ce399 | research archive (eugenics_transhumanism)

Eugenics: The Second Wave (pdf file) (Critical Art Ensemble)

Posted in Uncategorized by ce399 on 23/11/2010

Eugenics never died after its failed implementation during the
early portion of the 20th Century. It has merely been lying
dormant until the social conditions for its deployment
were more hospitable. Why would it disappear? Eugenics is
a perfect complement to the capitalist political-economic
imperative of authoritarian control through increased
rationalization of culture. Why should the body or the
gene pool be sacrosanct? Like a city, a factory, or any other
construction of culture, these phenomena can be molded,
enhanced, and directed to fit the dominant values of a
culture, so that they might efficiently progress into the
future. Eugenics, however, is still waiting on the margins of
the social, partly because the first wave had a conspirato-
*Portions of this article were originally published in Coil, No. 4.
Eugenics: The Second Wave*
120 Flesh Machine
Once eugenics was associated with
Nazi social policy, it was perceived as a top-down manifestation
of social intervention and control that reflected
the values of a fascist ruling class, and which negated
democratic principles of choice. Eugenics is also still
waiting in the wings because medical science did not
have the methods and technology to efficiently implement
eugenic policy during its first wave (eugenic policy
could only be carried out by mandatory sterilization,
selective breeding, and genocide). Not until medical
science began to radically improve its interventionist
practices (particularly on the microlevel) after World
War II did all the various sectors of culture face a crisis
concerning the limits of organic intervention. While
the public could accept intervention in the process of
dying, intervention in the process of birth was suspect.
To inscribe the body as a machinic system that could be
repaired or maintained through medical and scientific
tinkering was (and is) perfectly fine, as long as medical
science does not attempt to appropriate the role of
creator. For example, to biologically support the immune
system through vaccinations that strengthen the
organic system can only be perceived as desirable and
well worth voluntarily acquiring in a secular society,
while creating a new and improved immune system
through genetic intervention is not so desirable (at least
not yet). The goals for eugenicists thus became finding a
way to import the spirit of voluntarism associated with
interventions designed to maintain life into those used to
create it; and, discovering how to construct the perception
that the body, as a machinic system that can be repaired,
maintained, and purified through medical intervention,
can also be improved through genetic intervention.
Eugenics: The Second Wave 121
The eugenic visionary Frederick Osborn already had the
answer to these questions as early as the 1930s when he was
the director of the Carnegie Institute. Osborn argued that
the public would never accept eugenics under militarized
directives; rather, time must be allowed for eugenic consciousness
to develop in the population. The population
would have to come to eugenics rather than vice versa.
Further, eugenic consciousness did not have to be aggressively
and intentionally micro-manufactured; instead, it
would develop as an emergent property as capitalist
economy increased in complexity. All that was needed was
to simply wait until a specific set of social structures
developed to a point of dominance within capitalist culture.
Once these structures matured, people would act
eugenically without a second thought. Eugenic activity,
instead of being an immediately identifiable, monstrous
activity, would become one of the invisible taken-forgranted
activities of everyday life (much like getting a
The set of social structures that Osborn believed had to
become dominant were consumer economy and what is
now known as the nuclear family. To be sure, both of these
social tendencies have come to pass, and are providing the
foundation for a more clandestine second wave of eugenic
practice. Consumer economy is a necessary foundational
component for two reasons. First, if the question of production
is solved, and needed goods (water, food, shelter) are
generally taken for granted, citizens of the economy of
surplus accept all remaining legitimized goods and services
as mere purchasable commodities to be chosen or refused.
Health care is just another service to be acquired. It
becomes neither an unexpected luxury, nor a human right,
122 Flesh Machine
but just another business component of the economy.
Regular medical intervention in everyday life becomes a
desirable taken-for-granted service. If eugenic practices
are offered as just another commodity under the legitimized
authority of medical institutions, as Osborn predicted
they would, they too will be taken for granted.
