Nikolas Rose is a British sociologist and social theorist. He is Distinguished Honorary Professor in the College of Arts and Social Sciences at the Australian National University. From January 2012 to March 2021 he was Professor of Sociology in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine (previously Social Science, Health & Medicine) at King's College London, having joined King's to found this new Department. He was the Co-Founder and Co-Director of King's ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health. Previously he was the James Martin White Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, director and founder of LSE's BIOS Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society from 2002 to 2011, and Head of the LSE Department of Sociology (2002–2006). He was previously Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he had been Head of the Department of Sociology, Pro-Warden for Research and Head of the Goldsmiths Centre for Urban and Community Research and Director of a major evaluation of urban regeneration in South East London.
Originally trained as a biologist, Nikolas Rose has done extensive work on the history and sociology of psychiatry, on mental health policy and risk, and on the social implications of recent developments in psychopharmacology. He has also published widely on the genealogy of subjectivity, on the history of empirical thought in sociology, and on changing rationalities of political power. He is particularly known for his interpretation of the work of the French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault and the revival of the literature on governmentality in the Anglo-American world.
His book, Governing the Soul: the shaping of the private self, is widely recognised as one of the founding texts in a new way of understanding and analysing the links between expertise, subjectivity and political power. He argues that the proliferation of the 'psy' disciplines has been intrinsically linked with transformations in governmentality, in the rationalities and technologies of political power in 'advanced and liberal democracies'. (See also governmentality for a description of Rose's development of Foucault's concepts).
For six years he was managing editor of the journal Economy & Society, one of the UK's leading interdisciplinary journal of social science, and he is now co-editor of BioSocieties: An interdisciplinary journal for social studies of life sciences.
In 1989, he founded the History of the Present Research Network, an international network of researchers whose work was influenced by the writings of Michel Foucault. Together with Paul Rabinow, he edited the Fourth Volume of Michel Foucault's Essential Works.
In December 2001, he was listed by The Guardian newspaper as one of the top five UK based social scientists, on the basis of a twenty-year analysis of citations to research papers, and the most cited UK based sociologist.
He was awarded in 2007 an ESRC Professorial Research Fellowship – a three-year project entitled 'Brain, Self and Society in the 21st Century'. In 2013, writing with Joelle Abi-Rached, he published Neuro: the new brain sciences and the management of the mind.
Throughout his academic career he has been a critical analyst of psychiatry. His first book on this topic was published in 1986 - The Power of Psychiatry, a collection edited together with Peter Miller His most recent book Our Psychiatric Future: the politics of mental health was published by Polity Press in October 2018. His recent work has been on the social shaping of mental distress and its biopolitical implications: his forthcoming book The Urban Brain: Mental Health in the Vital City, written with Des Fitzgerald, will be published by Princeton University Press in 2022.
Nikolas Rose is the Chair of the Neuroscience and Society Network, an international network to encourage critical collaboration between social scientists and neuroscientists.
He was previously a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. He was a member of the Council's Working Party on Medical profiling and online medicine: the ethics of 'personalised healthcare' in a consumer age (2008–2010) and was a member of the Council's Working Party on Novel Neurotechnologies. He has also served as a member of the Royal Society's Science Policy Committee. He was also Co-Director of the first publicly funded UK centre dedicated to synthetic biology based at Imperial College. where he led a team examining the social, ethical, legal and political dimensions of this emerging practice. At King's he led a team of researchers exploring the social implications of new developments in biotechnology, and committed to the democratisation of scientific research and technological development, with a particular focus on synthetic biology and neurobiology. For many years he was a member of the Social and Ethical Division of the Human Brain Project, where he led the Foresight Lab based at King's College London.
- The Urban Brain: Mental Health in the Vital City, with Des Fitzgerald (Princeton University Press, in press, 2022)
- Our Psychiatric Future: the politics of mental health, (Polity, 2018)
- Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind, with Joelle M. Abi-Rached (Princeton University Press, 2013)
- Governing the Present: Administering Economic, Social and Personal Life, with Peter Miller (Polity, 2008)
- The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century, (PUP, 2007)
- Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
- Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power and Personhood (Cambridge University Press, 1996)
- Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (Routledge, 1989, Second edition, Free Associations, 1999)
- The Psychological Complex: Psychology, Politics and Society in England, 1869–1939 (Routledge, 1985)
Chapters in edited collections (selected)
- 'Writing the History of the Present', in Jonathan Joseph, ed., Social Theory: A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005 (with Andrew Barry and Thomas Osborne) (Reprint of selections from Introduction to Foucault and Political Reason, 1996.)
- 'Biological Citizenship', in Aihwa Ong and Stephen Collier, eds., Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics and Ethics as Anthropological Problems, pp. 439–463. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005 (with Carlos Novas)
- Introduction to The Essential Foucault: Selections from Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, New York: New Press, 2004 (with Paul Rabinow)
- 'Becoming Neurochemical Selves', in Nico Stehr, ed., Biotechnology, Commerce and Civil Society, Transaction Press, 2004
- 'The neurochemical self and its anomalies', in R. Ericson, ed., Risk and Morality, pp. 407–437. University of Toronto Press, 2003.
- 'Power and psychological techniques', in Y. Bates and R. House, eds., Ethically Challenged Professions, pp. 27–46. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, 2003.
- 'Society, madness, and control', in A. Buchanan, ed., The Care of the Mentally Disordered Offender in the Community, pp. 3–25, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2001)
- 'At Risk of Madness', in T. Baker and J. Simon, eds., Embracing Risk: The Changing Culture of Insurance and Responsibility, pp. 209–237, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2001)
Papers in refereed journals (selected)
- 'Towards neuroecosociality: mental health in adversity', Theory, Culture and Society, 2021: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0263276420981614
- 'Revitalizing sociology: urban life and mental illness between history and the present', British Journal of Sociology, 67, 1, 138-160 (With Des Fitzgerald and Ilina Singh)
- 'Still like 'birds on the wire'', Economy and Society, 2017, 46, 3-4, 303-323
- Reading the Human Brain How the Mind Became Legible', Body and Society, 2016, 22 ,2, 140-177: doi:10.1177/1357034X15623363
- 'Spatial Phenomenotechnics: Making space with Charles Booth and Patrick Geddes', Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 2004, 22: 209–228 (with Thomas Osborne).
- 'Neurochemical selves', Society, November/December 2003, 41, 1, 46–59.
- 'Kontroll', Fronesis, 2003, Nr. 14-15, 82–101.
- 'The politics of life itself', Theory, Culture and Society (2001), 18(6): 1–30.
- 'Genetic risk and the birth of the somatic individual', Economy and Society, Special Issue on configurations of risk (2000), 29 (4): 484–513. (with Carlos Novas).
- 'The biology of culpability: pathological identities in a biological culture', Theoretical Criminology (2000), 4, 1, 5–34.
- "BIOS - units - Research and expertise - Home". www.lse.ac.uk. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- "About the Working Party - Nuffield Bioethics". Nuffield Bioethics. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- Sanderson, Katharine (12 May 2009). "Synthetic biology gets ethical". Nature News. doi:10.1038/news.2009.464.
- Smith, Colin (22 December 2008). "New centre will spearhead UK research in synthetic biology". Imperial College London.