Surplus and Symptom
In conclusion, I return to this book’s originating claim: that biotechnology
represents a new face, and a new phase, of capitalism. This might seem to be a
di≈cult statement to sustain, because the coproduction of life and capitalism is
in itself not new. It is, historically, especially seen in the green revolutions of
the 1960s, leading to new methods and institutional arrangements of agricul-
tural production, new discourses and strategies around the management of
risk, and new safety and lifestyle concerns as articulated by an emergent en-
vironmental movement. Both states and corporations were involved in such
Biocapital thus does not represent a new phase of capitalism in a temporal
sense. Instead, as I argued in the introduction, my sense of the relationship
of biocapital to systems of capitalism writ large is similar to Jean-François
Lyotard’s sense of the relationship of postmodernism to modernity—a con-
stitutive component of a larger set of institutions, regimes, and practices that
are themselves defined and exceeded by their incongruent components.
At the same time, there is an uncanny sense that something new is happen-
ing here. Part of this sensibility of novelty is due to the very discourse that sus-
tains biocapital—for instance, the hype that is such an integral part of the bio-
tech industry (and this hype itself, of course, is not necessarily such a new thing
but can be located within the very discursive ethos of American nation building
and nationalist consciousness). Another part of this sensibility is due to the fact
that there are new institutional and technological assemblages that are being
presented to us, new events that herald novelty. These include, to name some of
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