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Biocapital: The Constitution of Postgenomic Life 1St Edition Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0822337201
ISBN-10: 0822337207
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  • Biocapital: The Constitution of Postgenomic Life
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Biocapital is an ambitious book; its conceptual scope has the potential to remake conversation in the human sciences. There is really nothing like the argument and synthesis Kaushik Sunder Rajan provides, which is surprising given how important his topic is.”—Lawrence Cohen, author of No Aging in India: Alzheimer’s, the Bad Family, and Other Modern Things


Biocapital is excellent. It offers new insight into both late capitalism and the life sciences and also provides material and arguments for rethinking foundational concepts such as ‘valuation’ and ‘exchange.’”—Kim Fortun, author of Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders


“Reading Kaushik Sunder Rajan’s Biocapital fills me with the same intellectual and personal excitement I felt reading Marx’s Capital and Foucault’s History of Sexuality for the first time. Biocapital gives a passionate, thoroughly argued road map to dense and consequential worlds that I already inhabit, but have not known how to describe with the vividness and acumen required. Sunder Rajan integrates and explores in depth what many others only promise; i.e., the coproductions of meanings, values, and bodies in emerging regimes of biocapital. In the course of shaping ethnographic and theoretical inquiry into what he calls ‘lively capital,’ Sunder Rajan gives his readers lively value in every sense.”—Donna Haraway, author of Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™


Biocapital has more than enough interesting verifiable claims to make it essential reading for anyone studying biotechnology and other contemporary hype-driven fields like nanotechnology and alternative energy.”
(Joseph November ISIS)

Biocapital presents an intriguing analysis of the bioscience industry, especially the capitalist imperatives behind technological developments. . . . Thus for the bioethics audience it presents an engaging study of the biosciences both in relation to the presentation and valuation of ethics and the interdependence of science and markets.”
(Kean Birch American Journal of Bioethics)

Biocapital is a deft, complex, and carefully argued work.”
(Cori Hayden American Anthropologist)

From the Publisher

"Reading Kaushik Sunder Rajan’s Biocapital fills me with the same intellectual and personal excitement I felt reading Marx’s Capital and Foucault’s History of Sexuality for the first time. Biocapital gives a passionate, thoroughly argued road map to dense and consequential worlds that I already inhabit, but have not known how to describe with the vividness and acumen required. Sunder Rajan integrates and explores in depth what many others only promise; i.e., the coproductions of meanings, values, and bodies in emerging regimes of biocapital. In the course of shaping ethnographic and theoretical inquiry into what he calls ‘lively capital,’ Sunder Rajan gives his readers lively value in every sense."—Donna Haraway, author of Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™

"Biocapital is an ambitious book; its conceptual scope has the potential to remake conversation in the human sciences. There is really nothing like the argument and synthesis Kaushik Sunder Rajan provides, which is surprising given how important his topic is."—Lawrence Cohen, author of No Aging in India: Alzheimer’s, the Bad Family, and Other Modern Things

"Biocapital is excellent. It offers new insight into both late capitalism and the life sciences and also provides material and arguments for rethinking foundational concepts such as ‘valuation’ and ‘exchange.’"—Kim Fortun, author of Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books; 1St Edition edition (April 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822337207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822337201
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Malvin VINE VOICE on July 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Biocapital" by Kaushik Sunder Rajan is an impressive book that offers a sophisticated analysis of the biotech industry. Written as an MIT graduate student well-grounded in Marxian economics and Foucauldian social theories, Mr. Rajan's ethnographic study compares and contrasts biotech companies in the U.S. and India to illuminate how industrial practices are shaped by a myriad of economic and cultural forces. Among the many insights produced in this fascinating study, the author convincingly demonstrates how the so-called 'life sciences' are representative of a new phase of capitalism that is characterized by the temporality of our postmodern time.

