The Ironic Dream of a Common Language for Women in the Integrated
Circuit: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s or A Socialist
Feminist Manifesto for Cyborgs
History of Consciousness Board. University of California at Santa Cruz, October, 1983
Submitted to Das Argument for the Orwell 1984 volume
(This is an early version of Donna Haraway's influential essay "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." The complete version appears in Haraway's book Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991): 149-181.)
[A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a creature of science fiction and a creature of social reality. By the late 20th century, we are all chimeras, mythic hybrids of machine and organism, in short, cyborgs. In recent Western science and politics, the relation between organism and machine has been a border war. This essay is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction. A socialist-feminist must pay particular attention to the redesign of cyborgs; i.e., to genetic engineering.]
It has become difficult to name one's feminism by a single adjective--or even to insist in every circumstance upon the noun. Our consciousness of hierarchical exclusion in naming practices has become much more acute; and the multiple, non-reducible sources of insight and practice have become more unmistakeable. Identities seem contradictory, partial, and strategic. With the hard-won recognition of their radical social and historical constitution, gender, race, and class cannot provide the basis for belief in essential unity. We have learned that unities are difficult historical achievements fraught with inevitable exclusionary practices. Painful fragmentation among feminists (not to mention among women) along every possible fault line has made the concept of woman elusive, ironic, and even an excuse for women's dominations of each other. For me--and I think for many who share a similar historical location in white, professional middle class, female, dissenting, intended-radical, North American, mid-adult bodies--the sources of a crisis in political identity are legion. The most important include 1) international, cross-cultural and polyvocal developments of theories of interpretation and ideology, i.e., development of understanding of the systematic structuring of "the other" in Western discourse, from which socialist or marxist feminists have little ground for belief in our immunity; and 2) the immense complexity of liberatory political practice world wide, coupled with insistent reproductions of domination in the heart of the most radical and hopeful movements.
The ironic consequences of the theoretical and practical struggle against "unity-through-domination" or "unity-through-incorporation"--i.e., the longed-for defeat of the one God and his faithful as well as heretical civilizations--include undermining not only the justifications for patriarchy, colonialism, humanism, positivism, essentialism, scientism, and other unlamented -isms, but also other claims for a common standpoint and a common goal grounding common action. We have become excruciatingly conscious what it means to have an historically constituted body. But with the loss of belief in innocence in our origin, there is no need to imagine expulsion from the Garden either. Our politics lose the indulgence of guilt with the naivete of innocence. But what would another political myth for socialist feminism look like? What kind of politics could embrace partial, contradictory, permanently unclosed constructions of personal and collective selves and still be faithful, effective--and socialist feminist? We can still inscribe our bodies, even if not canonize them.
I do not know of any other time in history when there was greater need for political unity to confront effectively the dominations of race, sex, state, and class. I also do not know of any other time when the kind of unity we might help build now could have been possible. None of "us" have any longer the symbolic or material capability of dictating the shape of reality to any "them." Old models of "organizing them" on the left are plainly anachronisitc and ineffective, for both epistemological and political reasons rooted in recent struggles world-wide against the dominations of class, gender, and race. In the fraying of identities and strategies for constructing them entwined in our previous theories and practices, the possibility opens up for weaving something other than a shroud for after the apocalypse of fulfilled domination.
But with our release from doctrinal rigidities, like those associated with reified notions of color, class, and gender, and pleasure in the recognition of fluidity of our own identities and the possibility of building new kinds of political reality -- well represented now by the complex, wonderful, contradictory practices of the Greens in Germany, the women of Greenham Common in England, and the Livermore Action Group in the United States -- more ominous complexities also emerge. The material grounds of our growing fluidity are intimately related to the grounds for extraordinary new structures of domination in the state, military, industrial, sexual, and imperialist orders. Class, gender, and race are being reworked in multinational, science-mediated social relations of exploitation in the production and reproduction of daily life. The effects are at the level of the most intimate activities and metaphors through which we live and make sense of the world. In this paper, I will look briefly at two major new scientific and technological universes, electronics and biotechnology, in order to suggest the scope of social reformations which socialist feminists and other progressive groups must face. I want to be able to show how we can generate new political imaginations and practices that might empower us in the permanently fractured, reconstituted world in which we are placed and place ourselves. My tradition and starting point is the partial but rich ground of socialist, especially marxist, feminism; how might this soil sprout connections and practical unities instead of hierarchical exclusions and illusory totalities? Without arguing for a theoretical or practical hierarchy among class, race, or sex -- and with acute consciousness of the fraying of those categories in our present science-mediated social systems -- how might a politics proceed which aims for our material and imaginative empowerment in the social relations produced by and producing science and technology?
The frame for my sketch is set by my beliefs about the extent and importance of rearrangements in social relations world-wide tied to science and technology. I will try to argue for a politics rooted in claims about fundamental changes in the nature of class, race, and gender in an emerging system of world order analogous in its novelty and implications to that created by industrial capitalism. Plainly, I am not alone in making such claims, nor in characterizing the emerging world order as a movement from an organic, industrial society to a polymorphous, information system. The hype about a new industrial revolution and an information age is endless; but I want to argue that there is indeed a crucial new reality for women in the integrated circuit. One important route for a reconstruction of socialist feminist politics is through theory and practice adressed to the social relations of science and technology, including crucially the systems of myth and meanings structuring our imaginations.
