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Biopolitics and Bioethics: Analytical Essay

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This paper tries to understand James Hughes’s understanding of Techno progressives’ approach in the context of human enhancement technology which is based on the progressive ideology based on the right of individuals to be free to control their own bodies, brains, and reproduction according to their own conscience, under democratic states that work for the public good according to Hughes. But other political ideologies that Hughes categorizes are suspicious of this stance. A common progressive bioethics program is unlikely with this divided biopolitics. But this paper tries to understand how it is important to take the views of other biopolitical wings. This paper tries to draw an analysis between Hughes’s idea of the implication of adopting human enhancement technology on healthcare and longevity and Richard Hayes’s four biopolitical scenarios. Hayes’s biopolitical scenarios take into account every possible political stance on human technology which is useful in developing a critical view of Hughes’s one-dimensional idealist implications. This paper is critical of James Hughes’s techno progressives as an ideal stand to measure progressiveness.

We live in a world that is constantly becoming technology-based. We live in a world where genes are modified, fertility clinics offer procedures to manipulate embryos, cosmetic surgery, and cloning. We are about to reach a post-human stage.

Progressive politics is rooted in enlightenment thoughts (the possibility of human progress with a commitment to values of individual freedom, social equality, solidarity, democratic governance, and the supremacy of reason over dogma and tradition). There are many reactions to this enlightenment. Our contemporary progressive biopolitics focuses on enhancement medicine, a direct result of the Enlightenment, progressive bioethics is to pursue enlightenment values in health care and bio policy. In contrast, conservatives’ standpoint on bioethics is based on moral intuitions, respect for authority, ingroup loyalty, and ideas of spiritual pollution and purity (pre-enlightenment ethics).

According to Hughes, Biopolitics stands gets divided into bio-conservatives (left and right) and transhumanists(democratic libertarians). But, What was the origin of this biopolitics? Hughes traced techno progressiveness through progressive politics from their enlightenment origin to the emergence of Biopolitics and Bioethics. Bioethics from 1960 to 1990s was called ‘original’ and looked at the issues of rights of subjects in medical research, refusal of medical intervention, and dangers of Invitro fertilization, and cloning. But after that Bioethics was superseded by Biopolitics. This led to the polarization of Bioethics into many ideologies i.e., conservatives and progressives. Initially, Bioethics Liberals wanted to be free from pain and conservatives took the pain as natural, they were skeptical of the technology. In the kass era in the US, when Leon Kass was the chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics (PCB). He was a conservative and opposed every intervention into human reproduction from in vitro fertilization to reproductive cloning. Hughes is writing in the backdrop of the US political context which is to show the various political ideology on biopolitics. For example: After the coming of the right perspective into play there was much rethinking of the issue. Questions like, Is Human enhancement road to a caste society, of who is more genetically modified? Are people with disabilities liberated or further oppressed? The practice of looking for genes that can lead to a disabled child, does it mean disability is a total alien construct? Do reproductive rights include prenatal screening and genetic engineering? These are questions that are in opposition to what techno progressives say and are equally important. Francis Fukuyama, a bioluddite (anti-human technology) viewed enhancement technologies as disastrous. He used the word ‘totalitarian’ to address any genetic attempt on the human body. Fukuyama further elaborates on how technology would affect the equality of humans, in terms of creating a genetic caste system, but how so? On elaborating on this point, the argument from transhumanists is that equality is based on political equality and not on physical equality. Equality is not based on homogeneity of skin color and height. Does it mean, techno progressives are heading to a homogenized society where there is only no room for imperfection? But how would one justify the model of the techno progressives where there is no room for being natural? However, one view of Fukuyama with which Hughes agrees is the regulation on technology. But who will decide on the regulation? Who would be regulated and who not on what basis? This is criticized by Hughes on the ground that the globalization of medical treatment poses a major challenge to regulating human enhancement technologies. If prenatal genetic and anti-aging treatments are restricted in the U.S. there are less-regulated providers somewhere else in the world. Restrictions on enhancement technologies are imposed in one country they will only penalize the poor, not the affluent who can afford to seek treatment elsewhere in the world.

This techno progressive or technological rationality is called by Herbert Marcuse an instrument of domination and social control. Marcuse rightly points out to the neutrality of technology needs to be questioned. According to Marcuse, the use of technology is very much politically oriented. In the current line of thought, transhumanism as liberals sees it as a control on ‘one’s own bodies’ but from Marcuse’s perspective it is very much the control of bodies by the authority. When people are given alternatives to modify biological attributes, to reproduce fit bodies, then why would people who can afford it, don’t take up the chance? Society has already portrayed the picture of the ‘survival of the fittest’. Who are these people who can afford to be fit? The wealthy. So, these corporates and big pharmaceuticals are now driving their agenda to a profit-making business rather than actually giving the ones who are in actual need of modified genes. Even food is now genetically modified, in the era where biological features of the human species are the basis of political and economic strategy. Seeds are now under patent rights which were earlier shared forms of knowledge. Now a company has the sole right over a seed that is genetically modified and results in mass production, people consume that food, but the question is do they have the same nutritional value as a naturally grown seed? No. This is why even after consuming, our society is a victim of hidden hunger (hunger induced by less nutrition). After ruining our health, the consequence would be an unhealthy future generation. The choice is on us if we want to make them healthy by genetically modifying them.

In the US, Richard Hayes points out, the predictability of a biopolitical scenario can be grouped into four categories according to the dominant political ideology, these are ‘Libertarian Transhumanism Triumphs,’ both left- and right-libertarian values prevail. In ‘One Family, One Future,’ communitarian values grounded in quasi-religious solidarity and patriarchy prevail. In ‘A Techno-Eugenic Arms Race,’ a lethal mix of communitarian nationalism and libertarian techno-capitalism spins out of control. The scenario ‘For the Common Good’ is grounded in communitarian values of the sort historically associated with social democracy and liberal internationalism.

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He says in the Libertarian Transhumanism landscape of biopolitics there is the ideology of free trade, free market, and free bodies were gaining popularity in 2010 America. The transhumanist was obsessed with technology in the field of manipulating biology. This combination of libertarian politics and transhumanism increasingly helped in fuelling young technocratic minds from various fields of science, art, and commerce. A trillion-dollar market is waiting for global biotech conglomerates to come up with technology that can check embryos or build up life extension technology. The environment has however been subjugated as an inferior is the major casualty of transhumanism. When asked by reporters to comment on growing fears that biotechnology was giving rise to human genetic castes, transhumanist Dmitri Rastovich replied, ‘There is no alternative. Relax and enjoy it.’

One Family, One Future is a political ideology that was basically against genetic modification and human genetic technologies. But what was biased against this stand was mainly there are the lesser-known parts of it. Experiments are carried out in labs without the government’s authorization. In 2010 a German human rights group documented the deaths of over 300 women worldwide from the ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, the result of aggressive efforts to obtain eggs for cloning research. The fact that these Wombs are being sold for dollars, selling of genetically superior eggs and sperms over the internet. But what is to be noted is that these experiments are not always successful. As Zygmunt Bauman points out Science is increasingly looked to in response to public policy dilemmas, such as climate change, we turn to it for medical cures, genetic fixes, advances in green transportation, colonization of other planets, and physical alterations to our bodies. But we assume and look at science as too much of a permanent fix, so and so that with science we assume that no future problems can arise. It is not harmful to assume that science is the fix as much as being indifferent to the idea of profit-making in the name of permanent fixes. Scientists, and biologists who are unsuitable to perform also indulge and capitalist notions come to play at work. In the Scottish gene, the experiment left two infants with bone cancer and a life expectancy of fewer than 12 years. The human experimentation which took place at concentration camps on large numbers of prisoners, including children in Nazi Germany without Anaesthesia is the most inhuman of all in the pretense of designing German military personnel in combat situations, and developing new weapons. For the conservatives these practices were undemocratic and a threat to equality, social justice, human rights, women’s and children’s health, and the sanctity of the natural world. The conservatives were successful in banning the practices of gene experiments, sex selection, reproductive and research cloning, physician-assisted suicide, and child-accessible Internet pornography in 2014 in the US. One family, one future is basically a religious mass social movement, neo-traditional in nature.

A Techno-Eugenic Arms Race is basically the whole race for dominance between countries, individuals, and corporations. In China for example a nationalist agenda was to improve the genetic quality of all its people. Anyone who has genes that are deleterious can be improved at government costs. In this competition, the right-wing nationalist government has even genetic profiles of ‘ideal’ racial and ethnic types. Genetic scientists have lost touch with human emotions, but another main question is who are these humans on whom experiments are being conducted? They are the Orphans, prisoners. In terms of race, one cannot forget biological weapons for example Lethal Autonomous Weapons which is a recent new technology where the system makes its own knowledge on whom to kill. With the coming of artificial intelligence, the nature of warfare between nations has changed.

For the Common, God is the political category where the liberal democrats support technology gene modification in the pretext of not harming anyone in the process. The ethical character of Bioethics is emphasized in this. Genetic technology for medical purposes was emphasized. But, what about those scientists or corporate agendas who went beyond ethics and attempted coveted operations even in naval waters in South Pacific guarded by gunboats? There will be always those who break ethical codes.

Thus, Hayes talks about all the possible scenarios in the context of the use of human technologies.

Hughes on the other hand points out three principal meta-policy contexts that will shape policy toward human enhancement technologies in the coming decade. Hughes has pointed out how the US healthcare crisis can be solved by including enhancement technologies in the basic healthcare package in the context of the US. But the real question is these technologies are very expensive, will the government be able to include such treatment in basic packages for everyone? Is this a realistic meta-policy? The other meta-policy context is demographic Shifts and longevity Dividends, this pertains to how industrialized societies are all facing some degree of structural adjustment as the number of retired persons with respect to working tax-payers increases. For Hughes, age-retarding therapies increasingly offer the possibility of extending the period of healthy, disability-free longevity, a ‘Longevity Dividend.’ The incidence of disability and chronic illness among seniors in the U.S. has already steadily fallen. But, this is rather again an unrealistic view, this would disrupt the natural working of the body. Also, if the old population lives, this would also cause a population burden. And even if they keep working, how would the young population get into employment, there might be a situation of job insecurity.


Hughes’s idea of techno progressives finds its roots in enlightenment thought. While there are implications that are well drawn from human technology, there are also equally bad which we understand from Richard Hayes’s Biopolitical scenarios. This paper rightly points out that technology now has become a weapon of the capitalist agenda. With the associations of certain societal images with a perfect body, face, and genes, enhancement technology leaves no room for imperfection. As rightly pointed out, disability is now a foreign concept. Human enhancement technology has now become an instrument of domination and hence the association with science to offer a permanent solution. The development of human enhancement technologies is based on testing them on humans. The people on whom these technologies are tested are mostly prisoners, beggars, and forceful. With competition among nations rising, warfare which is now biological is also rising, there is a race among countries. This paper tries to understand the deeper questions associated with basing political strategy on human biology for example idea of perfection, questions of affordability, a form of social domination, a capitalist agenda, disability, human experimentation, side effects, arms race, etc which Hughes have clearly not taken into account while assuming the implications of basic healthcare and longevity.

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