a retreat into an asceticism that allows us to decouple as much as is possible from the world of work and consumption. Practically, we can choose to stay out of debt. Debt destroys freedom. "Free from debt - that is, wholly free - we would truly have to act." The author relies on Nietzsche, late Foucault and Deleuze to articulate various modes of resistance to the regime of psychopolitics. Taken to its extremity, this leads to a life that is an embodiment of pure immanence; it exists only in itself. (Patrick White, in his 'Riders in the Chariot', which I happen to be reading, paints a moving picture of four misfits who convincingly embody this ideal). I have provided here an outline of Han's argument. But this slim booklet includes more captivating ideas. It's written in a compact and forceful idiom that (except for one or two chapters) will also appeal to less philosophically savvy readers. I think Han's analysis is compelling and alerts us to a grave challenge to our freedom and the health of our society. But I keep believing that there are also forms of resistance that rely on a reinforcement of the polis rather than a move away from it. Or maybe subversive 'idiotism' and responsible citizenship are not as opposed as Han leads us to believe ... (*) The irony is that, while I am penning this review, my 'private browser' alerts me to dozens of trackers that Goodreads is unleashing on its unsuspecting users.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mikaellyng

    This book has some good takes expanding on the concepts of Benthams Panopticon, Benjamins Optical Uncounsiness and Foucaults discipline society, in the terms of modern neoliberalism. Han continues where Foucault left of and makes some good observations of the lack of freedom in the face of modern technology (The shift from biopolitics to psychopolitics). He however dismisses the marxist concept of class in the first chapter by proclaiming that we all own the means of production now since we prod This book has some good takes expanding on the concepts of Benthams Panopticon, Benjamins Optical Uncounsiness and Foucaults discipline society, in the terms of modern neoliberalism. Han continues where Foucault left of and makes some good observations of the lack of freedom in the face of modern technology (The shift from biopolitics to psychopolitics). He however dismisses the marxist concept of class in the first chapter by proclaiming that we all own the means of production now since we produce more 'immaterial' products than ever before - if we look at what this actually means its clear that its a false assertion or a misunderstanding of the concept of class and the production of market valueables. His critique of neoliberalism is alright with the exception of some strange statements on emotions: "Emotions have become a means of production" This of course makes no sense, since value can't be produced psychologically - although emotions play a role in advertisements this becomes weird take. He later on mentions "The dictatorship of emotion" which is equally meaningless. The essay is finished with an homage to Deleuzes concept of "idiotism" which is just as baffeling as it sounds. In it Deleuze claims that all great philosophers were idiots (which here is defined as something positive, like a genius or savant) in a typical postmodern fashion. This term never leads anywhere or play any ethical role in Han's essay. In other words, a very unsatisfactory conclusion (if you can even call it that) to an eclectic and somewhat incoherent essay. Nothing more than vague assertions and observations made in a very foucauldian langauge, that being difficult to decipher and lackluster in terms of content. The 'politics' of psychopolitics seem to be some sort of rejection of the use of social media? Han never really explains any alternative, any radical politics etc. He merely tries to analyze the current form of modern capitalism, but his own analysis becomes symptomatic of this current. All in all this book is pretty bad, and made me more reluctant to study more Foucault, thanks Han. Not to mention this gem: "Quantified Self is being run with an almost libidinous energy. The dataism itself is starting to develop libidinous, pretty much pornographic attributes. Dataists copulate with data. Now people talk of 'data-sexuals'. They are supposed to be 'adamantly digital' and hold data to be 'sexy'. The digit is moving closer to the phallus."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jorge Rodighiero