I want to examine "women in the integrated circuit" in relation to two universes of science and technology: communications technologies and bio-technologies. These are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies. These tools embody social relations in a particularly powerful way for women world-wide. If technologies (and scientific discourses) might be partially understood as formalizations, i.e., as frozen moments, of the fluid social interactions constituting them, they should also be viewed as instruments for enforcing meanings. The boundary is very permeable between tool and myth, instrument and concept, historical systems of social relations and historical anatomies of possible bodies, including objects of knowledge. Indeed, myth and tool mutually constitute each other.
Furthermore, communications sciences and modern biologies are constructed by a common move--the translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in terms of the common coin through which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment, and exchange. I like to term the logic of this kind of knowledge and practice an informatics of domination. The world becomes a game plan; everything is only a move; to win is to stay in the game; to persist is to communicate successfully, to reproduce favorably, to replicate faithfully enough. Perhaps there is nothing new here, but only the traditional moves of reductionism so friendly to capitalist integration. But the scale and the power are new, and the consequences for women, among others, are large.
The translation of the world into a problem in coding in communications sciences can be illustrated by looking at cybernetic (feedback controlled) systems theories applied to telephone technology, computer design, weapons deployment, or data base construction. In each case, solution to the key questions rests on a theory of language and control; the key operation is determining rates, directions, and probabilities of flow of a quantity called information. The world is subdivided by boundaries differentially permeable to information. All unities are strategic. Information is just that kind of quantifiable element (unit, basis of unity) which allows universal translation, and so unhindered instrumental power (called effective communication). The biggest threat to such power is interruption of communication; the universal ideology of pathology is stress. Any system breakdown is a stress disease. The fundamentals of this technology can be condensed into the metaphor C*3*I (CCCI), Command-Control-Communication-Intelligence, the military's symbol for its operations theory.
The translation of the world into a problem in coding in modern biologies can be illustrated by looking at molecular genetics, ecology, sociobiological evolutionary theory, and immunobiology. The organism has been translated into problems of genetic coding and read out. It might be accurate to say that organisms have ceased to exist as objects of knowledge, having given way to biotic components ordered as special kinds of information processing devices. The analogous moves in ecology could be examined by probing the history and utility of the concept of the ecosystem. Immunobiology and medicine addressed to the immune system are rich exemplars of the privilege of coding and recognition systems as objects of knowledge, as constructions of bodily reality for us. Biology is here a kind of cryptography, that intriguing science which so perplexes U.S. military planners who would wish to sequester civilian research in the field of computer cryptography. Research is necessarily a kind of intelligence activity. Ironies abound. A stressed system goes awry; its communication processes break down; it fails to recognize the difference between self and other. No wonder gay men and intravenous drug users are the privileged victims of the media's favorite immune system disease that marks (inscribes on the body) confusion of boundaries and moral pollution. And no wonder the acronym for the disease, AIDS, calls up a cry for help and the name of an agency for international development that also fails to recognize the difference between self and other.
But these excursions into communications sciences and biology have been at a rarified level; there is a quite mundane, even largely economic reality to characterize to support my claim that these sciences and technologies indicate fundamental transformations in the structure of the world for us. Communications technologies depend on electronics. It is not an exaggeration to say that modern states, multinational corporations, strategic alliances, military power, bureaucracies of the welfare state, satellite systems, political processes, fabrication of our imaginations, labor control systems, medical constructions of our bodies, personal mobility, the international division of labor, and religious evangelism depend intimately upon electronics. A newspeak list of the spaces of the modern world is more than a symptom of the breakdown of educated English: electronic cottage, global (corporate) village, global farm and supermarket, electronic battlefield, global factory, automated banking, electronic office, electronic church, electronic clinic, even electronic porn, where the scoptic dialectic of phallic domination between image and reality can be digitalized on a home video disc (and called "Custer's Revenge," marketed by a Japanese company). Reagan's 1983 starwars speech was merely normal political discourse, where apocalypse and a game plan look alike.
Another evocative list marks the translations of labor into robotics and word processing (these technologies even have a gender bias to make us feel more at home); sex into genetic engineering and reproductive technologies; and mind into artificial intelligence and decision procedures. The new biotechnologies concern more than human reproduction. Biology as a powerful engineering science for redesigning materials and processes has revolutionary implications for industry, perhaps most obvious today in areas of fermentation, agriculture, pharmeceuticals, materials design sciences, and energy. Communications sciences and biology are constructions of natural-technical objects of knowledge in which the difference between machine and organism is thoroughly blurred; mind, body, and tool are on very intimate terms. The material organization of the production and reproduction of daily life and the symbolic organization of the production and reproduction of culture and imagination seem equally implicated. The images of base and superstructure, public and private, or material and ideal never seemed more feeble to mark the boundaries of needed analysis. This paper is premised on the very permeable boundaries between material and symbolic reality; i.e., between production, reproduction, and interpretation in the political struggle for the constitution of daily life.