The second foundational characteristic that consumer
economy offers is purchase strategies that are based on
desire. Consumer economy provides an unending stream
of goods, such that a consumer can always desire more.
While the wealthiest class can take full advantage of the
surplus, and wander into territories of profound waste,
uselessness, and excess, the middle class is also offered
limited participation. Participation in the rituals of surplus
becomes a status symbol, a marker of prestige, a goal-laden
value, if not the reason for existence itself. When this
economic situation develops in tandem with the rise of the
nuclear family, the perception of reproduction begins to
significantly change.
It is very clear that the extreme reduction of the family unit
is a necessary development in late capitalist economy. The
extended family, which functions so well in agrarian-based
economies, becomes an anachronism in an economy with
a capacity for industrial farming. The situation becomes
worse when the extended family is placed in the context of
national/global economy; then it actually stops functioning
efficiently from the perspective of power vectors, and
becomes a detriment to corporate goals. Allowing the
extended family to continue offers individuals participating
in that institution a social and economic power base
which gives them the opportunity to refuse corporate
Eugenics: The Second Wave 123
culture. In addition, it creates a social process that has the
potential to be more satisfying than participation in consumption
processes. Individual loyalty to an institution
(i.e., the extended family) that potentially contradicts or
negates capitalist imperatives of production and consumption
is simply not a possibility that can be allowed to
continue. In an effort to eliminate this social possibility,
capitalist economy has configured itself to make entrance
to or maintenance of middle-class status dependent upon
accepting the nuclear family as the model of choice.
People are financially rewarded for showing an allegiance
to participation in the production and
consumption processes, over and above participation in
extended family processes.
The process of socializing individuals into nuclear units
begins with the education process. Children are immediately
taught that “success” in life depends on a division of
labor, and on separation from other family members; i.e.,
the adults work, while the children train in school to enter
the workforce. At the end of secondary education, they are
fully adjusted to the idea that it is time to leave home to
join the workforce, or to attend university. In the US, this
process of separation begins almost immediately, because
over the past 30 years, production rates have increasingly
intensified, while real wages have decreased, thus requiring
both parents to work if they want to maintain
middle-class status. Children are placed in daycare until
it is time for them to attend school. Hence, domestic
togetherness in the middle-class family has nearly ceased,
and children spend more time with their socializers—
education services and mass media—than with
“significant others.”
124 Flesh Machine
The reward for power vectors in promoting this variety of
family structure is twofold: First, since people are generally
denied social possibilities outside of rationalized contexts,
a profound alienation emerges. The only cures offered by
capitalist society for this condition are “satisfaction”
through success at work, or through acquisition of consumer
goods. Second, the geographic mobility necessary
for the efficient deployment of the upper echelons of the
workforce is assured. People go where their employers send
them without a second thought. Whether individuals are
near their family or friends is of secondary importance;
maintaining class rank (and more and more, simply to
remain employed) is of primary importance.
The nuclear family guarantees both the physical and the
ideological replication of the workforce; however, in terms
of eugenic development, it offers even more. The nuclear
family offers a specific set of concerns that complement
voluntary eugenics. Since the middle-class nuclear family
is generally small, thereby increasing the chances of total
familial erasure, its members express a profound concern
for reproduction. The extended family is also just as
concerned with familial reproduction; the difference between
the two, however, is that while the extended family
is content with the quantity reproduced as a safeguard of
familial survival, the nuclear family is concerned with the
“quality” of reproduction. Quality, in this case, is dictated
by capitalist demands. Quality means the extent to which
a child will be successful, i.e., will be able to obtain a good
job in order to maintain or heighten class rank. What
nuclear family parents lose in nonrational association with
their child, they gain in rationalized association. They can
send the child to good schools. They can provide the child
Eugenics: The Second Wave 125
with health care. They can offer the child a safe and secure
environment in which to mature. The reason parents want
to provide their children with these “advantages” is so the
child will give society he/r best economic performance. In
this thoroughly rationalized situation, quality of life is
equated with economic performance. The perception is that
the better the child performs economically in later life, the
better s/he will be able to satisfy he/rself within the structures
of production and consumption, and the greater the
probability that s/he will be upwardly mobile.