Mr. Rajan discusses how biotech is changing relationships and practices between public and private entities. He explains that high tech capitalism is dependent upon information in order to innovate and produce; traditionally, this service was fulfilled by publicly-funded research institutions. But the speed at which the biotech industry competes has blurred these boundaries; the race to map and "own" the human genome that pitted the National Institute of Health against Celera Genomics is a case in point. The author explores struggles over privacy and ownership rights, finding that governments are responding to these pressures by behaving more like corporations. For example, the U.S. has seen an explosion in partnerships between universities and private corporations while the Indian state has sought to retain genetic property rights for its public hospitals. In this sense, Mr. Rajan's narrative positions the biotech industry squarely in the vanguard of contemporary global economic and institutional change.

Mr. Rajan's extensive comparative analysis reveals how such dynamics play out in markedly different ways in local contexts.
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Biopolitics is a notion propounded by Michel Foucault whereby "life becomes the explicit center of political calculation." The increasing use of this notion in the social sciences underscores a fundamental evolution. In the twenty-first century, as anticipated by Foucault, power over the biological lives of individuals and peoples has become a decisive component of political power, and control over one's biology is becoming a central focus for political action. Used by the late Foucault in his lectures at the Collège de France, biopolitics and its associated concept, governmentality ("the conduct of conducts"), are now in the phase of constituting a whole new paradigm, a way to define what we are and what we do. Biopolitics and governmentality are now declined by many scholars who have proposed associated notions: "bare life" and the "state of exception" (Giorgio Agamben), "multitude" and "empire" (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri), "biological citizenship" and "the politics of life itself" (Nikolas Rose), "biopolitical assemblages" and "graduated sovereignty" (Aihwa Ong), "cyborg" and "posthumanities" (Donna Haraway), etc. This flowering of conceptualizations is often associated with a critique of neoliberalism as the dominant form of globalized governmentality, and to a renewal of Marxist studies that revisit classical notions (surplus value, commodity fetishism, alienation of labor...) in light of new developments.

By adding the notions of "biocapital" and "postgenomic life" to the list of new concepts, Kaushik Sunder Rajan positions himself in this twin tradition of Marxist and Foucaultian studies. As he states in the introduction, "this book is an explicit attempt to bring together Foucault's theorization of the political with a Marxian attention to political economy.
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Format: Paperback
Sunder Rajan expertly disassembles and reconstitutes the rapidly growing global industry behind "life sciences" - showing that life itself has become a new form of capital, or biocapital. In contrast to labor, wealth or materials, biocapital realizes its value through explicit ownership of the intellectual property locked away within living things. Sunder Rajan convincingly demonstrates, by situating himself in both American and Indian "life science" companies, that the ultimate ownership, transfer and wealth-creation that intellectual property (IP) provides does not always fall to the expected recepients.

(Full disclosure. I and my company are featured extensively in one chapter of this book.)
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I've been struggling with this book, published in 2006, for months. Today I realized I could combine my notes with a handful of key index entries to create a more useful synthesis. I end with ten other books I have reviewed that augment this one.

My first impression of the book was soured by the absence of any mention of green chemistry, ecological economics, or ecology of commerce. I've known about citation analysis clusters since 1970, but I grow increasingly frustrated by the fragmentation of knowledge and the constantly growing barriers between schools of thought within political-legal, socio-economic, ideo-cultural, techno-demographic, and natural-geographic.

An important early distinction is between industrial-cost for profit capitalism and commercial speculative capitalism. Toward the end of the book I finally encountered the author's emphasis on national priorities, and I for one condemn all seeds that do not reproduce naturally. In agriculture, economy, energy, health, my bottom line is that anything that retards the eradication of hunger, poverty, sustainment, or individual and social health gains, is inherent against the laws of God and man.

Early notes include:

+ Information science plays huge role in genomics. I am reminded of the convergence in the 1990's among cognitive and information science, nano-technology, bio-technology, and earth science. I have a later note, "life sciences becoming information sciences."

+ Although E. O. Wilson is not cited, the author is on a clear convergence in taking about how valuation is a vital aspect of getting it right.
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