I have used Rachel Grossman's image of women in the integrated circuit to name the situation of women in a world so intimately restructured through the social relations of science and technology. I use the odd circumlocution, "the social relations of science and technology," to indicate plainly that we are not dealing here with a technological determinism, but with an historical system depending upon the structured relations among people. But the phrase should also indicate that science and technology provide fresh sources of power, that we need fresh sources of analysis and political action. I would like now to suggest some of the structures I think a socialist feminist politics urgently needs to come to terms with. My purpose is to try to understand some of the rearrangements of race, sex, and class rooted in hi tech-facilitated social relations in ways that make socialist feminism potentially more relevant than ever to effective progressive politics. I will not examine directly the social transformations connected to electronics, such as world-wide restructuring of relations of home and work place and fundamental restructuring of race and gender compositions of working classes. But I will try to draw a fuller picture of material and cultural reworkings linked to biotechnologies, especially genetic engineering. If some of the immediate social impacts are less dramatic, for example in patterns of paid employment, the longer range implications for the historical reconstitution of our bodies and activities are similarly radical.
GENETIC ENGINEERING: A CREATION MYTH
"Genetic engineering" is an extraordinary phrase, loaded with implicit and explicit meanings. It is a science fiction expression, suggesting the triumph of phallogocentric lust to recreate the world without the intermediary of fleshy women's bodies. It hints at the end of intersubjective sexuality and the reign of masturbatory rationality in its deracinated, permanently pornographic form. Engineering, in contrast to the skills of bricolage, is embedded in a myth of creation de novo, of radical redesign and control. The engineering of nature without natural or divine limit is one of the powerful mythological structures embedded in our historiography of the "scientific revolution." Popular writing about genetic engineering frequently explicitly refers to Judeo-Christian stories of the origin, the garden, the fall, the word made flesh -- this time by the word of "man." Virgin birth, this time without women; Greek mythological figures of chimeras; test tube babies cloned for technocracy; the custom-made child; the eighth day of creation: these are the images evoked by genetic engineering and molecular biology in general. Genetic engineering implies the end of pain, the end of "mistakes" at the origin, the birth of only perfect children (and only perfect commodities) in a utopia of complete self possession. Genetic engineering seems to be about ultimate control of "life" through technical mastery of origins. Nothing happens that isn't willed; nothing is a gift, but everything is an exchange. In addition, genetic engineering seems to be about mega-profits, about custom-tailored materials instantly commodified in the interests of a final accumulation, a final capitalization. Medicine, sex, and multinational capital all fuse in a dream-nightmare called the realization of the project of humanism, the self-creation of man in his personal body and in his fabricated world. Nothing in the world seems to be able to resist the power of "technology," and this particular technology seems to embody an untimate power.
Small wonder that it is difficult to have an ordinary political discussion about genetic engineering. It seems inadequate to talk about risks and benefits; and the bureaucratic languages of quality control, consumer protection, and environmental hazards leave something out. The pallid discourse of bioethics is patently impotent to grapple with the nature of power here. To discuss genetic engineering is to enter into a realm where every statement and every social structure recalls the tabooed, the forbidden, the ultimately desired dream of self presence and mastery. To engage in genetic engineering is like loving one's personal computer -- to cast one's lot with the forces of apocalypse. Perhaps I have overdrawn the mythic load of genetic engineering; but I do think it is not possible to examine the politics of "biotechnology" (the cleaned up, euphemistic term, as well as the broader term for the emergence of biology as a powerful and very general technology) without being sensitive to these echoes. Indeed, genetic engineering is inherently a technology for the production of meanings, as well as for the production of bodies. Both these productions mark the reasons for developing our own biotechnology politics, in language and in other practice. To sort out these politics, I will sketch a few recent scientific-technical developments and political possibilities around genetic engineering in human reproduction ("sex"), agriculture ("food"), and industry ("work").
SEX, REPRODUCTION, AND GENETIC ENGINEERING
It is not now possible to correct genetic defects in human embryos or fetuses by inserting new genes or altering existing ones. Recombinant DNA techniques in principle should allow this kind of control, and gene insertion and expression in mouse embryos at comparable stages to human embryos have been achieved. But nuanced genetic control of human development may in fact be extremely elusive, in part because of the very style of research in molecular biology and developmental biology being encouraged by the new, market-driven social relations of research in the major biomedical research institutions, including universities and medical schools. Actual "design" of a human embryo is at present a dream, or nightmare, at odds with a growing system of research which insists on rapid product development and which results in technical virtuosity, but theoretical poverty among the new generations of biologists. This is a controversial assertion, clearly, but one that is rooted in the kinds of data being generated within molecular biology itself.
Detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms of genetic processes in bacteria has been achieved over the past 30 years since Watson and Crick's famous paper on the structure of DNA. Research over the same period of time has confirmed suspicions that the genetic systems of organisms like ourselves, whose chromosomes are organized in a nucleus, are fundamentally more complex. Isolated genes from mammals can now be forced into a kind of production in bacterial systems, yielding a product such as human insulin or interferon. The projected market for interferons is set in multi-billion dollar figures, comparable to the antibiotic industries that bloomed (molded?) after World War II. The stakes are high, and the market pressures to be first to capture major markets and to cover the field with a succesful patent strategy are irresistable. Established relations of so-called pure and applied science, built up within a framework of biomedical research funding, have been shattered by the entry of big multinationals as well as the establishment of small, highly innovative firms such as Cetus or Genentech in molecular biology. In the rush to establish close ties among industry, university, and government science policy in Europe, the United States, and Japan, the pressures on chiefs of labs as well as on graduate students to cast their lot with the new, super-fast track in molecular biology are very intense. It is more than simply possible that the emerging "styles" of doing biology will greatly inhibit fundamental genetic understanding. Style here is a euphemism for naked market pressure.
