A Critique of Genetic Enligntenment: Human Genetics and the Metamorphoses of Governance

Student thesis: Doc typesDoctor of Legal Studies


This research uncovers the common roots of "geneticization" - the process where genetic explanations gain ascendancy in medical and social discourses - and some changing patterns of governance in western countries engaged in renegotiation of their social contracts. The promises of "genetic enlightenment" expressed in the tales of a genetic mythology presaging transparency and precise calculability of individual health risks, behaviours and identities on the one hand, and the prevailing messages of neoliberalism insisting on the liberating virtues of privatising health insurance and dismantling welfare states on the other hand, converge in making our post-genomic future 'visible' in advance. These projections of a post-genomic and post-Keynesian future form the unquestioned background of most legal and regulatory attitudes towards issues raised by the 'new' human genetics. The forecasted imminent visibility of meaningful interpersonal differences at the genetic level makes issues of genetic privacy and genetic discrimination in the socio-economic contexts of insurance (especially health, long term care, and life insurance) and employment appear among the most urgent legal and social issues raised by the "genetic revolution". Debates about regulation or deregulation of genetic information flows in insurance, particularly, are framed - as much by those who favour as by those who oppose genetic differentiation in insurance - in view of a future characterised by the generalisation of genetic testing in the population, the actuarial relevance of the resulting genetic information, and an increasing privatisation of basic insurance provision. The new inquiry paradigm suggested in this dissertation prompts us to think of the social/economic/technical/political structure of society and biotechnological innovation as related to each other, as parts of the same metabolism, and interacting in a dialectical manner, each one being performative for the others. Deconstructing geneti
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish

Cite this