[-empyre-] a book, dna and code

Jasper Bernes bernes at berkeley.edu
Sun Oct 21 01:49:53 EST 2007


If you haven't already you should check out Richard Lewontin's
writing on genetics, and his claim that the emphasis on the genome as
a kind  of prime mover of reproduction
itself reproduces an ideological tendency to  privilege intellectual labor
over physical labor. A characterization that,  despite having been
significantly challenged, still gets trotted out all the  time. Or Evelyn Fox
Keller's writing. Or Lily Kay's. Or Judith's book. All  evidence a
fundamental process of reification in which something that is  mutable, fluid
and poorly understood gets hypostasized and all of the powers  it has in
context get transferred to it in isolation--a formaldehyde heart  substituted
for a real one. The ownability of the gene is really not much a  part of my
claim here, although it's a corollary to it. Watson's remarks are  a perfect
example. Just as the commodity fetish turns a relation between  people into a
relation between objects, so too does Watson's spurious racial  science turn
something that is culturally and historically  conditioned--race,
blackness--into an object, a gene. And there is an  inexorable will to make
science say this, regardless of how complex the  story it tells us remains.
But I'm just assenting to what seems like people  here--and in science and
the history/philosophy of science broadly--have  already been saying. . .
Obviously, there's good and responsible science and  that's something else.
But the above over-reaching seems to be a  occupational hazard there, as it
is for intellectuals in general.

In  that, it's precisely the fact that life's reproducibility has not been
discovered, unless you think that genes = life. A claim that, as far as I
understand it,  not many people would agree with these  days.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Nicholas Ruiz  III" <editor at intertheory.org>
To:  "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Sent:  Friday, October 19, 2007 4:58 PM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] a book, dna and  code

Genetic research is remarkable, hence the
sustainability of  discussion revolving around a
concept such as DNA poetics...but I remain  unconvinced
that it is a commodity 'fetish' of some sort, a modern
labor  by-product or effect of some kind, a Marxist
problematic...how so?

A  discovery has been made regarding life's
reproducibility.  The fact that  parties seek to
capitalize upon (make useful) such a discovery for  the
purpose of life's 'extension', medical treatment,
agricultural  technology and so on, only continues the
human conditional trend of the  ancients: religion,
astrology, alchemy, animism, shamanism,  sacrifice,
etc...old tools of the same trade, no?

The patenting of the  Code, its privatization, seems to
cross a species sovereignty of some  kind,
bioethically...but if one is unwilling to give the
Code its liberal  universal due, how can one argue for
a sovereignty of the  Code?


--- Jasper Bernes <bernes at berkeley.edu> wrote:

>  Steve, Judith et al,
> As I see it, the very isolation of "genes"  and
> "genomes," and the tendencies
> to fetishize these as  miraculous actors, so well
> demonstrated by Judith's
> book, is  consonant with the logic of the commodity
> that undergirds
>  capitalism. I think that, for instance, people like
> Lukacs are  pretty
> convincing about the ways in which some of the basic
>  philosophical positions
> of scientists are, actually, class
>  positions--bourgeois, reified, passive,
> brimming with antinomies. That's  not to say that
> science isn't productive of
> knowledge or  technics, or can't work against
> capitalism (which capitalism
>  itself always does). It's only that science
> presupposes and depends upon  an
> enormous division of labor, one that often gets
> projected  onto its material.
> I'd like to hear more about this  ontological
> equivalence between genes. I
> don't at all understand  it.  But I'd like to!
> There's a rather frightening
> version of  genetically-engineered ontological
> equality at the end of
>  Houllebecq's The Elementary Particles. It would be
> interesting  to
> distinguish the neo-fascist brand from the communist
> one. Do  you know the
> book?
>  Jasper

Dr. Nicholas Ruiz  III
Editor, Kritikos
empyre  forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

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