Of course, physical sciences solved a version of this problem at the beginning of the 20th century in the establishment of social structures such as the Bell Telephone Laboratories, where basic science was structurally encouraged and scientists were buffered from direct product development pressures. One fruit of this research structure is the "communications revolution" itself -- like it or not, monopoly capital built ways to underwrite the kind of restructuring of objects of knowledge in our social world that partially ground the current world-scale rearrangements in the relations of class, gender, and race associated with electronics. But this structure is breaking down even in the Bell Telephone system, and new forms of competition in telecommunications threaten the practice of basic science. It is certainly true that leftists and feminists have gone to a lot of trouble to demystify the notion of basic science and to show its intimate interweavings and constitutions in social practice. But the distinction does indicate a system of mediations of knowledge and power that we should not gleefully dismiss.
So why should socialist feminists and other people on the left care if the social relations of the practice of molecular biology actually work to inhibit establishment of the most radical forms of genetic control based on the most powerful kinds of theory construction? Shouldn't we be largely relieved that the rapid deep control (vs some single gene therapies) of human reproduction promised in high tech propoganda are likely not true? No, there is no ground for pleasure in the flattening of biology, its linguistic (metaphoric) impoverishment, the intensification of its social hierarchies, the narrowing of understanding of organisms by its practicioners, the removal of degrees of freedom in a major social institutionalized practice for imagining and putting into practice large areas of daily life. Nuanced genetic understanding of mammalian development is not an enemy, but a potential source of intense intellectual and aesthetic pleasure and of instrumental power to relieve some pain for some people, perhaps many people. To enjoy the current impoverishment of biology while it gains in narrow forms of power is like refusing to acknowledge important differences between a Reagan or Thatcher government and a liberal government under capitalist conditions. It matters a great deal to contest actively for sturctures of research in industries, universities, hospitals, and research institutes which encourage buffers from market pressures; diversity in "styles" of research; experimentation in social relations within the laboratory itself; connection with a variety of progressive social organizations which need particular kinds of scientific technique and understanding (unions, science shops, health and safety activists, teachers, anti-military research groups, environmental activists); and exploration of radically different metaphor systems for thinking the biological world. The era before recombinant DNA technology was hardly an age of social innocence for biology; a quick glance at its major metaphor systems give some hint of the depth of its rootedness in competitive and agressive social systems. But further "capitalizing" the social relations of biology will only intensify the problems, including deepening an alienating relation to medical expertise for reproducing women, while depleting welcome technical power to heal or prevent some suffering.
But if true genetic engineering of mammalian embryos seems distant, except for modest therapies for single gene disorders at best, other forms of reproductive technology linked to in vitro fertilization (IVF) are being perfected and are widely practiced in western countries, especially England, Australia, and the United States. The demand for IVF-assisted pregnancy in the United States is estimated to be potentially, if ability to pay is discounted, about 35,000 babies per year. At present a few hundred such babies are underway. This technology is part of the infra-structure of any future genetic engineering, so it is worth looking at some of the political questions developing here to see if feminist practices might establish a foothold. The picture is not bright. It is a notorious historical fact that birth control technologies were experimentally developed on the basis of research "on" poor women, for example the trials of the pill in Puerto Rico. IVF techniques follow quite a different class and race pattern; IVF is very expensive and it is available through "for profit" medical institutions. One estimate places the cost for a single implantation procedure, from screening through injection of an early embryo, at $5000. The same source estimates the cost of treatment, wages lost, housing at a distant medical center, etc. at about $35,000 to achieve a 50% chance of a successful pregnancy. Medical insurance does not cover such procedures, much less ancillary expenses. It is cheaper to rent a neighbor's uterus, but if the baby simply must be a copy of oneself, a pure form of property, IVF is available and largely safe. A victory for "choice." The technology makes sex selection easy, readily lends itself to freezing embryos for future use, and in the words of one expert, allows "separat[ing] genetic selection from spouse selection." A professional woman, with the aid of the salary of a professional man (the salaries of two professional women probably would not be enough), could freeze an embryo made from her eggs while she is young, and then experience pregnancy later. While some government regulation of the IVF practices is being developed, it is basically conceived as a matter of private medical practice as long as it remains within heterosexual, wealthy contexts. Non-binding guidelines from the Ethics Advisory Board of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the U.S. in 1979 limited IVF procedures to married couples. The amount of expertise and expensive machinery involved rules out bootlegging, as a women's health clinic in Oakland, California, does with artificial insemination for lesbians and other women excluded by heterosexist medical systems. At present, IVF practice makes starkly clear class bias, heterosexism, and commodification of children in the social and technical systems critical to genetic engineering.
