POSTPONED: GHSM Seminar Wednesday 6 December with Prof. Nikolas Rose and Prof. Tony Bennett: “Habit, the (in)attentive body and the governance of conduct”

*Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, this seminar has been postponed.*

When: Wednesday 6th December from 13:00-15.00

Where:Room K0.20, King’s Building, Strand Campus, King’s College London

This seminar engages with the increasing attention to the notion of ‘habit’ in the social science literature (see below) and draws on work for an Australian Research Council grant on which Bennett and Rose are collaborating, which examines how habits have been conceived in modern Western disciplines, and how these conceptions have informed the techniques of mundane governance through which habits have been managed. It will focus on the governance of ‘city habits’ from the late 19th century to the present.


Prof Tony Bennett

In this seminar, Tony Bennett will present a paper on habit (see abstract below) and Nikolas Rose will discuss this with him, focussing on the question of how habits have been conceived of and utilised within strategies for the government of conduct.


 Tony Bennett is Research Professor in Social and Cultural Theory in the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney.  He is a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and of the Academy of the Social Sciences in the UK. His main books include Formalism and Marxism (1979), Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero (1987, with Janet Woollacott),Outside Literature (1991), The Birth of the Museum (1995), Culture: A Reformer’s Science (1998), Pasts Beyond Memory: Evolution, Museums, Colonialism (2004), Making  Culture, Changing Society (2013), and Museums, Power, Knowledge (2018)..   He is also lead co-author of Accounting for Tastes: Australian Everyday Cultures (1999),Culture, Class, Distinction (2009) and Collecting, Organising, Governing: Anthropology, Museums and Liberal Government (2017).



Prof Nikolas Rose

Nikolas Rose is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Kings College London which he founded in 2012.   He is a social and political theorist, with a particular focus on questions of political power, mental health, psychiatry and neuroscience.  His most recent books include The Politics of Life Itself : Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century(2007); Governing The Present (with Peter Miller, 2008) and Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind (with Joelle Abi-Rached, 2013).  His current work seeks to develop new relations between the social sciences and the life sciences, partly through  research on mental health, migration and megacities: his forthcoming book The Urban Brain: Living in the Neurosocial City (with Des Fitzgerald) will be published by Princeton University Press in 2018.  His long overdue book on Our Psychiatric Future? will be published by Polity Press in 2018.


 Recent papers on habit

Bennett Tony (2013) Habit: Time, freedom and governance. Body & Society, 19(2–3): 107–135.

Blackman Lisa (2013) Habit and affect: Revitalizing a forgotten history. Body & Society, 19(2–3): 186–216.

Pedwell, Carolyn Transforming Habit: Revolution, Routine and Social Change.Cultural Studies, 2017. 31(1): p. 93-120


Habit, the (in)attentive body and the governance of conduct

Tony Bennett


Abstract: In his account of late-nineteenth century discourses of attention, Jonathan Crary traces the development of a concern to locate attentiveness in the embodied perceptual and physiological make up of persons to the work of Francois-Pierre Maine de Biran.  Biran also wrote what has proved to be a significant text for the subsequent development of discourses about habit:  The Influence of Habit on the Faculty of Thinking.  Its influence, however, ran along two different paths.  One, drawing on Biran’s conception of an ‘incarnated soul’ to break with earlier conceptions of mind as an inner space for reflection, redefined the relations between attention and subjectivity as the effects of active bodily processes.  This led to a range of late-nineteenth century scientific discourses in which habit and attention were related to interconnecting psychological and physiological conceptions of personhood.  A second path leads through Felix Ravaisson whose Of Habit has informed revisions of more philosophical traditions of reflection on habit. These two paths overlap:  they are brought into contact with each other in the work of Henri Bergson, John Dewey and William James, albeit in different ways.  This seminar will address the issues at stake in these intersections regarding their implications for how habit, has been conceived as governable in variable ways through the place accorded it within historical mutable architectures of personhood.  

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