The neuropolitical habitus of resonant receptive democracy

Romand Coles

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


There has been signi?cant attention in the past few decades to the ethical and political implications of radical receptivity in relation to democratic practice. Our receptive capacities are of tremendous consequence for both our ability to respond generously and intelligently to di?cult issues of di?erence, as well as our ability to engender a politics of community and commonwealth at the intersection of di?erent traditions, visions, passions, interests, and experiences that are in?ected by vast inequalities of power. Yet our receptive capacities are themselves profoundly directed, shaped, and limited - variously ampli?ed and diminished - by the very topographies of inequality and subjugation that radical democrats seek to change. This generates profound paradoxes for those who seek a democratic politics of transformation. Contemporary research in neuroscience focused on mirror neurons suggests that our receptive capacities are themselves rooted in corporeal resonances between and among human bodies. These inter-corporeal resonant relationships happen prior to linguistic cognition, and the latter appears to be profoundly oriented and limited by, as well as neurologically modeled upon, the former. Yet like receptivity, inter-corporeal resonance is itself not innocent of inequalities and the toxic politics of (in)di?erence, but rather is itself a target of and imbued with modes of power. This has likely always been true, but in present times the relationship between our capacities for inter-corporeal resonance and contemporary practices of power is particularly salient and intense due to the ways in which such power is enmeshed with and borne by technologies and asymmetries of resonance itself. In other words, contemporary modes of power operate upon and through what neuroscience increasingly reveals to be elemental registers of our being. Moreover, they do so by deploying instruments, relationships, and strategies that are at once sophisticated, intense, ampli?ed, and nearly ubiquitous in “developed” societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEssays on Neuroscience and Political Theory
Subtitle of host publicationThinking the Body Politic
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781136344046
ISBN (Print)9780415782012
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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