A second set of techniques in current reproductive technology is also part of the infrastructure of any future genetic engineering: fetal diagnosis and therapy, including fetal surgery. It is critical to have a feminist technology policy in these areas, but again, the picture is not now bright. For example, a new test blood test administered early in pregnancy and capable of detecting the likelihood of neural tube defects is about to be deregulated in the United States over the objections of associations of pediatricians and obstetricians, who are concerned that unskilled practitioners will produce many false positives and will not know how to do proper follow up testing. It is clearly in the interest of pregnant women to have early diagnostic procedures for serious abnormalities; amniocentesis which must be performed in the second trimester, now widely used by women over 35, involves enormous physical, moral, and emotional difficulties. There are also good historical grounds to suspect professional associations' claims to protect women by monopolizing skills. However, there are also good reasons to guard against commercialized and exploitative medical incompetence or even quackery; professional medical associations have dual edged effects. In this important controversy, there has been no systematic effort to involve organized groups of women in decision making. Feminist intervention is essential in all such decision processes.
Fetal diagnosis is closely linked to fetal therapy, a quite prestigious field for performing medical feats that can bring a physician considerable fame and fortune, analogous to heart surgery. Obviously, women also have to undergo surgery when their fetus does. The boundary between a woman and her baby, always a tortured and complex one, is thus of professional and commercial interest to a powerful group in society. One does not need to believe that doctors are malicious to see the formation of medical policy here as a feminist and socialist priority.
Perhaps the largest challenge in genetic engineering and associated reproductive technologies is to our beliefs about the nature of our bodies, about where our bodies end and the environment or other people begin. The distinctions between natural and artificial are thoroughly restructured in modern sciences, and in the areas of sex and reproduction such displacements have intimate consequences for our imaginations and our lives. Devices for therapy, diagnosis, and eventual redesign in human reproduction are all technical embodiements of a profound modern material rearrangement of limits. Machines routinely visualize deep body spaces without requiring cutting or gross penetration. Genetic material can be packaged in virus or other sub-visible structures and inserted deep inside us or our offspring. A manufactured gene is not essentially different from a "natural" one; sex is not necessary to reproduction even for mammals; natural unities seem like kinky mystical illusions. It hardly needs emphasizing that women have big stakes in the construction of surfaces, boundaries, and connections among scientific-technical-medical objects of knowledge and practice. I do not think we need concepts and practices appropriate to an illusory natural body, but I do think we need the imaginations and material power to draw our own lines on the world.
NATURE AS A SYSTEM OF PRODUCTION: GENETIC ENGINEERING IN THE REDESIGN OF AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY
Limitations of space forbid adequate discussion of this immense area of genetic engineering, but it is critical to remember that biotechnology is like electronics in the depth of implications for the ways we make what we eat, build with, or use in any way to construct our lives. Organisms are not special natural unities, whether they are fetuses, plants, or bacteria; they are particular technological solutions to a production problem. We learned from studies of capitalism and the industrial revolution that technology has been developed in the service of a redistribution and consolidation of power for the owning classes; biotechnology has been and will be no exception. Contesting for the construction of these technologies is contesting for the basic systems of production and reproduction into the next century. I will simply recall a few of the dimensions of these technologies as they are now developing.
The largest expected markets in biotechnology, in which genetic engineering is the star technique, are in chemicals, agriculture, and energy. The clumsy technical methods of the Green Revolution, relying on crosses of slow, sexually-reproducing organisms, will give way to directed mutation and detailed design for amounts of specific nutrients, for example a particular amino acid in corn or total protein content in another grain. Nitrogen fixation capacities can in principle be added to a wide range of food plants, and aggressive research is under way. Efficiencies of light or nutrient use can be fine-tuned if the molecular basis of plant effciency yields to current research. Major multi-nationals have established large agri-genetic programs and have bought out seed companies, for example, Shell, Occidental, Atlantic Richfield, Sandoz, Upjohn, Pfizer, Ciba Geigy, Union Carbide, Purex, and ITT. Disease resistances can be built in or not, depending on the cost effectiveness of particular ways to circumvent the wiles of insects, fungi, and bacteria in particular agricultural systems. If the power of Green Revolution technologies allied to big capital displaced millions of peasants world wide and generated new levels of dependency on large capital for millions more, current social arrangements of biotechnology will ensure orders of magnitude more displacement and dependency. The point is capital accumulation, not food, hardly a startling point for socialists. The matter is particularly urgent for socialist feminists in view of the fact that world-wide women produce about 50% of the subsistence food, but in no sense do women share equally with men in Third World (or any world) agriculture development projects. The big market agricultures are almost exclusively monopolized by ruling class men; both gender and class matter a lot.
In addition to food, other industrial materials are greatly affected by genetic engineering. Specific, large scale production of enzymes in many kinds of industrial processing could fundamentally change labor requirements and many aspects of the social division of labor. Biotechnology also offers the likelihood of designing specific molecular tools cheaply for quite small batch production and processing, possibly making it cost effective to target quite small markets profitably. Robotics has some of the same implications for tailor-made production in electronic industrial technologies. Close ties of government, industry, and university will prevail in the intense international competition; one observer believes that biotechnology industrial structure, with a mixed pattern of companies including those relying of venture capital and large multinationals, all integrated with universities and national science policies in quite new ways, represents the future general form of high technology industry.
