Biopower and subjection: The strange and disturbing case of Martin Seligman


By now, it should be clear that the role of psychologists in organising torture for the CIA does not merely implicate a few individuals, or even a corrupt institution (the APA), but large swathes of the discipline of psychology. That is, the tortures which occurred at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere derived directly from officially-accepted, paradigmatic implementations of cognitive-behaviourism, and were therefore in keeping (and not in conflict) with the dominant ethical and intellectual underpinnings of Anglophone psychology. Continue reading

Two Case Studies in Biopolitics: A Critique of CBT as Ideology (Part 6)

What is biopolitics? This term, put simply, refers to bodies of knowledge and practices of power over subjected populations, and over life itself. Different populations become the object of differentiated techniques of discipline and surveillance. In Australia, such techniques are particularly grotesque with regard to the Aboriginal population and to refugees, but also to the unemployed, the disabled, and those within the health and mental health systems, among others. Many have justly pointed out the duplicity of the surveillance state in the case of NSA, for instance, but many more intensive forms of surveillance remain almost invisible. Moreover, some practitioners of CBT claim that their doctrine is on the side of ‘human rights’; yes, we might agree, but the ‘human rights’ in question are those of paternalistic neoliberal interventionism, of which the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan were the most chilling examples in the past decade.Two recent examples of the role of CBT and psychology at large in biopolitics may help to illustrate my points above. Continue reading