Rose - Power and Subjectivity: Critical History and Psychology

Power and Subjectivity: Critical History and Psychology

by Nikolas Rose


I wrote this paper for a symposium on historical dimensions of psychological discourse that was organised by Kenneth Gergen and Carl Graumann in Heidelberg in January 1991. The aim of the symposium was to bring together people from a range of different disciplines to explore the ideological, intellectual, political, economic and literary forces that enter in to the cultural construction of mental life. My argument in the paper was that the traces, texts, procedures and practices that have surrounded, represented, explained and addressed the human person are not merely significant as representations of subjective reality or cultural beliefs. They have constituted changing regimes of signification that provide the conditions under which persons can accord particular meaning to themselves and their lives, arrays of norms according to which the capacities and conduct of the self have been judged, techniques according to which selves have been shaped and reformed. They embody not just beliefs, but also socio-political aspirations, dreams, hopes and fears. They have been bound up with a proliferation of social programs, interventions and administrative projects. And they have constituted a body of critical reflections on the nature of the self and the problems of governing persons in accordance with their nature and truth and in accordance with he demands of social order, harmony, tranquillity and well-being. A later version of the paper is included, together with papers from Kurt Danziger, Catherine Lutz, Jill Morawski, Lorraine Daston, Irmingard Steuble and others, in C. F. Graumann and K. J. Gergen, eds., Historical Dimensions of Psychological Discourse (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Psychology, history, subjectivity

The human being is not the eternal basis of human history and human culture but an historical and cultural artifact. This is the message of studies from a variety of disciplines, which have pointed in different ways to the historical and cultural specificity of our modern western conception of the person.  In such societies, the self is construed as a naturally unique and discrete entity, the boundaries of the body enclosing, as if by definition, an inner life of the psyche, in which are inscribed the experiences of an individual biography.  But modern western societies are unusual in construing the self as such a natural locus of beliefs and desires, with inherent capacities, as the self-evident origin of actions and decisions, as a stable phenomenon exhibiting consistency across different contexts and times.1   They are also unusual in grounding and justifying their apparatuses for the regulation of conduct upon such a conception of the self: law, with its notions of responsibility and intent; morality, with its valorisation of authenticity and its emotivism; politics, with its emphasis upon individual rights, individual choices and individual freedoms.2  It is in these societies that psychology has been born as a scientific discipline, as a positive knowledge of the self and a particular way of speaking the truth about selves and acting upon them.3


How should one construe the relation between "the history of the self" and the history of psychology.  It is tempting to place the history of the self and the history of psychology within a common history of mentalities.   Both would thus be seen as elements in a new way of thinking about persons, emerging, perhaps, out of a centuries long process of the intensification of intimacy and the constitution of domains of privacy.  Recent studies of the history of private life have certainly helped us understand the ways in which a variety of domains of privacy were gradually distinguished from a public sphere, yet at the same time were regulated by public codes and represented publicly according to precisely specified conventions.4   But we cannot recapture a history of subjectivity from these historical traces.   To purport to read through these documents and images to discover the real inner life of the persons who composed them, or the persons who figure in them, would be to fall victim to a hermeneutic illusion: we would merely infuse those long dead others with our own preconceptions under the guise of "interpretation".  The same applies to the texts that compose the archive of psychology, past and present: we can never retrace the path from these words on paper, disciplined and regulated by codes of knowledge, explanatory assumptions and ethical values, to some "real" state of the human soul prior to its capture by thought.

I would like to suggest a different approach to the relations between the historicity of the self and the history of psychology. This would not embrace this relation within a global process of the transformation of culture or mentality.  Nor would it aspire to the recapture of the lost referent.  For the traces, texts, procedures and practices that have surrounded, explained and addressed the human person are more than merely representations, whether this be of subjective reality or of cultural beliefs. They are more positive and productive than this.   They give form to a whole variety of beliefs, aspirations, dreams, hopes and fears.   They have been enmeshed within the diverse norms that have been elaborated by moralists and pedagogues for the evaluation of the capacities and conduct of the self.   They have been bound up with the programmes, projects and techniques though which authorities have sought to shape and reform selves.  They underpin the regimes of judgment and calculation through which persons understand and act upon themselves and their lives.  And they have helped compose a body of critical reflections on the problems of governing persons that would simultaneously satisfy the demands of social order, harmony, tranquillity and well-being and accord with their true nature as human beings.

From this perspective, psychology cannot be understood as merely a theoretical discipline.  Rather, the term should be seen as indexing an assortment of ways of thinking and acting, practices, techniques, forms of calculation, routines and procedures, and skilled personnel.  Further, an analysis of psychology cannot begin by accepting the limits of a discipline as defining, as of right, a coherent and bounded domain.  The discipline of psychology is certainly not unified at the level of its object, its concept, its theoretical harmony, its "paradigm"; the unity it has acquired since the end of the nineteenth century is a pedagogic and institutional unity.  More significantly, there are strategic relations and thematic links between psychological modes of thinking about and acting upon persons and those in other discourses - criminology, political philosophy, statistics, medicine and psychiatry.   In these complex relations, psychology has been a participant and beneficiary of new kinds of reflection upon the world and the persons that inhabit it.  Psychology, that is to say, has been bound up with the production of new domains of objectivity.   It has made certain old things thinkable in new ways, and made certain new things thinkable and practicable.

How should we do the history of psychology5

How might one do a history of such a complex of thought and action? I would like to propose some criteria for a "critical" history of psychology.  Such a critical history of psychology can, crudely, be distinguished from two other kinds of history of psychology: "recurrent" histories and "critiques".  The term recurrent history comes from Georges Canguilhem.6   He uses it to describe - not necessarily pejoratively - the ways in which scientific disciplines tend to identify themselves partly through a certain conception of their past.  This kind of history - which is familiar from textbooks and authoritative tomes usually called something like "The History of Psychology" and beginning with the Greeks - operates by distinguishing the "sanctioned" from the "lapsed". The sanctioned past is arranged in a more or less continual sequence, as that which led to the present and anticipated it, that virtuous tradition of which the present is the inheritor. It is a past of genius, of precursors, of influences, of obstacles overcome, crucial experiments, discoveries and the like.  Opposed to this sanctioned history is a lapsed history. This is a history of false paths, of errors and illusions, of prejudice and mystification.   Consigned to this history of error are all those books, theories, arguments and explanations associated with the past of a system of thought but incongruous with its present. Recurrent histories take the present as both the culmination of the past and the standpoint from which its historicity can be displayed.  Recurrent histories are more than "ideology"; they have a constitutive role to play in most scientific discourses.  For they use the past to help demarcate that regime of truth which is contemporary for a discipline - and in doing so, they not only use history to police the present, but also to shape the future.7

Alternatively, history can be written as critique.   The different versions of critique share a common ambition: to de-legitimate the present of the discipline by exposing its past, and hence to write a different future.   Historical critiques of psychology written from within the discipline have traced a history in which progress towards a conceptually or morally virtuous psychology has been blocked or distorted, by the incursion of obstacles - political, ideological, moral, methodological.  These have prevented psychology becoming what it should be.   History here is used to resurrect a lost potential, to reactivate a forgotten destiny, to inscribe the possibility of an alternative future into the present by means of the past.8  Historical critiques written from outside psychology have tended to reduce the scientificity of the discipline to a kind of shadow play, in which the vicissitudes of knowledge claims are merely the ghostly projection of outside forces.  Some have seen psychology, like other scientific disciplines, as a space in which the social, professional and cognitive interests of scientists are played out; psychology and psychologists merely exemplify the fact that all knowledge is constituted by human interests.9  In a stronger version, a history is traced in which the development and destiny of science in capitalist societies is bound up with a range of attempts to conquer nature in order to control it.  Psychology here is seen as embodying a series of attempts to master persons in order better to manipulate them.   Psychological knowledge is a servant of power, and history unmasks this servitude disguised as objectivity, this manipulative ambition disguised as rationality.   Psychology here is seen as an example of, and an instrument of, a general process of domination at the service of powerful economic interests.10  Critique is also the mode in which cultural historians have tended to approach psychology, treating it as an index of more general social malaise: narcissism, the tyranny of intimacy, the "me" generation, the decline of spiritual and communal values, the search for certainty in an epoch when god is dead, the mark of a doomed quest for authenticity.   Psychology here is merely a symptom of the mentality of an age that has seen the birth of the inward looking, isolated, self-sufficient individual, for whom truth is neither collective nor sacred but personal.11

Critique poses significant questions concerning the relations between knowledge and society, between truth and power, between psychology and subjectivity. However it does so in a rather reductive manner.  Psychology, for critique, is socially significant merely in that it serves functions, manipulates persons, enforces adaptation, legitimates status, disguises lack, provides false comforts and the like.  Against the idea of critique, I would like to pose the notion of a critical history.  Such an endeavour would be critical not in the sense of pronouncing guilty verdicts, but in the sense of opening a space for careful analytical judgement.12   A critical history, that is to say, is a way of utilising investigations of the past to enable one to think differently about the present, to interrogate that in our contemporary experience which we take for granted, through an examination of the conditions under which our current forms of truth have been made possible.

Such a critical history of the constitutive relations between the psychological, the social and the subjective would certainly concern itself with power.  But it would view psychology as more than a sign, symptom, exemplar or effect of power relations. Power in the case of psychology would not be thought of in negative or instrumental terms, as that which manipulates, denies, serves other purposes.   Rather, psychology would be viewed from the perspective of the "power effects" that it has made possible.  For psychology, like the other "human" sciences, has played a fundamental role in the creation of the kind of present in which we in "the West" have come to live.  To address the relations between subjectivity, psychology and society from this perspective is to examine those fields in which the conduct of the self and its powers have been linked to ethics and morality, to politics and administration, and to truth and knowledge.  For such societies have been constituted, in part, through an array of plans and procedures for the shaping, regulation, administration of the self, that, over the last two centuries, has been inescapably bound to knowledges of the self.  And psychology - indeed all the "psy-" knowledges - have played a very significant role in the re-organization and expansion of these practices and techniques which have linked authority to subjectivity over the last century, especially in the liberal democratic polities of Europe, the United States and Australia.

The construction of the psychological

Up until quite recently, historical studies of psychology tended to operate in terms of a distinction between three separate spheres.  There was the domain of "reality" which psychology sought to know.  This reality was specified in various ways - as the psyche, consciousness, human mental life, behaviour or whatever - but in each case it existed independently from attempts to know it.   There was the domain of knowledge, in this case "psychology".   Again, what comprised "psychology" varied from account to account, but it generally consisted of psychologists or their precursors, theories, beliefs, books and articles, experiments and the like.  And there was the domain of "society", construed either as "culture" or "world views", or of processes such as "industrialisation" - that acted as a kind of backdrop to these attempts.   Of course such histories sometimes - though not always - asked questions about the relationships between "psychology" and "society" - how had "social" phenomena such as religion, prejudice, or even institutional arrangements such as universities and professions, affected or influenced the development of "psychology".  And they sometimes - though not often - asked how psychological theories and practitioners had affected "society" - how and where had they been "applied", to what phenomena, and with what success.  But they seldom, if ever, asked questions concerning the relations between the object of psychological knowledge - the mental life of the human individual, subjectivity - and psychological knowledge itself.

Recently a number of writers have successfully challenged this separation of spheres.  Psychology, it has been shown, cannot be regarded as a given domain, separate from something called "society" - the processes by which its truths are produced are constitutively "social".  And, further, the object of psychology cannot be regarded as something given, independent, that pre-exists knowledge and which is merely "discovered". Psychology constitutes its object in the process of knowing it.  In this sense, as Kurt Danziger has elegantly shown, the "subject" of psychology is "socially constructed" both in the sense of the construction of the discipline and in the sense of the construction of its thought object -the human subject.13

Let us agree, then, that the psychological domain is a "constructed" domain.  But, in scientific domains less racked by anxieties about their own status and respectability, philosophers and historians of science have long accepted that scientific truth is a matter of construction.  What, then, if anything, distinguishes psychology from other fields of scientific knowledge?


To speak of the "construction" of new realms of scientific objectivity is to recognise that what is entailed is a break away from the given. Gaston Bachelard's writings on quantum physics, relativity and non-Euclidian geometry can help us understand this process.  For Bachelard agrees with Nietzsche that "everything crucial comes into being only "in spite" ...  Every new truth comes into being in spite of the evidence; every new experience is acquired in spite of immediate experience".

In The New Scientific Spirit, Bachelard argues that scientific reason is necessarily a break away from the empirical. Science, he claims, should be understood not as a phenomenology but as "phenomeno-technology":   "It takes its instruction from construction".  That is to say, science is not a mere reflection upon or rationalisation of experience.  Science, and Bachelard is being both descriptive and normative here, entails the attempt to produce, in reality , that which has already been produced in thought.  In scientific thought, "meditation on the object always takes the form of a project....  Scientific observation is always polemical; it either confirms of denies a prior thesis, a pre-existing model, an observational protocol".  And experimentation is essentially a process by which theories are materialised by technical means.  For "once the step is taken from observation to experimentation, the polemical character of knowledge stands out even more sharply.  Now phenomena must be selected, filtered, purified, shaped by instruments; indeed it may well be the instruments that produce the phenomena in the first place.  And the instruments are nothing but theories materialized".14

Reality should thus not be understood as some kind of primitive given: "every fruitful scientific revolution has forced a profound revision in the categories of the real".15  Indeed, Bachelard's notion of epistemological obstacles and of a "psychoanalysis" of scientific reason arise from his injunction that science needs to exercise a constant vigilance against the seduction of the empirical, the lure of the given that serves as an impediment to the scientific imagination.

From this perspective, to point to the constructed nature of scientific objectivity is not to embarrass or debunk the project of science, not to "ironize" it, "deconstruct" it, but to define it.  Contrary to all forms of empiricism - whether philosophically grounded or based upon a valorisation of "lay" knowledge and "everyday experience" - for Bachelard scientific reality is not in accordance with "everyday thought": its objectivity is achieved and not merely "experienced".  Contemporary scientific reality - and this goes for a science like psychology as much as any other - is the outcome of the categories we use to think it, the techniques and procedures we use to evidence it, the statistical tools and modes of proof we use to justify it.  But this does not amount to a de-legitimation of its scientific pretensions.  It is merely the basis from which we become able to pose questions concerning the means of construction of these new domains of objectivity and their consequences.

Regimes of truth

However, whatever its insights into the technical and material character of the scientific activity, the Bachelardian model is too benign to account for the construction of psychological objectivity.  Truth is not only the outcome of construction, but of contestation.  There are battles over truth, in which evidence, results, arguments, laboratories, status and much else are deployed as resources in the attempts to win allies and force something into the true.16  Truth, that is to say, is always enthroned by acts of violence.  It entails a social process of exclusion in which arguments, evidence, theories and beliefs are thrust to the margins, not allowed to enter "the true".

These battles over truth are not abstract, for truth inheres in material forms.  To be in the true, facts and arguments must be permitted to enter into complex apparatuses of truth - scholarly journals, conferences and the like - which impose their own norms and standards upon the rhetorics of truths.  Truth entails an exercise in alliances and persuasion both within and without the bounds of any disciplinary regime, in which process an audience for truth can be identified and enrolled.  And truth entails the existence of a form of life within which such truth might be feasible and operative.17

From such a perspective, we can explore the particular conditions under which psychological arguments have been allowed "in the true".   The notion of "translation", developed in the work of Bruno Latour and Michel Callon, is helpful in understanding these processes: "By translation we understand all the negotiations, intrigues, calculations, acts of persuasion and violence, thanks to which an actor or force takes, or causes to be conferred on itself, authority to speak or act on behalf of another actor or force; "Our interests are the same", "do what I want", "you cannot succeed without me"".18   It is through such processes of translation, Latour and Callon suggest, that very diverse entities and agents - laboratory researchers, academics, practitioners and social authorities - come to be linked together.  Actors in locales separated in time and space are enrolled into a network to the extent that they come to understand their situation according to a certain language and logic, to construe their goals and their fate as in some way inextricable.

To understand the "construction of the psychological" does indeed entail an investigation into the ways in which networks were formed that operated under a certain "psychological" regime of truth.   One should, however, not overstate the agonistic impetus in such an event: networks are not established on the basis of a "will to power" on the part of individual or collective actors, nor through a "domination" of networks by particular centres.  What is involved, rather, is a process in which certain forms of thinking and acting come to appear to be solutions to the problems and decisions confronting actors in a variety of settings. Nonetheless Callon and Latour are right in rejecting accounts of such processes posed in terms either of the insipid notion of "diffusion of ideas" or the cynical notion of satisfaction of "social interests".   Kurt Danziger's meticulous examination of the relation between the deployment of psychology in these practical domains and the psychology of the laboratory has illustrated clearly some of the political and rhetorical processes through which such alliances have been formed, and their consequences for what is to count as valid psychological knowledge.   A political and rhetorical labour is involved in constructing a "translatability" between the laboratory, the textbook, the manual, the academic course, the professional association, the courtroom, the factory, the family, the battalion and so on - the diverse loci for the elaboration, utilisation and justification of psychological statements.

We can distinguish a number of different tactics through which, in the case of psychology, translation has occurred, at one and the same time, simultaneously stabilising psychological thought and creating a psychological territory.   First of all, this has entailed persuasion, negotiation and bargaining between different social and conceptual authorities, with all the calculations and trade-offs one might expect.  Second, it has involved fashioning a mode of perception in which certain events and entities come to be visualized according to particular images or patterns.  Third, it has been characterised by the circulation of a language in which concerns come to be articulated in certain terms, solidarities and dependencies expressed according to certain rhetorics, objectives and goals identified according to a certain vocabulary and grammar.  Fourth, the enrolling of agents into a "psychologized" network entails establishing the linkage between the nature, character and causes of problems facing various individuals and groups - producers and shopkeepers, doctors and patients -and forming a relation between the problems of one and those of another, such that the two seem intrinsically linked in their basis and their solution.

Mobile and thixotropic associations are thus established between a variety of agents, in which each seeks to enhance their powers by "translating" the resources provided by the association so that they may function to their own advantage.19  Through adopting shared problem definitions and vocabularies of explanation, loose and flexible linkages can be put in place between those who are separated spatially and temporally, and between events in spheres that remain formally distinct and autonomous. These alliances between the researchers and the practitioners, the producers and the consumers of psychological knowledge, so essential to its construction, impart a particular character to the process of construction of what will count as psychological knowledge.


The "disciplinization" of psychology from the mid-nineteenth century onwards was inextricably linked to the possibility of the building of such alliances.  It was through this process that a positive knowledge of "man" became possible; but the conditions of the birth of such a positive knowledge shaped its character in certain very significant respects.