Once the structural conditions of the economy of desire
and the nuclear family are in place, which in turn lead to
equating quality of life (perhaps even social survival) with
economic performance by parents obsessed with their own
genetic and/or cultural replication, the environment is
ripe for voluntary eugenics—a situation which Osborn was
certain would come to pass. If parents are offered goods
and services which will give their few offspring a greater
opportunity for success, would they not purchase them?
Osborn thought that they would, and he believed that
these goods and services would include services which
would genetically engineer the child to insure he/r better
economic performance. He predicted that parents would
want to participate in the design of their children to help
them to adapt economically and socially—eugenic participation
would be a sign of benevolence. To be sure, once
eugenics is perceived as a means to empower the child and
the parent, it loses its monstrous overtones, and becomes
another part of everyday life medical procedure. Capitalism
will achieve its goals of genetic ideological inscription,
while at the same time realizing tremendous profits for
providing the service.
126 Flesh Machine
A Brief Note on Class and Eugenics
Traditionally, eugenic ideology has been deployed in the wealthier
classes. Cleansing the gene pool of the lower classes has
generally been perceived as unnecessary, since the tasks
that the lower classes perform are simplistic and therefore
almost any genetic configuration will do. Most likely,
traces of this ideological tendency will continue in regard
to the working class. At the same time, however, eugenic
ideology will be vigorously deployed down the class scale,
until a point is reached where the purchase of the services
is no longer financially possible. Unlike in the past,
power vectors believe including all levels of the middle
class in genetic design to be more essential than ever, so
that all “significant” populations can make the “evolutionary”
jumps necessary to keep abreast of rapid cultural
The working class will probably not be called to participate
in the new wave of eugenic practice. Since the poor are
reproducing at a rate beyond that needed to keep low-end
labor conditions stable, no reason exists for power vectors
to construct interventions in their replication process
(perhaps with the exception of slowing it down). In the
US, it is riduculous to think that members of the lower
classes—who are not even granted health care—will be
able to participate in costly eugenic practices. Currently,
infant mortality among the poor is absurdly high simply
because of a lack of prenatal care, so it seems unlikely that
the lower classes will be presented with less necessary
elements of “medical care.” In European nations, where
health care is provided for all citizens, a different scenario
could emerge. Eugenic practices may be promoted all the
Eugenics: The Second Wave 127
way down the class scale. Much depends on whether or not
eugenics delivers on its promise to rationalize the gene
pool in a way that seems economically and socially productive
to capitalist forces. Should eugenics fulfill its promises,
the US would also have to comply with full-scale deployment,
in order to stay competitive in the global economy.
Another element that will affect the deployment of eugenic
practices will be the degree to which cyborg
technology seeps down into the lower classes. If organic
platforms are needed for duties below those filled by
members of the middle classes, then eugenic deployment
could go all the way down the class scale. However, this
scenario seems unlikely, as the past record shows that
when modified by technology, working class tasks tend
either to go completely robotic or shift to a smaller number
of low-end technocrats.