The guiding theme of my argument has been that the social relations of science and technology, visible in electronics and biotechnology, are powerful techniques for intensifying the commodification of everything, partly through the displacement and redrawing of basic boundaries through which objects are socially constituted. These objects include ourselves. Science writes the world, makes marks on the body, inscribes its realities; this process is inherently political. It is more necessary now than ever for socialist feminists to be the writers, not simply in adopting the important but narrow role of scientist, but most crucially in setting comprehensive boundary conditions for production and reproduction. I think it is not now possible to live in a "natural" world, and that our most powerful social movements will not grow from such appeals. For example, I think the continued strength of the peace movements will depend partly on much more detailed development of alternative, serious technology policies which inspire cultural and economic confidence in the world's comprehensively displaced peoples, including ourselves. Appeals to a natural world are useful for resisting, stopping, saying no; they are not potent in the late 20th century for redrawing the basic structure of objects of knowledge and practice. For better or worse, our form of social existence has permanently displaced the dualisms of nature and science, natural and artificial. The distinctions we need to have the power to make are at the core of science and technology as "politics by other means."
WOMEN'S PLACE IN THE INTEGRATED CIRCUIT: AN INFORMATICS OF DOMINATION
Let me summarize the picture of women's historical locations in advanced industrial socieities, as these positions have been restructured partly by the social relations of science and technology. If it was ever possible ideologically to characterize women's lives by the distinction of public and private domains, suggested by images of the division of working class life into factory and home or of gender existence into personal and political realms, for example, it is now a totally midleading ideology, even for the purpose of showing how both terms of these dichotomies really construct each other in practice and in theory. I prefer a network ideological image, suggesting the profusion of spaces and identities and the permeability of boundaries in the actual personal body and in the body politic. So let me return to the earlier image in this paper of the informatics of domination and trace one vision of women's place in the integrated circuit, taking account only of the following social locations: Home, Market, Paid Work Place, State, School, Clinic-Hospital. My purpose is to suggest the impact of the social relations of the new technologies in a way to help us formulate needed analysis and practical work. I will proceed by listing each space and associated critical aspects. In each case, differences due to class and race should be imagined.
HOME: Serial monogamy, flight of men, women headed-households, old women alone, technology of domestic work, paid home work, reemergence of home sweat shops, home-based businesses and telecommuting, electronic cottage.
MARKET: Women's continuing consumption work, newly targeted to buy the profusion of new production from the new technologies (especially as the competitive race among industrialized and industrializing nations to avoid dangerous mass unemployment necessitates finding ever bigger new markets for ever less clearly needed commodities), bimodal buying power coupled with advertizing targeting of the numerous affluent groups and neglect of the previous mass markets, growing importance of informal markets in labor and commodities parallel to hi tech, affluent market structures.
PAID WORK PLACE: Continued intense sexual and racial division of labor but considerable growth of membership in privileged occupational categories for many white women and people of color; impact of new technologies on women's work in clerical, service, manufacturing (especially textiles), agriculture, electronics categories; international restructuring of the working classes; development of new time arangements to facilitate the homework economy (flex time, part time, over time, no time); homework and out work.
STATE: Collapse of the welfare state, decentralizations with increased surveillance and control, citizenship by telematics, satellite communication systems and political integrations, imperialism and political power broadly in the form of information rich/information poor differentiation, increased hi tech militarization increasingly opposed by many social groups, reduction of civil service jobs with the growing capital intensification of office work with implications for occupational mobility for women of color, growing privatization of material and ideological life and culture.
SCHOOL: Crash of public education as any relation between skills learned at school and job future becomes unbelievable, involvment of managerial classes in educational reform and refunding at the cost of any remaining progressive educational democratic structures for children and teachers, education for mass ignorance and repression in technocratic and militarized culture, growing anti-science mystery cults in dissenting and radical political movements, continued relative scientific illiteracy among white women and people of color, growing industrial direction of education (especially higher education) by science-based multinationals (particularly in electronics and biotechnology dependent companies), highly educated elites in a progressively bimodal society.
CLINIC-HOSPITAL: Reconstitution of reproductive technologies, intimate machine-body relations, growing feminization of hospital work, declining state responsibility for health, struggles over meanings and means of health in environments pervaded by the presence of high technology products and processes, constitution of historically specific diseases and bodies.
The only possible way to characterize the informatics of domination in the network of relations I have suggested above is as a massive intensification of insecurity and cultural impoverishment, along with common failure of subsistence networks for the most vulnerable. Since I think much of the above picture interweaves with the social relations of science and technology, I think the urgency of a socialist feminist politics addressed to science and technology is plain. There is much now being done, and the grounds for political work are rich. The efforts to develop forms of collective struggle for women in paid work, like SEIU's District 925, should be a high priority for all of us for many reasons. One reason is that these efforts are profoundly tied to technical restructuring of labor processes and reformations of working classes. Further, these efforts also are providing understanding of a more comprehensive kind of labor organization, involving centrally community issues and sexuality and family issues never privileged in the largely white male industrial unions.