First, perhaps, we can identify the ways in which certain norms and values of a technical nature came to define the topography of psychological truth. Most significant here were statistics and the experiment.  The constitutive role of "tools" and "methods" in the establishment of a psychological regime of truth requires us to redraw Bachelard's diagram of the relation between thought and technique.  In the construction of psychological truth, the technical means available for the materialisation of theory have played a determining and not a subordinate role.  The technical and instrumental forms that psychology has adopted for the demonstration and justification of theoretical propositions have come to delimit and shape the space of psychological thought itself.  The disciplinary project of psychology, over the fifty years that followed the establishment of the first psychological laboratories, journals and societies in the late nineteenth century, was accomplished, to a large extent, in a process that required psychology to jettison its previous modes of justification and adopt "truth techniques" already established in other domains of positive knowledge.

The two truth techniques that were pre-eminent here were "statistics" and "the experiment".20  Both exemplify not merely the alliances formed by psychology with other scientific disciplines, but also the reciprocal interplay between the theoretical and the technical.  Statistics, of course, emerged originally as "science of state", the attempt to gather numerical information on events and happenings in a realm in order to know and govern them - the formation of a lasting relation between knowledge and government.  Ian Hacking has argued convincingly that, in the course of the nineteenth century, the earlier assumption that statistical laws were merely the expression of underlying deterministic events gave way to the view that statistical laws - the laws of large numbers formulated in the 1830s and 1840s by Poisson and Quetelet - were laws in their own right that could be extended to natural phenomena.21  A conceptual rationale was constructed for the claim that statistical regularity underlay the apparently disorderly variability of phenomena.

In the first thirty years or so of psychology's disciplinary project, from the 1870s to the early years of this century, programmes for the stabilisation of psychological truths went hand in hand with the construction of the technical devices necessary to demonstrate that truth. In the work of Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, Charles Spearman and others, and from the notion of a "normal distribution" to the devices for calculating correlations, the relation between the theoretical and the statistical was an internal one.  Statistics were instruments that both materialised the theory and produced the phenomena that the theory was to explain.  Yet within a remarkably short period of time, statistical techniques that began as a condensation of the empirical, and progressed to being viewed as a materialisation of the theoretical became detached from the specific conceptual rationales that underpinned them.  By the 1920s, statistical laws appeared to have an autonomous existence which was merely accessed by statistical devices.  Statistical tests appeared merely a neutral means for the demonstration of truth deriving from a universe of numerical phenomena which, because untainted by social and human affairs, can be utilised to adjudicate between different accounts of such affairs.  Not only psychology, but also the other "social sciences" would seek to utilise such devices to establish their truthfulness and scientificity, to force themselves into the canon of truths, to convince sometimes sceptical audiences of politicians, practitioners and academics of their veridicality, to arm those who professed them with defences against criticisms that they were merely dressing up prejudice and speculation in the clothes of science.   From this point forward, the means of justification come to shape that which can be justified in certain fundamental ways: statistical norms and values become incorporated within the very texture of conceptions of psychological reality.22

"The experiment" was also to be embraced by psychology as a means of disciplinizing itself, of lashing together the various constituencies of practitioners, journal editors, funding bodies, fellow academics and university administrators into the alliances necessary to force itself into the apparatus of truth.  The interminable debate over the relations between the psychological "sciences" and the "natural sciences" is better understood if it is removed from the realm of philosophy and re-located in a question of technique.23   In seeking to establish their credibility with necessary but sceptical allies, British and American psychologists in the early decades of this century were to abandon their attempts to craft an investigative method that answered to a conception of the human subject of investigation as an active participant in the process of generation and validation of psychological facts.  The "experimental method" in psychology was not merely sanctified through the attempt to simulate a model of for the production and evaluation of evidence derived from (naive) images of laboratories in physics and chemistry.  It also arose out of a series of practical measures for the generation and stabilisation of data in calculable, repeatable, stable forms: the establishing of psychological laboratories as the ideal site for the production, intensification and manipulation of psychological phenomena, the separation of the experimenter endowed with technical skills and the subject whose role was merely to provide a source of data, the attempt to generate evidence in the form of inscriptions amenable to comparison and calculation and the like.  As the form of the psychological experiment became institutionalized and policed by the emerging disciplinary apparatus, the social characteristics of the experimental situation were naturalised.  The norms of the experimental programme had, as it were, merged with the psychological subject itself; in the process the object of psychology was itself disciplined.  It became "docile", it internalized the technical means to know it in the very form in which it could be thought.24 Psychological truths here were no simple materialization of theory; indeed the reverse is probably closer to the truth.  The disciplinization of psychology as a positive science entailed the incorporation of the technical forms of positivity into the object of psychology - the psychological subject - itself.


The "disciplinization" of psychology was intrinsically bound to the "psychologization" of a range of diverse sites and practices, in which psychology comes to infuse and even to dominate other ways forming, organizing, disseminating and implementing truths about persons.  In this process, the regulatory and administrative requirements of an actual or potential constituency of social authorities and practitioners played a key role in establishing the kinds of problems that psychological truths claim to solve and the kinds of possibilities that psychological truths claim to open.

Psychologization does not imply that a single model of the person was imposed or adopted in a totalitarian manner, indeed psychology's celebrated "non-paradigmatic" character ensures a kind of perpetual contestation over the characteristics of personhood.  This variability in psychological ways of "making up" persons is a key to the wide ranging power of psychology, for it enables the discipline to tie together diverse sites, problems and concerns.  The social reality of psychology is not as a kind of disembodied yet coherent "paradigm", but as a complex and heterogeneous network of agents, sites, practices and techniques for the production, dissemination, legitimation and utilisation of psychological truths.

The production of psychological "truth effects" is thus intrinsically tied to the process though which a range of domains, sites, problems, practices and activities have "become psychological".  They "become psychological" in that they are problematized - that is to say rendered simultaneously troubling and intelligible - in terms that are infused by psychology.  To educate a child, to reform a delinquent, to cure a hysteric, to raise a baby, to administer an army, to run a factory - it is not so much that these activities entail the utilisation of psychological theories and techniques, than that there is a constitutive relation between the character of what will count as an adequate psychological theory or argument, and the processes by which a kind of psychological visibility may be accorded to these domains.  The conduct of persons becomes remarkable and intelligible when, as it were, displayed upon a psychological screen, reality becomes ordered according to a psychological taxonomy, abilities, personalities, attitudes and the like become central to the deliberations and calculations of social authorities and psychological theorists alike.