More Utopian Promises
As one would expect, eugenic practices are already receiving
mass media support in an effort to build eugenic consciousness
in consumers. Certainly, “eugenics,” “genetic
cleansing,” or any other term suggesting the horror of the
first wave of eugenics is never mentioned in these moments
of spectacle, and the spectacularized narratives of
bio-tech are presented to individuals in a seductive rather
than a forceful way. For example, a consumer can purchase
genetic testing (cleansing) services that promise to assure
the parent of a healthier child. At the four-to-eight-cell
stages, an embryo can be tested for a variety of genetic
diseases and deformations. Some genetic defects can be
128 Flesh Machine
repaired. At the very least, a defective embryo can be
terminated, and the parents can try again to produce a
healthy, normalized one. Of course, no one is forced to
take the test (it must be desired and purchased), and if any
abnormality is found, no one is forced to terminate the
creature. One can even choose to let the creature grow to
the 16-cell stage, at which time it will self-terminate if it
is not implanted in a uterus (perfectly natural). As promised,
services such as this one allow concerned (obsessive)
parents greater assurance that their child will be normal
and healthy, and that they will be spared the financial and
psychological burden of an abnormal child. The subtext,
however, is just as Osborn predicted: The parents make the
decision regarding termination in accordance with the
imagined child’s probability of success in life. They choose
to accept or terminate the imagined child, not so much to
fulfill their own needs as to fulfill the needs of pancapitalist
culture. In spite of all the can-do spectacle regarding the
productive and happy lives of the “differently-abled,” the
emphasis here is not on the “happy” (the nonrational) but
on the “productive” (the rational). To be sure, “healthy”
and “normal” correlate with the projected potential of the
imagined child’s productivity, combined with the parents’
continued need to participate in particularized modes of
consumption that do not include purchasing goods and
services for the defective. Rational patterns of production
and consumption in the economy of desire are presented as
determinants of a happy parent-child relationship, instead
of the happy parent-child relationship being determined
by nonrational characteristics such as love, concern, and
understanding. If the parent-child relationship were based
on these latter qualities, and not those of potential production
and consumption, what need would there be for the
Eugenics: The Second Wave 129
test in the first place? The spectacle promises its viewers
that testing benefits the parents and child by eliminating
sickness, but what these half-truths lead to is a eugenic
consciousness that serves ideological directives implanted
in consciousness by pancapitalist initiatives.
The spectacle of reproductive bio-tech also promises to
assure fertility in a majority of cases. Even if a reproductive
system is in disrepair, it can be technologically
modified and/or coaxed to function as expected. The
demand for such technological insurance is peculiar,
since there is no shortage of children in need of a parent.
Certainly, nonrational beliefs explain much of this
economic riddle: Perhaps parents value participation in
the “magic” of the reproductive process; perhaps they
want to see their own physical characteristics duplicated
in the next generation; or perhaps successful
reproduction validates their (essentialized) gender positions.
The list of entries and the manner in which they
can be combined is quite extensive, but not exhaustive.
While nonrational associations with reproduction are
useful in selling reproductive goods and services, rational
concerns also come into play. Would-be parents
tend to find it desirable to have total control over the
physical care and early socialization of the child, so they
can be certain that nothing can disrupt the future
success of the child. The only way to have this assurance
is to be a primary participant in these processes from
conception until the child is turned over to the education
system. (This would, in part, explain why obtaining
genetic materials from outside sources is preferable to
130 Flesh Machine
One must also ask, why are there problems with individual
fertility in the first place? Much of the answer lies outside
the realm of cultural design, but part of the answer lies in
the economy of investment for medical research: In regard
to funding, research which could help to prevent infertility
takes second place behind research that can insure fertility.
(For example, funding for research aimed toward
eliminating pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause
infertility in some women, is relatively meager when
compared to investments in research to create products
and services for assisted pregnancy). This funding tendency
creates an expanded demand for the fertility products
and services by underfunding research that could lead to a
cure for root causes of infertility. Rather than investing in
research that could produce preventive care, funding agencies
invest in research to develop more profitable means to
repair an injured reproductive system. In turn, the increased
likelihood that women will need assisted
reproductive care channels the target population into
medical institutions where they are likely to engage additional
reproductive services.