    I am an existentialist. I believe that existence precedes essence, and that we don’t have a unique predetermined way to be ourselves that is right, but that we create ourselves daily. We are our project; we are what is projected into the future. However, there is a risk in that understanding that we have to consider. In this book by Byung-Chul Han explains how focusing on our free will and on the liberation from external coercions, we may be blind to a new form of coercion, one that is internal a I am an existentialist. I believe that existence precedes essence, and that we don’t have a unique predetermined way to be ourselves that is right, but that we create ourselves daily. We are our project; we are what is projected into the future. However, there is a risk in that understanding that we have to consider. In this book by Byung-Chul Han explains how focusing on our free will and on the liberation from external coercions, we may be blind to a new form of coercion, one that is internal and pushes towards performance and optimization. f we focus too much in our free will and the undetermined nature of our beings, we may believe that how close we are to the expected performance is only about us: our skills, our will, our effort. For the same reason, we are constantly sharing freely our achievements in social media, in a constant race to show our performance and the rewards it brings. At the same time we see and compare ourselves with the rest of humanity under the same ideal, impossible to achieve by its own definition, while inside ourselves an all seeing eye shakes its head and punishes us for being less than that epitome. Han explains how a positive and empowering slogan such as “Yes We Can” for the same reason can be heard by us as “Yes We Should”. In his words, in the past we lived in a Disziplinargesellschaft (disciplinary society) where we had to be coerced to function according to the ideal of performance, where now we live in a Leistungsgesellschaft (achievement society, sometimes translated as meritocracy) in which we subject ourselves — freely — to the pressure of achieving.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eren Buğlalılar

    An updated version of "We are doomed there is no working class anymore so communism is impossible yes capitalism is bad but omnipresent and forever thus resistance is futile and [enter Dave Mustaine vocals] the only thing you candoistoisolateyourselfbeagoodpersonreadthinkalot and die." Sex sells. Radical pessimism sells even better. An updated version of "We are doomed there is no working class anymore so communism is impossible yes capitalism is bad but omnipresent and forever thus resistance is futile and [enter Dave Mustaine vocals] the only thing you candoistoisolateyourselfbeagoodpersonreadthinkalot and die." Sex sells. Radical pessimism sells even better.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dominique

    3.5 stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    JP

    I got the same hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling while reading Psychopolitics as I did reading Foucault for the first time. I always love Foucaultian power theories, because they bring me back to that feeling that every undergraduate has when they have their first brush with Discipline and Punish: "I UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING AND THIS IS PERFECT DESCRIPTION OF A WORLD BENEATH THE WORLD." Of course, Foucault wasn't perfect, and books like Psychopolitics bring an excellent new lens to I got the same hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling while reading Psychopolitics as I did reading Foucault for the first time. I always love Foucaultian power theories, because they bring me back to that feeling that every undergraduate has when they have their first brush with Discipline and Punish: "I UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING AND THIS IS PERFECT DESCRIPTION OF A WORLD BENEATH THE WORLD." Of course, Foucault wasn't perfect, and books like Psychopolitics bring an excellent new lens to the questions of today - how does Neoliberalism shape us in new and terrifying ways in the realm of "control" and "power"? And once I start reading, that's where the dark-screen filter drops over my field of vision; it's when I break into a cold sweat; it's when I realize that I am everything that the author is criticizing. I monitor my life down to the minute! I have apps that track my usage of other apps; I wear a fitbit that monitors my location; I have an app that tracks whether I've remembered to use my fitbit to monitor my sleeping (and whether I've gotten enough sleep); if it's not on my Instagram, it didn't happen! I am also often depressed by a feeling of FOMO or of not being able to keep up with the Joneses. I am this way because of how "plugged in" I am. But more than just realizing that I am a victim of Neoliberalism, I appreciated Han's criticism of Marxism's outdated power descriptors. If we are all entrepreneurs, both selling our labor (to ourselves) and constantly viewing self-improvement (or masturbation, as Tyler Durden would call it) as a job demanding labor, then how do we rise up against "Capital"? We don't; Neoliberalism has trapped us in an extremely malleable and adaptive web. I've been organizing and committed to socialism now for the better part of a year, and this book lays out the argument of why, exactly, the system is so problematic better than any leftist tract from the ML or MLM perspective could have. Ultimately, like Foucault, I think this essay is AMAZING and needs to be read, but I hope that Han has another book in the works answering the question "What Then Must We Do?" Because after reading this book I feel like my eyes have been opened to an insurmountable foe - a system itself with no head; more terrifying and universal than a Hydra; a "Skynet." One that could screw us all further if we can't turn this reliance on data and the second Dark Enlightenment around.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kiera Lucy