Institutional epistemology

Michel Foucault remarks somewhere that the "psy-" knowledges have a "low epistemological profile". The boundaries between that which "psy" organizes in the form of positive knowledge and a wider universe of images, explanations, meanings and beliefs about persons are indeed more "permeable" in the case of "psy" than, say, in the field of atomic physics or molecular biology. But we should not merely pose this question of permeability in the form familiar from the history of ideas, in which certain scientific discourses partake of metaphors or key notions that are widely socially distributed.  Again, this relation can be posed at a more modest and technical level.  In the case of psy knowledges, that is to say, there is an interpenetration of practicability and epistemology.  We have already examined some of these relations, but we can investigate the "practical" constitution of psychological epistemology in another way. Bachelard argues that scientific thought does not work on the world as it finds it, the production of truth is an active process of intervention into the world.   But there is something characteristic about the conditions under which psychological truths have been produced. Psychological epistemology is, in many respects, an institutional epistemology.25

Michel Foucault utilised the notion of surfaces of emergence to investigate the apparatuses within which the troubles or problem spaces condensed that were later to be rationalized, codified and theorised in terms such as disease, alienation, dementia, neurosis, etc.26  Such apparatuses - such as the family, the work situation, the religious community - have certain characteristics.   They are normative, and hence sensitive to deviation.  They provide the focus for the activity of authorities - such as the medical profession - who will scrutinise and adjudicate events within them.  And they are the locus for the application of certain grids of specification for dividing, classifying, grouping and regrouping the phenomena that appear within them.

As far as psychology was concerned, it was within the prison, the courtroom, the factory, the schoolroom and other similar institutional spaces that the objects were formed that psychology would seek to render intelligible.   Psychology disciplinized itself through the codification of the vicissitudes of individual conduct as they have appeared within the apparatuses of regulation, administration, punishment and cure.  Within these apparatuses, psychology would align itself with institutional systems of visibility.  That is to say it was the normativity of the apparatus itself - the norms and standards of the institution, their limits and thresholds of tolerance, their rules and their systems of judgment - that conferred visibility upon certain features and illuminated the topography of the domains that psychology would seek to render intelligible.  Its conceptions of intelligence, personality, attitudes and the like would establish themselves as truthful only to the extent that they could be simultaneously practicable, translated back into the disciplinary requirements of the apparatus and its authorities.  Hence, to return to Bachelard, the psychologist's meditation on his or her scientific object has not taken the form of a polemical intervention into reality to realise a scientific thesis.   Rather, it has been characterised by a range of attempts to rationalise an already existing domain of experience and render it comprehensible and calculable.27

However, rendering a pre-existing problem space comprehensible and calculable in psychological terms, does not leave it in its original state.  Psychological ways of seeing, thinking, calculating and acting have a particular potency because of the transformations that they effect upon such problem spaces.  They confer a certain simplification upon the range of activities that authorities engage in when they deal with the conduct of conduct.  If one considers, say, the transformation of "social work" or the rise of "person centred" approaches in general medical practice, one can see how psychology, in "rationalizing" their practice, simplifies their diverse tasks by rendering them as all concerned with the personhood of the client or patient. Psychology not only offers these authorities a plethora of new devices and techniques - for the allocation of persons to tasks, for the arrangement of the minutiae of the technical arrangements of an institution, for architecture, timetabling and spatial organization, for the organization of working groups, leadership and hierarchy.  It also accords these mundane and heterogenous activities a coherence and a rationale, locating them within a single field of explanation and deliberation: they are no longer ad hoc, but purport to be grounded in a positive knowledge of the person.  And, in the process, the very notion of authority, and of the power invested in the one who exercises it, is transformed.

The power of psychology thus initially derived from its capacity to organise, simplify and rationalise domains of human individuality and difference that emerged in the course of institutional projects of cure, reform, punishment, management, pedagogy and the like. But, in simplifying them, it transforms them in certain fundamental ways.  Let me turn to consider some of these transformations.

The techne of psychology

Suppose we consider psychology not as merely a body of thought but as a certain form of life, a mode of practising or acting upon the world.   We could then seek to identify what one might term the techne of psychology: its distinctive characteristics as skill, art, practice and set of devices.28 Here I would like to highlight three aspects of this techne, three dimensions of the relations between psychology, power and subjectivity: first, a transformation in rationales and programmes of government; second, a transformation in the legitimacy of authority; and, third, a transformation in ethics.


By government I refer not to a particular set of political institutions, but to a certain mode of thinking about political power and seeking to exercise it: the territory traced out by the multitude of schemes, dreams, calculations and strategies for "the conduct of conduct" that have proliferated over the last two centuries.29  Over the course of the twentieth century, psychological norms, values, images and techniques have increasingly come to shape the ways in which various social authorities think of persons, their vices and virtues, their health and illness, their normalities and pathologies.  Objectives construed in psychological terms - - normality, adjustment, fulfilment - have been incorporated into programmes, dreams and schemes for the regulation of human conduct.  From the "macro" - the apparatuses of welfare, security and labour regulation - to the "micro" - the individual workplace, family, school, army, courtroom, prison, or hospital - the administration of persons has taken a psychological coloration. Psychology has been embodied in the techniques and devices invented for the government of conduct and deployed not only by psychologists themselves but also by doctors, priests, philanthropists, architects, teachers.  Increasingly, that is to say, the strategies, programmes, techniques and devices and reflections on the adminstration of conduct which Michel Foucault terms governmentality or simply government have become "psychologized".   The exercise of modern forms of political power has become intrinsically linked to a knowledge of human subjectivity.


Psychology has been bound up with a transformation in the nature of social authority that is of fundamental importance for the kinds of society we live in "the West". First, of course, psychology has itself produced a range of new social authorities whose field of operation is the conduct of conduct, the management of subjectivity.  These new authorities, such as clinical, education, industrial psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors, claim social powers and status on account of their possession of psychological truths and their mastery of psychological techniques.   Second, and perhaps more significantly, psychology has been bound up with the constitution of a range of new objects and problems over which social authority can legitimately be exercised, and this legitimacy is grounded in a beliefs about knowledge, objectivity and scientificity.  Notable here are the emergence of normality as itself the product of management under the tutelage of experts, and the emergence of risk as danger in potentia to be diagnosed by experts and managed prophylactically in the name of social security.30

Third, the infusion of psychology into already existing systems of authority - that of the commander in the army, the teacher in the school, the manager in the factory, the nurse in the psychiatric hospital, the magistrate in the courtroom, the prison officer in the gaol - has transformed them.  These forms of authority accumulate a kind of ethical basis, through their infusion with the terminology and techniques attributable (in however a dubious and disingenuous manner) to psychology.  Authority, that is to say, becomes ethical to the extent that it is exercised in the light of a knowledge of those who are its subjects.  And the nature of the exercise of authority is simultaneously transformed. It becomes not so much a matter of ordering, controlling, commanding obedience and loyalty, but of improving the capacity of individuals to exercise authority over themselves - improving the capacity of the schoolchild, the employee, the prisoner or the soldier to understand their own actions and to regulate their own conduct.  The exercise of authority, here, becomes a therapeutic matter: the most powerful way of acting upon the actions of others is to change the ways in which they will govern themselves.31


The history, sociology and anthropology of subjectivity has been examined in many different ways.  Some authors, notably Norbert Elias, have tried to relate changing political and social arrangements, changing codes of personal conduct and changes in the actual internal psychological organization of subjects.32   Others have sought to avoid any imputations of internal life to humans, treating linguistic and representational practices as simply repertoires of accounts that provide the resources through which subjects make sense, of the actions of themselves and others.33  I would like to suggest an approach from a rather different perspective.  This would examine the changing discourses, techniques and values which have sought to act upon the minutiae of human conduct, human comportment and human subjectivity - not just manners but also desires and values - in terms of ethics.

An examination of the techne of psychology along this ethical dimension would not address itself to "morality" in the Durkheimian sense of a realm of values and its associated mode of producing social integration and solidarity.  Rather, it would investigate the ways in which psychology has become bound up with the practices and criteria for "the conduct of conduct".34 For many centuries manuals concerning manners, books of advice and guidance, pedagogic and reformatory practices have sought to educate, shape and channel the emotional and instinctual economy of humans by inculcating a certain ethical awareness into them.   But over the past fifty years, the languages, techniques and personnel of psychology have infused and transformed the ways in which humans have been urged and incited to become ethical beings, beings who define and regulate themselves according to a moral code, establish precepts for conducting and judging their lives, and reject or accept certain moral goals for themselves.

From this perspective, psychology's relation to the self should not be construed in terms of an opposition between etiolated psychological conceptions of the person and real, concrete, creative personhood.  This was the theme of so many critiques of the psychology of intelligence, personality and adaptation in the 1960s and is still a theme in the new "humanist" psychologies. But it is more instructive to examine the ways in which psychology has participated in the construction of diverse repertoires for speaking about, evaluating and acting upon persons, that have their salience in different sites and in relation to different problems, and have a particular relationship to the types of self that are presupposed in contemporary practices for the administration of individuals.35

On the one hand, the person has been opened up, in diverse ways, to interventions conducted in the name of subjectivity.  The calculable subject, equipped with relatively stable, definable, quantifiable, linear, normally distributed characteristics - the domains of intelligence, personality, aptitude and the like.  The motivated subject, equipped with an internal dynamic orientation to the world, with needs to be shaped and satisfied. The social subject, seeking solidarity, security and a sense of worth.  The cognitive subject in search of meaning, steered through the world by beliefs and attitudes.  The psychodynamic subject, driven by unconscious forces and conflicts.  The creative subject, striving for autonomy through fulfilment and choice, according meaning to its existence through the exercise of its freedom.  In liberal democratic societies, norms and conception of subjectivity are pluralistic.  But the condition of possibility for each version of the contemporary subject is the birth of the person as a psychological self, the opening of a world of objectivity located in an internal "moral" order, between physiology and conduct, an interior space with its own laws and processes that is a possible domain for a positive knowledge and a rational technique.36

On the other hand, psychology has been incorporated into the "ethical" repertoire of individuals, into the languages that individuals use to speak of themselves and their own conduct, to judge and evaluate their existence, to give their lives meaning and to act upon themselves.  We can analyse these practices of the self along three interrelated axes.37

The first axis is that of moral codes.  Over the last fifty years, and with increasing vociferousness over the last decade, we have witnessed the rise of a language of the self framed in terms of freedom, autonomy, self-fulfilment and choice.  The modern subject, that is to say, is attached to a project of identity, and to a secular project of "lifestyle" in which life and its contingencies become meaningful to the extent that they can be construed as the product of personal choice.  It would be foolish to claim that psychology and its experts are the origin of such a moral territory, but nor should we see psychological values as mere effects of a more profound cultural transformation.  Rather, we need to trace out the ways in which psychological modes of explanation, claims to truth and systems of authority have participated in the elaboration of moral codes that stress an ideal of responsible autonomy, in shaping these codes in a certain "therapeutic" direction, and in allying them with programmes for regulating individuals consonant with the political rationalities of advanced liberal democracies.

This entails an investigation of the languages used in discourses on the conduct of the self, the ethical territory which they map out, the attributes of the person that they identify as of ethical significance, the ways of calibrating and evaluating them they propose, the pitfalls to be avoided and the goals to pursue.  We can chart the ways in which psychological norms and values have come to infuse ways of thinking about the conduct of the self in sexual relations and child rearing, in marital relations and family life, in work and in leisure, in the quotidian affairs of house purchase and debt, in dealing with our grief and loss, and in conducting our relations with others.  Within this psychologized version of freedom, persons are enjoined to "work" on themselves - in their relations with their children, their colleagues, their lovers, themselves - in order to "improve their lifestyle", "maximise their quality of life", release their potential, become free.   For the significance of the psychologization of moral codes lies not merely in the images of life they purvey, but also in the links forged between these images and a certain mode of practice on the self, in which psychological constraints on autonomy can be made conscious and amenable to rational transformation, guided by "experts of the soul".  The self, that is to say, is not merely an image but a project.

The second axis of investigation concerns ethical scenarios: the diverse apparatuses and contexts in which the moral codes are administered and enjoined, and where therapeutic attention can be paid to those who are rendered uneasy by the distance between their experience of their lives and the images of freedom and selfhood to which they aspire.  Psychological images and vocabularies have infused all those practices where individual conduct is a matter of concern for others, in the school and the courts, in the visit of the social worker, in the doctor's surgery, in the ward group of the psychiatric hospital, in the interview with the personnel officer.  Psychology has also participated in a transformation in the ways in which individuals themselves have come to make their lives meaningful to themselves, to question who they are and who they want to be, to interrogate their relations with others at home, at work, in sport and in leisure.  A range of new contexts have been born in the last four decades of the twentieth century, in which individuals themselves, having however hesitantly come to problematise their lives in psychological terms, seek guidance upon their conduct and relations: the analyst's consulting room, the therapeutic group, the counselling session, the marriage guidance encounter, the radio phone-in.  A whole variety of new courses and training experiences have been invented, that seek to instrumentalise a new psychological conception of human relations.  Collectivities from the marital couple to the business meeting have been re-construed as groups traversed by unconscious forces of projection and identification, allowing not only a new dimension for the explanation of collective troubles but a new range of techniques - from T-groups to group therapy - for managing them therapeutically.38  A multitude of scenarios have been invented for therapeutic engagement with the human subject, an array of locales for cure, reform, advice and guidance have been transformed in a psychological direction.  And despite the diversity of these scenarios, each nonetheless participates in a single techne: a rational technique can now be applied to the way in which each individual conducts their own conduct; the management of life has become, potentially, a kind of therapy.

The third aspect of an investigation of the ethical dimension of psychology's techne concerns techniques of the self, the "models proposed for setting up and developing relationships with the self, for self-reflection, self-knowledge, self-examination, for the deciphering of the self by oneself, for the transformation one seeks to accomplish with oneself as object".39   Psychology has participated in the invention of a variety of procedures by means of which individuals, using the techniques elaborated by psychological experts, can act upon their bodies, their emotions, their beliefs and their forms of conduct in order to transform themselves, in order to achieve autonomous selfhood.  There are techniques for examining and evaluating the self: modes of self-inspection, vocabularies for self-description, ways of rendering the self into thought.  These entail attending to different aspects of the self - thoughts, feelings, posture, tone of voice - ways of marking differences and making them notable.  They entail ways of disclosing the self - new ways of speaking not only in the consulting room, but to children, bosses, employees, friends and lovers.  They involve different modes of engaging with the self - an epistemological mode, for example, which searches for past determinants of present states, or an interpretive mode, in which the word or act is understood in terms of its significance in relation to other parties to the interaction.  They involve education of the subject in the languages for evaluating the self, diagnosing its ills, calibrating its failings and its advances.  And they involve techniques for the curing of the self, through the purgative effects of catharsis, the liberating effect of understanding, the restructuring effect of interpretation, the re-training of thoughts and emotions. Overarching all these differences, psychological techniques of the self seek to instill in the subject a constant and intense self-scrutiny, an evaluation of our personal experiences, emotions and feelings in relation to psychological images of fulfilment and autonomy.  Within this psychological ethics, the self is obliged to live its life tied to the project of its own identity.

Advanced liberal democracies often measure their civilization in terms of the prominence they give to the values of individuality, freedom and choice.  The norms of autonomy and self-realisation that psychology elaborates are integrally bound to this ethico-political discourse of individuality, freedom and choice.  Yet what they demonstrate so clearly are the ways in which the elaboration of such norms is intrinsically tied to the inculcation of self-inspection, self-problematization and self-monitoring.  It seems to be the case that one cannot have freedom without experts of subjectivity, we cannot "know ourselves" without some other instance providing the means to that knowledge, we cannot "free ourselves" without the tools provided to us by expertise. Over fifty years ago Robert Musil remarked upon a peculiarity of modern times: one can no longer have any experience without so many experts butting in who know so much more about it than oneself.40   Today, if the experts do not insist on rights of entry, we offer them invitations, call them on a telephone help-line, or seek them out in their lairs, for we seem to have become unable to understand ourselves without them.  And even when they leave our presence, they remain within us and whisper their words of explanation, advice, and warning in our ears.  We all incorporate a veritable case conference of experts ready to pronounce on our choices and activities, coaxing us to relate to ourselves as lay psychotherapists, to become amateur administrators of the human soul.

A critical history of psychology

My aim in this paper has been to suggest, in a necessarily preliminary and abstract way, the way in which one might do a critical history of psychology.  Critical history disturbs and fragments, it reveals the fragility of that which seems solid, the contingency of that which seemed necessary, the mundane and quotidian roots of that which claims lofty nobility.  It enables us to think against the present, in the sense of exploring its horizons and its conditions of possibility.   Its aim is not to predetermine judgment, but to make judgment possible.

From this perspective, psychology is significant less for what it is than for what it does.  Psychology, that is to say, has altered the way in which it is possible to think about people, the laws and values that govern the actions and conduct of others, and indeed of ourselves.  What is more, it has endowed some ways of thinking about people with extra credibility on account of their apparent grounding in positive knowledge. In making the human subject thinkable according to diverse logics and formulae, and in establishing the possibility of evaluating ways of thinking about people by scientific means, psychology also makes human beings amenable to having certain things done to them by others.  It also makes it possible for them to do new things to themselves.  It opens people up to a range of calculated interventions, whose ends are formulated in terms of the psychological dispositions and qualities of human individuals conduct themselves, and whose means are inescapably adjusted in the light of psychological knowledge about the nature of humans.

The aim of a critical history of psychology would be to make visible the relations, profoundly ambiguous in their implications, between the ethics of subjectivity, the truths of psychology and the exercise of power. In the modern period, such a critical history would open a space for thought within which we could examine the constitutive links between psychology - as a form of knowledge, a type of expertise and a ground of ethics - and the dilemmas in the government of subjectivity that confront liberal democracies.

Notes and references

1.     See, for example, the discussion in P. Heelas and A. Lock, Indigenous Psychologies:  The Anthropology of the Self, London, Academic Press, 1981.

2.      See, for example, A. MacIntyre, After Virtue, London, Duckworth, 1981.

3.      See N. Rose, The Psychological Complex: Psychology, Politics and Society in England 1869 - 1939, Routledge    and Kegan Paul, 1985.

4.      e.g. R. Chartier, ed, A History of Private Life, Vol. III: Passions of the Renaissance, Cambridge, MA: Harvard/Belknap.

5.      I take this formulation from Ian Hacking's essay, How should we do the history of statistics, I & C, 1981, 8, 15 - 26.

6.      G. Canguilhem, Etudes d'histoire et de philosophie des sciences, Paris, Vrin, 1968, and G. Canguilhem, Ideologie et   rationalite, Paris, Vrin, 1977.

7.      The most discussed example is, of course, Edwin Boring, A History of Experimental Psychology, London, Century,    1929.

8.      For example, the ways in which the work of G. H. Mead has been re-examined by contemporary social psychologists,    e.g., R. M. Farr, On the varieties of social psychology: an essay on the relationships between psychology and other social        sciences, Social Science Information, 1978, 17, 503-25.

9.      As, for example, in the writings of the Edinburgh School, eg. D. MacKenzie, Statistics in Britain 1865 - 1930: The      Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1981.

10.     As, for example, in Loren Baritz, Servants of Power: A History of the Use of Social Science in American Industry,  Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, or Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness, New York, Basic           Books, 1976.

11.     R. Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, London, Faber, 1977; P. Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, London, Chatto  and Windus, 1966; C . Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism, London, Abacus, 1980.

12.     There are, of course, many existing contributions to such a project of critical history. Notable is the work of Kurt             Danziger, discussed below, and various of the papers collected in A. R. Buss, ed., Psychology in Social Context, New York, Irvington, 1979.

13.      K. Danziger, Constructing the Subject, Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1990. See also K. Gergen, The social constructionist movement in modern psychology, American Psychologist, 1985, 40, 266-75.

14.      G. Bachelard, The New Scientific Spirit, tr. Arthur Goldhammer, Boston, Beacon Press, 1984 (originally published 1934). The quotes are from pp.12-13.

15.      Ibid., p.134.

16.      In this paragraph, obviously, I am rather brutally condensing some of the arguments made by Michel Foucault in The Archaeology of Knowledge, London, Tavistock, 1972, Orders of Discourse, Social Science Information, 1972, 10, 7-30, and The Politics of Discourse, Ideology and Consciousness, 1978, 3, 7-26. For this first point, Bruno Latour's analyses of battles over scientific truth are instructive, see especially his Science in Action, London, Open University Press, 1988.

17.      Kurt Danziger's recent studies are exemplary here, see especially Constructing the Subject, op. cit.

18.      M. Callon and B. Latour, Unscrewing the Big Leviathan: how actors macro-structure reality and how sociologists help them to do so, in K. Knorr Cetina and A Cicourel, Advances in Social Theory, London, 1981, p. 279

19.      "Thixotropic, adj. (of fluids and gels) having a reduced viscosity when stress is applied, as when stirred: thixotropic paints", Collins English Dictionary, London, Collins, 1979.

20.      For fuller discussion of these aspects see, on the role of the "normal distribution", N. Rose, The Psychological Complex: Psychology, Politics and Society in England 1869 - 1939, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, esp. Ch. 5; on the "experimental method", K. Danziger, op. cit., on "statistical tools" G. Gigerenzer, this volume.

21.      I. Hacking, The Taming of Chance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

22.      Gerd Gigerenzer has traced out a number of these connections. See his contribution to this volume and G. Gigerenzer, From tools to theories: a heuristic of discovery in cognitive psychology, Psychological Review, 1991, 98, 254-67.

23.      My argument concerning the psychological experiment is based upon the work of Kurt Danziger, in Constructing the Subject, op. cit.

24.      See N. Rose, Governing the Soul: the shaping of the private self, London, Routledge, 1990, Ch. 12. On "docile objects" see M. Lynch, Discipline and the material form of images: an analysis of scientific visibility, Social Studies of Science, 1985, 15, 37-66.

25.      Cf. C. Gordon, The soul of the citizen: Max Weber and Michel Foucault on rationality and government, in S. Whimster and S. Lash, eds., Max Weber: Rationality and Modernity, London, Allen and Unwin.

26.      In The Archaeology of Knowledge, op. cit., p.41.

27.      As I have argued in Calculable minds and manageable individuals, History of the Human Sciences, 1988, 1, 179-200.

28.      Engineering the human soul: analyzing psychological expertise, paper delivered to 9th Cheiron-Europe Conference, Weimar, September 1990; forthcoming in Science in Context, 1992.

29.      M. Foucault, On Governmentality in G. Burchell, C. Gordon and P. Miller, eds., The Foucault Effect, Harvester, 1991.

30.      See R. Castel in The Foucault Effect, op. cit.

31.      See my Engineering the human soul, op. cit.

32.      N. Elias, The Civilizing Process, Oxford, Blackwell, 1978.

33.      R. Harre, Personal Being, Oxford, Blackwell, 1983.

34.      See M. Foucault, Technologies of the Self, in L. Martin et al., Technologies of the Self, London, Tavistock, 1988.

35.      See N. Rose, Governing the Enterprising Self, in P. Heelas and P. Morris, eds., The Values of the Enterprise Culture: the moral debate, London, Unwin Hyman, 1991.

36.      See Rose, Psychological Complex, op. cit.

37.      The following remarks are derived from Governing the Soul, op. cit., Ch. 18. The schema I use is adapted rather loosely from the later writings of Michel Foucault.

38.      See P. Miller and N. Rose, The Tavistock Effect: A social and intellectual history of the Tavistock Clinic and the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, London, Routledge, forthcoming 1992.

39.      Foucault, Technologies of the Self, op. cit., p.29.

40.      R. Musil The Man Without Qualities, Vol. 1, London, Picador, [1930] 1979, pp. 174-5.


Nikolas Rose is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London .   He is managing editor of Economy and Society, and is a co-ordinator of the History of the Present Research Network, an international network of researchers whose work has been influenced by the writings of Michel Foucault. He was originally trained as a biologist and psychologist, and taught in a school for 'maladjusted' children and directed research for a major child protection charity before becoming an academic.  He has published widely on the social and political history of the human sciences, on the formation and nature of empirical social thought, and on changing rationalities and techniques of political power.  His works on the human sciences and subjectification include The Psychological Complex (Routledge, 1985), Governing the Soul (Routledge, 1989, Second edition with new Preface and Afterword, Free Associations Books, 1999) and Inventing Our Selves (Cambridge University Press, 1996) and a number of papers on the history of the Tavistock Clinic and Tavistock Institute of Human Relations - institutions which pioneered 'applied psychoanalysis' in the UK and abroad. His most recent book on power and governmentality is Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 1999). His current work is on the social, ethical, cultural and legal implications of biological psychiatry, molecular genetics and the neurosciences.