Extending fertility has similar consequences. This utopian
promise does seem desirable for women in many ways. If
reproductive assistance can increase the span of years
during which a woman can reproduce, she would have far
greater choice in how to plan her life. (Currently, the
fertility range has not been significantly altered, since the
success rate for assisted pregnancy drops dramatically after
the age of 40). If a woman knew she was able to have a
child after age 40, it would allow her uninterrupted time to
establish herself in the workforce and acquire the wealth
needed to best provide for the child. The option of being
Eugenics: The Second Wave 131
both a successful mother and a professional woman would
increase in likelihood. Obviously, the state would also
benefit by delaying reproduction to later years (a trend
which is occurring among middle-class women), since
there is a greater structural demand for women to enter the
workforce, and deferral of reproduction would allow them
to function better within it. In addition, the prevalence of
middle-aged pregnancy would channel (middle-class)
women into medical institutions where they would be
most likely to engage in voluntary eugenic practices. As
with most seeming social benefits, the majority of them
are gains for the state, while those the individual receives
are primarily incidental consequences of state
sanctioned social policy.
The Spectacle of Anxiety
The spectacle of anxiety also hides itself in utopian spectacle, but
rather than aiming the presentation at individuals, this
spectacle is normally directed at social aggregates. For
example, there is considerable coverage of breakthroughs
in medical science in media ranging from knowledgespecific
journals to popular newscasting. The most
glamorous subjects tend to be concerned with the rationalization
of death (cancer, heart disease, AIDS, and so on),
but genetic research, concerned with the rationalization of
birth, also makes the list. For the most part, these discoveries
are framed by a national identity. On the individual
level, the nationality of the scientists who made a given
breakthrough is fairly irrelevant, and most are relieved
that medical science is constructing a healthier tomorrow.
However, at the national level, who discovered what has
132 Flesh Machine
very deep economic implications. Each announcement of
a surge in applied medical science that is beyond the
national borders represents lost profits and an increase in
the national research gaps. (The real loss, of course, is to
other competing multinationals, rather than to nation
states). The public perception of losing national economic
advantage is a tremendous fuel to create a popular consensus
for high-velocity research (a permanent corporate
R&D policy, whether the public agrees or not) as opposed
to cautious and critical low-velocity research. As with the
individual purchase of goods and services that offer an
economic advantage, will the development of goods and
services that are perceived to give a nation an economic
advantage also be pursued without question? This has
certainly been the case in the past, and continues to be true
now. Such a situation seems to indicate that the time is
right for eugenic practices to flourish on the macro as well
as on the micro levels of society.
Jamming the Eugenic Failsafes
In addition to utopian promises, medical science makes numerous
ethical promises to the public designed to reassure
populations that the eugenic beast will not be reborn. As
far as involuntary eugenics is concerned, these promises
have merit, although the promise not to engage in statesanctioned
involuntary eugenic practices is an easy one to
keep, since the strategies to develop privatized voluntary
eugenic practices are proceeding so smoothly. On the
other hand, the ethical promises to forbid practices which
either lay the foundation for the implementation of voluntary
eugenic policy, or which are eugenic in and of
Eugenics: The Second Wave 133
134 Flesh Machine
themselves, can be looked upon with a great deal of
skepticism. For example, one key promise from medical
science is that human organic matter will not and cannot
be sold. In some cases, medical science has lived up to this
promise. In the case of organ sales, there are other options
to pursue, such as artificial, cloned, and transgenic organs
(all of which are still in various stages of experimentation).
These organ replacement products can be sold. The promise
of zero sales of human organs is also fortified by the fact
that it is difficult to find donors willing to sell their organs,
since doing so will either kill them or decrease their life
expectancy. However, with human reproductive matter,
the situation is much different. Sperm and eggs can be
harvested without threatening the life of the provider. In
this situation, medical science has legally kept its promise.
Sperm, eggs, embryos, etc., are not being bought and sold;
they are being donated. However, while the organic matter
cannot be bought and sold, the harvesting and the
implanting processes are salable services. The medical
establishment has jammed this ethical failsafe simply by
building the fiscal structure of the industry around the
process, rather than around the product.