    I thoroughly enjoyed the first 10 chapters of this book - very engaging and completely rang true (to me). The idea of psychological manipulation for political gain and societal control, and the exploration of neoliberalism in this text are excellent! I would recommend the first 50 pages to everyone as a mandatory read. However, the final three chapters I found went over my head a little and they didn’t quite resonate as much with me. Yet, overall, this was a very quick, informative, and provocat I thoroughly enjoyed the first 10 chapters of this book - very engaging and completely rang true (to me). The idea of psychological manipulation for political gain and societal control, and the exploration of neoliberalism in this text are excellent! I would recommend the first 50 pages to everyone as a mandatory read. However, the final three chapters I found went over my head a little and they didn’t quite resonate as much with me. Yet, overall, this was a very quick, informative, and provocative piece which I rather loved reading.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Psychopolitics is introducing some very timely ideas building on top of Foucault's concept of biopolitics. Whatever would've happened if Foucault didn't die when he did you might think :D At the same time the writing style is very laconic and you almost feel like you are reading a bunch of bold slogans one after the next, but almost all of them are straight to the point. We are all stuck in a self-perpetuating panopticon of social network sharing and big data, but how amusing is that! Let's carry Psychopolitics is introducing some very timely ideas building on top of Foucault's concept of biopolitics. Whatever would've happened if Foucault didn't die when he did you might think :D At the same time the writing style is very laconic and you almost feel like you are reading a bunch of bold slogans one after the next, but almost all of them are straight to the point. We are all stuck in a self-perpetuating panopticon of social network sharing and big data, but how amusing is that! Let's carry on.

  15. 4 out of 5

    so fi

    i dug it. a sexy little book from the outside and a stressful bummer inside. like, same. got me thinking about bio-vs-psychopolitics and pleasure vs disciplinarian dystopias. internet is scary big data v scary

  16. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Tran

    Mind. Blown. I was kind of sick today, and I didn't want to study so I read this book instead (picked it up from Brazos Bookstore, not having any clue what it was about). What a fantastic read during a time in which Mark Zuckerberg has to testify before Congress regarding data breaches, and in which "social media and internet have become fundamentally different from mass media of the past" (p. 27). I'm a sucker for concise, strong thoughts and in this slim book, Byung-Chul Han does not mess arou Mind. Blown. I was kind of sick today, and I didn't want to study so I read this book instead (picked it up from Brazos Bookstore, not having any clue what it was about). What a fantastic read during a time in which Mark Zuckerberg has to testify before Congress regarding data breaches, and in which "social media and internet have become fundamentally different from mass media of the past" (p. 27). I'm a sucker for concise, strong thoughts and in this slim book, Byung-Chul Han does not mess around. He gets straight to the point about Big Data and how it is similar and different (one could even say, sophisticated) from 1984's Big Brother: "We are caught, so to speak, in the total memory of the Digital. Bentham's panopticon still lacked an efficient recording system; it had only a 'punishment log' for penalties enacted and the reasons they occurred. Prisoners' actual lives were not taken down. Big Brother had no way of knowing what inmates really thought or desired. In contrast to Big Brother, who could be quite forgetful, Big Data never forgets anything at all. For this reason alone, the digital panopticon is much more efficient than Bentham's." This observation is absolutely chilling. Talks about several other things that I also found interesting: gamification, psychopolitics vs biopolitics, emotional capitalism. Despite how small this book is, every single sentence packed a punch. Also, the solution he offers in the ending (despite probably being the most confusing part about this book) was pretty satisfying.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alexandre Coates

    A quick, focused piece on the ways neoliberalism interacts with technologies to affect us. Mainly covering the shift from the idea that power is leveraged with the threat of force or the removal of privileges to the newer threat of positive coercion. I was not particularly struck by some of the earlier chapters but as the book goes on its arguments feel like they become tighter, its insights deeper, and its conclusions about how we should react more vital. Particularly valuable were its insights A quick, focused piece on the ways neoliberalism interacts with technologies to affect us. Mainly covering the shift from the idea that power is leveraged with the threat of force or the removal of privileges to the newer threat of positive coercion. I was not particularly struck by some of the earlier chapters but as the book goes on its arguments feel like they become tighter, its insights deeper, and its conclusions about how we should react more vital. Particularly valuable were its insights into how we've moved beyond the threats of biopolitics into psychopolitics, the way Big Data tries to liberate science from thought and meaning, and how there is a great need to resist the urge to act well within a system. Rather we must move outside of it, be silent when constantly urged to speak, and so on, and so forth. I consider it a good starter for thinking about how anyone interacts with technology, and how we must resist the things we are falsely told we want through them. Raises good points.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

    Sparking with ideas on every page. It’s a short, intense read, so not every path is pursued to its end. Probably none are. But it’s so fertile and fresh. This feels like the kind of sharp pithy intervention that should be being made now, in the spirit of the old Frankfurt School, but responding to the new material conditions which are even more dire (as Han well explains) than what Adorno and the gang foresaw.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chelsie