AMBIVALENCE, POLITICS, AND THE RECONSTRUCTION OF PARTIAL WHOLES
Most of the structural rearrangements related to the social relations of science and technology evoke strong ambivalence, although I have stressed the more disturbing dimensions in this essay. I find it hard to be ultimately depressed by the picture of women's structural, permanent, active relation to all aspects of work, production of knowledge, sexuality, and reproduction. Deconstructions of boundaries between nature and science, the natural and artificial, are also not cause for despair. There are grounds for hope in the emerging bases for new kinds of unity across race, gender, and class, as these elementary units of socialist feminist analysis themselves go through protean transformations. But it would be irresponsible not to focus clearly on the great intensifications of hardship presently experienced world-wide in connection with the social relations of science and technology. It is useful to remember the odd perspective generated from my historical position--a Ph.D. in biology for an Irish Catholic girl--made possible by Sputnik's impact on U.S. national science educational policy. I have a body and mind at least as much constructed by the post-World War II arms race and Cold War as by the women's movements. It is easier to see grounds for hope by focusing on the contradictory effects of policies designed to produce loyal American technocrats, which as well produced large numbers of dissidents, rather than by seeing chiefly the present defeats of some of our visions of socialist feminism and the disarray of any national, practical socialist feminist presence. There are many possibilities for developing socialist feminist politics and good reason for continuing within that tradition despite its failures. The permanent partiality of a socialist feminist point of view has consequences for our expectations of forms of political organization and participation. We do not need a totality in order to work well; quite the opposite.
That we need to work on science and technology areas with a sense of urgency has been my main argument here. That we have many rich legacies in analysis and practice from which to grow in these areas has also been my point. I think despite the traditional weakness of both marxian and feminist theory and practice on the social relations of science and technology, we have not been completely silent and we can be very powerful in developing contributions.
In the remainder of this essay, I would like to attempt two things: 1) naming more fully some priorities socialist feminists might particularly address, and 2) sketching an ironic myth of political identity that celebrates some aspects of hi tech imaginations and embodiment particularly promising for feminists.
First, the relevance of science and technology to feminist participation in anti-nuclear and environmentalist movements is plain, but the breadth of our analysis must be expanded from a present over-reliance on views of woman and nature which cannot accomodate the lived complexity of the issues. There is less need to reject views of woman and nature which make one nervous than to develop our understanding of social reconstructions of both woman and nature in hi tech social orders. I think the ideologies and practices of ecofeminism would be enriched by a strong socialist feminist attention to analysis and political organization around the social relations of science and technology. I doubt that the images and practices around sex and sexuality, reproduction, mothering, and nurturing are the richest sources of our needed insight here. Deepening the empirical and theoretical understanding of women's places in science-based industry, in the homework economy, in the social institutions of science and technology is important. We need to know in detail how technology transfer policies in Third World countries differentially affect ethnic and gender groups. These policies are especially critical for agriculture. We need to know how the activities of the World Health Organization affect women's access to medical and scientific knowledge and control of the bases of public health systems. We need to know how the expansion and relocation of science-based industry and research institutions will affect educational possibilites, cultural life, and economic status of different groups of women, children, and men. We need to know about the detailed and complex redistribution of skill and ignorance involved in a rapidly changing social system of science and technology. Very few of our present metaphor systems for discussing these matters allow us to acknowledge how little we really understand and how little prepared we are to be effective public actors in reforming science and technology.
Active feminist reconstruction of science and technology requires immersion in forms of knowledge and practice not now friendly to most women, feminist or not. But we are present and active in constructing the social relations of science and technology, like it or not. By the late 20th century, there is no choice in this matter. Our politics and livelihoods are significantly determined by science-based social orders --whether we are a clerical worker at the Lawrence Livermore weapons laboratories, an engineer on the MX project, a witch in Santa Rita jail for blockading a weapons lab, or a grocery clerk using automated inventory and check out systems. Our problem is to be less serviceable and more determining of the structure of objects of knowledge and of forms of scientific social practice. Feminist ethnographies of scientific practice, hi tech cultural interpretation, imaginations of possible feminist science, cultural productions like science fiction and feminist film explorations of hi tech imagery all seem necessary. Two recent U.S. events, the "Microelectronics in Transition: Industrial Transformation and Social Change" conference in Santa Cruz, California, and the Barnard Scholar and Feminist conference in New York on "The Question of Technology," indicated both how much there is to know and how ready feminists of all hues and many progressive people are to take science and technology politics more seriously.