To make matters worse, eugenic screening practices are
used to acquire suitable reproductive materials. Potential
donors are thoroughly tested physically and psychologically
to make sure they meet industry standards of health
and normalcy. Family histories are acquired and scrutinized
so that those receiving the materials can be sure that
there are no latent genetic defects that could lead to a
problematic outcome. If a potential donor is found to be
suitably pure, then s/he can become an actual donor. Of
course, no clinic would admit that it is constructing a pure
Eugenics: The Second Wave 135
gene pool—a purity which is dictated by the political and
economic demands of pancapitalism. Rather, such institutions
claim that they are only attempting to provide
consumers with top value for their purchasing dollar, and
preserving their own reputations as institutions of high
integrity that provide high-quality products and services.
Screening is done for economic purposes, and not for
political purposes. To an extent this is true. It seems very
unlikely that conspiratorial teams of doctors are plotting a
new master race; however, just as Osborn predicted, eugenic
mechanisms are emerging out of the rationalized
reproductive process which reflect the ideological values
of the social context in which the process occurs (the
primary value, as Osborn believed would come to pass in
consumer economy, is that people’s value is determined by
their economic potential).
This same process is replicated in the implementation of
selective reduction. To increase the probability of a successful
implantation procedure, a small set of embryos
(three to eight) is placed into the uterus; the number
depends on the quality of the embryos and the age of the
woman. The results vary; however, the probability of
successful implantation (when a embryo attaches itself to
the uterine wall) is increased. At times, the procedure is
too successful, and produces more than one fetus. This
leaves the client with the choice of bringing all the fetuses
to term, or of reducing their number. Many times, the
reduction is necessary as the number of fetuses conceived
could pose a threat to the life of the client, but just as often,
fetus reduction is implemented because the client desires
a specific number of fetuses. The client can select (often in
accordance with viability) which fetuses she wants to
136 Flesh Machine
keep. In the cases where the fetuses are equally viable, the
client can select for aesthetic characteristics (such as the
number of children, the gender, or the gender combination).
Like donor screening, there is nothing genetically
conspiratorial about the process; clients are simply purchasing
the specific goods that they want. Yet once again,
the desire for a specific product is manufactured by spectacle
that is directed by ideological as well as marketing
concerns. The process of selective womb cleansing is political
and eugenic, and is an emergent byproduct of
rationalized reproduction.
Osborn’s predictions are coming to pass. The time is right for the
second wave of eugenics because the economic foundation
has been laid. Eugenics complements the grand
pancapitalist principle of the total rationalization of culture.
The foundation for consumer consciousness is
replicated in the foundation for eugenic consciousness.
Reproduction is spectacularly represented and publicly
perceived as an object of surplus that can be produced to
meet consumer desire. Desire itself does not emerge from
within, but is imposed from without by the spectacular
engines of pancapitalist ideological inscription. However,
the situation has yet to reach catastrophic proportions.
Eugenic practices are still crude and experimental; they
still have to work their way across class levels and down the
class ladder. Thus far, power vectors have not been able to
turn perception into activity (the product is recognized,
but few are buying). In order to truly accomplish the goal
of making eugenic activity a part of everyday life, the
Eugenics: The Second Wave 137
public must be convinced that rationalized processes of
reproduction are superior and more desirable than the
nonrational means of reproduction. In other words, large
segments of the population (with an emphasis on the
middle class) must still be channeled into this frontier
market. This will take time, during which counternarratives
and resistant strategies and tactics can be developed.
Unfortunately, in order to seduce all who look upon it,
eugenics has masked itself in the utopian surface of free
choice and progress. In this sense, power vectors have
stolen and are cautiously using the strategy of subversion
in everyday life to create a silent flesh revolution.

flesh6 (pdf file)


One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Frederico Elton said, on 24/11/2010 at 22:07

    You would find this film about eugenics of interest- it is called- Maafa21 view the trailer here http://www.maafa21.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: