Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century

Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century

Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century

Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century

Excerpt

At the close of the twentieth century, many predicted that “we” were entering a “biotech century,” an age of marvelous yet troubling new medical possibilities. Some believed that the sequencing of the human genome would inaugurate an age of genetic manipulation with marvelous, perhaps terrifying consequences. Linking genomics with developments in reproductive technology, such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and cloning, they imagined a world of engineered people, with qualities and capacities fabricated on demand. Others believed that a new generation of psychopharmaceuticals would soon enable us to design our moods, emotions, desires and intelligence at will. Still others dreamed of the conquest of mortality, and a world in which humans had extended their lifespan indefinitely. Many of the biomedical techniques that were cited were already familiar: genetic screening, reproductive technologies, organ transplants, genetic modification of organisms, and the new generation of psychiatric drugs whose usual exemplar is Prozac. Others were said to be “just around the corner”: genetic engineering, xenotransplantation, personalized medicine tailored to each individual's genotype as coded on a tiny chip, and the fabrication or regeneration of organs in vitro or using stem cells that could be differentiated into any kind of tissue.

These prospects have generated hopes and fears, expectation and trepidation, celebration and condemnation. While some invest great hope in the prospects of novel and effective cures for all sorts of diseases and afflictions, others warn of the dangers of treating human life as infinitely malleable, especially where the creation and use of human embryos in fertility treatment or research is concerned. Many politicians, universities, corporations, and private investors hope these biomedical advances will . . .

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