    Interesting read. I don't agree with every point, but there is a good bit of useful information. It also includes references to other works on the topic, so you know where to go for more information/ other perspectives. Interesting read. I don't agree with every point, but there is a good bit of useful information. It also includes references to other works on the topic, so you know where to go for more information/ other perspectives.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Florence

    Had some good points but felt really over the place? The whole Big Data thing is just randomly introduced with very little intro right in the middle and is almost a non sequitur from the first half?? But still readable and short thankfully

  21. 5 out of 5

    Martin Hare Michno

    If you're a Marxist searching for a modern critique of neoliberalism, then this book is worthy of your attention. If you're a Marxist searching for a modern critique of neoliberalism, then this book is worthy of your attention.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ze Diogo

    As an economics student, I’ve long been interested in the ways through which modern day capitalist society so successfully manages to guide and steer our actions, often rendering us unable to choose freely. I found the author makes a very compelling point in this book, as he goes through what he calls ‘technologies of power’ to explain just how the whole neoliberal system controls our most basic needs and desires. The subjectification of the self, the idea that we need to sell ourselves as if we As an economics student, I’ve long been interested in the ways through which modern day capitalist society so successfully manages to guide and steer our actions, often rendering us unable to choose freely. I found the author makes a very compelling point in this book, as he goes through what he calls ‘technologies of power’ to explain just how the whole neoliberal system controls our most basic needs and desires. The subjectification of the self, the idea that we need to sell ourselves as if we were a product, judging our value as a measure of likes and shares online, inevitably makes us all much more similar than real individuals pursuing their own goals and happiness. “Neoliberalism represents a highly efficient, indeed an intelligent, system for exploiting freedom. Everything that belongs to practices and expressive forms of liberty- emotion, play and communication- comes to be exploited. It is inefficient to exploit people against their will. Allo-exploitation yields scant returns. Only when freedom is exploited are returns maximized.” I often found myself thinking of Huxley’s “Brave New World” as I went through this little gem of a book. Only when people think themselves free can they truly be controlled and subjugated to the will of others. The ideas in this book are not new, or even particularly surprising. The use of Big Data, shock therapy (in its figurative form), or surveillance as a means by which you would dehumanize people are all very much well known, but the way Byung-Chul Han explains the psychology behind these ‘technologies of power’ makes this book a must read, in my opinion. I must say some parts were a bit of tough read, as I’m not exactly well versed in philosophy or even sociology, but I enjoyed the feeling of ‘wokeness’ I experienced at times when reading this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about our modern society and even themselves.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Henry L. Racicot

    Korean-German egghead offers offbeat critique of neoliberalism. I find his main point irrefutable: People who fail in the neoliberal achievement-society see themselves as responsible for their lot and feel shame instead of questioning society or the system. Herein lies the particular intelligence defining the neoliberal regime: no resistance to the system can emerge in the first place. In contrast, when allo-exploitation prevails, the exploited are still able to show solidarity and unite against Korean-German egghead offers offbeat critique of neoliberalism. I find his main point irrefutable: People who fail in the neoliberal achievement-society see themselves as responsible for their lot and feel shame instead of questioning society or the system. Herein lies the particular intelligence defining the neoliberal regime: no resistance to the system can emerge in the first place. In contrast, when allo-exploitation prevails, the exploited are still able to show solidarity and unite against those who exploit them. Such is the logic on which Marx’s idea of a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is based. However, this vision presupposes that relations of repression and domination hold. Now, under the neoliberal regime of auto-exploitation, people are turning their aggression against themselves. This auto-aggressivity means the exploited are not inclined to revolution so much as depression.Unfortunately for the auto-exploited, Han offers only the vaguest remedy for escape from the neoliberal way of life, the subject must de-psychologize, basically meaning the subject must deprogram himself, and then begin the art of living.What is the art of living? No model is given, and, to be fair to Han’s ideas, no model can be given, since to really live means to escape the prevailing system with its prefabricated capitalist course and embark upon an unwritten future. But let’s not hold it against him that he can’t really figure a way out of this mess, nobody else has, either.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kai

