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Make Up your Own Mind: The Politics of Cognitive Freedom

Biopolicy: The Life Sciences and Public Policy

ISBN: 978-1-78052-820-5, eISBN: 978-1-78052-821-2

Publication date: 14 June 2012


Purpose – To consider the issues of cognitive freedom and neuropolitics via a comparison of d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) use in the 1960s and the emerging twenty-first century debate about nootropics.

Design/methodology/approach – Drawing upon theoretical concepts from the study of biopolitics and on the tools of narrative policy analysis, this qualitative analysis uses multiple sources from scientific, mass media, regulatory, and the secondary literature.

Findings – LSD use in the 1950s and 1960s caused an unprecedented social confrontation with the consequences of a key sector in society deciding to use synthetic chemicals to alter personality and consciousness in ways that did not necessarily accord with mainstream society. As such, the era contains key lessons that can inform the new debate about neurological enhancement.

Research limitations/implications – The present study provides a starting point and historical context for development of regulatory policy for the coming era of nootropics and cognitive enhancement.

Originality – This chapter analyzes LSD use in the 1950s and 1960s not as a form of moral panic but as a technological adaptation that raised crucial questions about the possibilities and limits of psychedelic citizenship.



Fletcher, A.L. (2012), "Make Up your Own Mind: The Politics of Cognitive Freedom", Somit, A. and Peterson, S.A. (Ed.) Biopolicy: The Life Sciences and Public Policy (Research in Biopolitics, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 225-242.



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