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Molecular Biopolitics, Somatic Ethics and the Spirit of Biocapital

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In this contribution, I decribe some of the key mutations occuring in contemporary biopolitics, suggesting they are linked to changes in the styles of thought, objects, forms of organization and technologies of the contemporary life sciences, and to their intense capitlization. I name these molecularization, optimization, subjectification, expertise, and bioeconomics. I suggest that these are giving rise to a new molecular ontology of life, a ‘flattened’ biomedical epistemology, and circuits of vitality, in which the elements of life are accorded a new mobility. Vitality can now be decomposed, stabilized, frozen, banked, stored, commoditized, accumulated, exchanged, traded across time, across space, across organs and species, across diverse contexts and enterprises in the service of both health and wealth. I suggest that we have seen the birth of a new ‘somatic’ sense of ourselves, which extends to self and identity itself – hence we are becoming ‘neurochemical selves’. Our corporeal existence has gained unrival salience in our conduct of our lives – our ‘Lebensf├╝hrung’ is now shaped by what I term a somatic ethic. In conclusion, I argue that there is an ‘elective affinity’ between this somatic ethic and the ‘spirit of biocapital’.Social Theory & Health (2007) 5, 3–29. doi:10.1057/palgrave.sth.8700084
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK

Publication date: 01 February 2007

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