I have a piece on “neurocapitalism” and the novel in the current issue of frieze, which is available online here. Here’s the start of it:

In his essay ‘The Metaphysical Poets’ (1921) T.S. Eliot famously described a historical shift in our psychology; he labelled this the ‘dissociation of sensibility’. Something happened during the 17th century, according to Eliot, that tore feeling away from thought, injecting a terminal and increasingly neurotic self-awareness into human experience. While Eliot didn’t delve deeply into the historical context that underwrote the aesthetic change that he detected, it’s hard not to match his findings with the story of the early development of capitalism (and the alienation it produces) that Karl Marx and so many others described.

Modern art and literature have long been preoccupied with the relationship between aesthetic reflexivity and the alienation from everyday life in a rapidly changing world. New forms of communication and transformation disrupt our senses of space and time, while developments in the human sciences call into question many of the age-old ways in which we have understood who we are. While this is, to a certain extent, a perennial theme of modern experience, something new is also afoot. As Ewa Hess and Hennric Jokeit, among others, have recently argued, the emergence of ‘neurocapitalism’ – the entanglement of capitalism with the science and medicine of the mind via the pharmaceutical industry and ideologies of performance – has resulted in a new form of alienation that is significantly different from prior forms of self-estrangement.

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