    fun little book that would seek to explain why contemporary subjects might, for example, freely participate in writing reviews of books on a self-enrolled website owned and operated by the multinational corporate behemoth Amazon, thus providing data blips for regurgitation by this firm as well as beckoning other readers to purchase more books. it's good stuff in its diagnosis, which is better in apprehending and updating Deleuze's "control societies" essay for the digital age than, say, Lazzarat fun little book that would seek to explain why contemporary subjects might, for example, freely participate in writing reviews of books on a self-enrolled website owned and operated by the multinational corporate behemoth Amazon, thus providing data blips for regurgitation by this firm as well as beckoning other readers to purchase more books. it's good stuff in its diagnosis, which is better in apprehending and updating Deleuze's "control societies" essay for the digital age than, say, Lazzarato, Raunig, Bifo, etc. sadly in its negation of the negation, however, it veers too close to a Heideggarian-inspired line--Agamben/Tiqqun-ish (car-tiqqun-ish?) in its devotion to "play" and so on. i'll never understand the appeal.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hayley Mortin

    fucked me up this one

  26. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    "At least in Nineteen Eighty-Four, nobody felt free. In 2017, for Han, everybody feels free, which is the problem." "Neoliberalism is the capitalism of Like" hooooo boyyyy "At least in Nineteen Eighty-Four, nobody felt free. In 2017, for Han, everybody feels free, which is the problem." "Neoliberalism is the capitalism of Like" hooooo boyyyy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Moses Cohen-Soyer

    Theory-lite. Still some good stuff in here

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bruno Arine

    Since it dawned on me that we are heading toward a digital dystopia — circa 2009 —, I've been wandering who'll wind up right: Orwell or Huxley. Nearly ten years later, I can assuredly say 'neither'. The Matrix has won. In the Information Age, you don't use products — you are the product with a catch: you're your own product, and of others. And the digital panopticon, where everyone surveys everyone, will ensure you play by the rules. Any sort of struggle will be pointless. And you won't struggle, Since it dawned on me that we are heading toward a digital dystopia — circa 2009 —, I've been wandering who'll wind up right: Orwell or Huxley. Nearly ten years later, I can assuredly say 'neither'. The Matrix has won. In the Information Age, you don't use products — you are the product with a catch: you're your own product, and of others. And the digital panopticon, where everyone surveys everyone, will ensure you play by the rules. Any sort of struggle will be pointless. And you won't struggle, because you won't feel the need to. The larger the opressing force, the less tangible it presents itself. The elegant way out? Refuse to play by the rules. Simple like that. If being offline means idiocy, by all means, be an idiot.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah GT

    This book simply blew my mind! ‬ ‪Heralding the end of the Disciplinary society of Big brother and biopolitics, Byung-Chul Han describes the new era of digital neoliberalism in which we entered. A society of constant positivity, where the individual is no more a “subject” but a “project”, constantly self-optimizing, driven by emotions, and unable to see that his freedom itself is the mean of his subjugation. A society where surveillance gave place to the benign dictatorship of transparency and of This book simply blew my mind! ‬ ‪Heralding the end of the Disciplinary society of Big brother and biopolitics, Byung-Chul Han describes the new era of digital neoliberalism in which we entered. A society of constant positivity, where the individual is no more a “subject” but a “project”, constantly self-optimizing, driven by emotions, and unable to see that his freedom itself is the mean of his subjugation. A society where surveillance gave place to the benign dictatorship of transparency and of Big Data, a fetishized collection of information far from knowledge. His book provides mind-expending context to think about our present and future. A short but illuminating read that I strongly recommend!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Clinton Wilson

    Today, unbounded freedom and communication are switching over into total control and surveillance … We had just freed ourselves from the disciplinary panopticon – then threw ourselves into a new and even more efficient panopticon. This isn't the Orwellian world of Nineteen Eighty-Four we are living in, Han argues in his accessible essay. We aren't living in a world where no one feels free. Everyone feels free, and therein lies the problem. We have offered up our personal data willingly, and we co Today, unbounded freedom and communication are switching over into total control and surveillance … We had just freed ourselves from the disciplinary panopticon – then threw ourselves into a new and even more efficient panopticon. This isn't the Orwellian world of Nineteen Eighty-Four we are living in, Han argues in his accessible essay. We aren't living in a world where no one feels free. Everyone feels free, and therein lies the problem. We have offered up our personal data willingly, and we confess every insignificant detail about our lives, opinions and interests on social media. We are the eager agents of our own auto-exploitation. We have become both slave and master at the same time.

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