Strong practical alliances with groups engaged in struggling over the social relations of science and technology should be developed. These groups include conversion projects, the World Council of Churches, unions, occupational health and safety organizations, agribusiness accountability projects, and many more. Hi tech user groups, including several groups of technologically savy women, some of whom identify as feminist, might be promising social organizations with whom to explore alliances and from whom to learn things that do not fit our present stereotypes. We ought to insist that organizations naming themselves as socialist feminist--in particular, the Democratic Socialists of America--develop a coherent science and technology policy. In the U.S. feminist and socialist journals like Socialist Review, Feminist Studies, and Radical America should be encouraged to develop analysis of issues and practices connected to science and technology. Socialist feminists could do good work in alliance with the Congressional Black Caucus, and California Congressperson Ronald Dellums in particular, helping to formulate alternative budgets, national and international analysis of social meanings of biotechnologies and communications sciences, and agendas for race/gender/class sensitive science and technology policies to encourage wide public debate. We could help formulate science and technology implications and issues in various elections and in legislative debates. The Jobs with Peace campaign would be seriously enriched by development of a carefully worked out alternative research and technology agenda. The National Organization for Women could have a task force writing a feminist science and technology policy for the 1984 elections. Right now the level of debate in the California legislature on the social relations of hi tech, e.g., communications technologies, is anemic. It could be very interesting to work with feminist and other organizations to relate science and technology issues to questions of jobs, food, feminization of poverty, health, neighborhood structure, education, economic power, and racial hierarchies. If our vision could become broad enough, we could perhaps begin to articulate public issues on which no one right now is speaking very coherently. Certainly, time spent reading the official reports of the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment or of the National Science Foundation or National Academy of Sciences convinces me how little attention the broad social meanings of science and technology is now receiving. What would it take to get some of our questions into national science policy debate? If it is true that the material, symbolic, and cultural positions of women world-wide make our historical moment a time when we might have favorable vantage points for understanding the social relations of science and technology, we are responsible for doing much more than we are.
Finally, I want to conclude with a hi tech myth about identity and boundaries which might be promising for our political imaginations. I am indebted in this story to writers like Joanna Russ, Samuel Delaney, John Varley, James Tiptree, Jr., Octavia Butler, Monique Wittig, Vonda McIntyre, and Marge Piercy; these are our story tellers who provide re-explorations of what it means to be embodied in hi tech worlds. These are the theorists for cyborgs. The anthropologist Mary Douglas should be credited with helping us to consciousness about how fundamental body imagery is to world view, and so to political language. In both Natural Symbols and Purity and Danger, she explored the fundamental role of conceptions of bodily boundaries and social order. French feminists like Luce Irigaray and Monique Wittig, for all their differences, know how to write the body, how to weave eroticism, cosmology, and politics from imagery of embodiment, and especially for Wittig, from imagery of fragmentation and reconstitution of bodies. U.S. radical feminists like Susan Griffin, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich have profoundly affected the political imaginations of all of us -- and perhaps helped restrict too much what we allow as a friendly body image and political language. They insist on the organic, and oppose the organic and technological. My suspicion is that there are great riches for feminists in embracing the possibilities inherent in the breakdown of clean distinctions between organism and machine. What might be learned from personal and political technological pollution?
Certain dualisms have been persistent in Western traditions; they have all been systemic to the logics and practices of domination of women, people of color, nature, workers, animals -- in short, domination of all others. Chief among these troubling dualisms are self/other, mind/body, culture/nature, male/female, civilized/primitive, reality/appearance, whole/part, agent/resource, maker/made, active/passive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial, God/man. The self is the One who is not dominated, who knows that by the service of the other; the other is the one who holds the future, who knows that by the experience of domination, which gives the lie to the autonomy of the self. To be One is to be autonomous, to be powerful, to be God; but to be One is to be an illusion, and so to be involved in a dialectic of apocylypse with the other. Yet to be other, is to be multiple, without clear boundary, frayed, insubstantial. One is too few, but two are too many.
Hi tech culture challenges these dualisms in intriguing ways. It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine. It is not clear what is mind and what body in machines that resolve into coding practices. It gives me great pleasure to watch traditional male, white, Western philosophers suddenly identify with body, with animality, when they feel their human identity threatened by the decision procedures of computers. For them, to be human is now less mind than body, because machine seems to threaten mind in the late 20th century in the way it threatened body in the 19th. But I maintain that in so far as we know ourselves in both formal discourse (e.g., biology) and in daily practice, we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras. I argued above that biological organisms have become technological biotic systems from the point of view of biological science, most certainly including the ecology reponsible for the concept of ecosystem, that crucial concept for ecofeminism. Biotic systems are communications devices like others. There is no fundamental, ontological separation in our formal knowldge of machine and organism, of technical and organic. One consequence is that our sense of connection to our tools is heightened. The trance state experienced by many computer users has become a staple of science fiction film and cultural jokes. Perhaps paraplegics and other severely handicapped people can (and sometimes do) have the most intense experiences of complex hybridization with other communication devices. A hi tech research program at Wayne State University attempts to understand the intermediate communication links in locomotion so that autonomous walking can be re-established after a spinal cord break. The task is to integrate a signal processing device in another possible location to bypass the barriers. Anne McCafferey's The Ship Who Sang explored the consciousness of a cyborg, hybrid of girl's brain and complex machinery, formed after the birth of a severely handicapped child. Gender, sexuality, embodiment, skill: all were reconstituted in the story. Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin? From the 17th century till now, machines could be animated--given ghostly souls to make them speak or move or to account for their orderly development and mental capacities. Or organisms could be mechanized--reduced to body understood as resource of mind. These machine/organism relationships are obsolete, unnecessary. For us, in imagination and in other practice, machines can be prosthetic devices, intimate components, friendly selves. We don't need organic holism to give impermeable wholeness, the total woman and her feminist variants (mutants?).
There are several consequences to taking seriously the imagery of cyborgs as other than our enemies. Our bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity. Cyborgs are no exceptions. A cyborg body is not innocent; it was not born in a garden; it does not seek unitary identity and so generate antagonistic dualisms without end (or until the world ends); it takes irony for granted. One is too few, and two is only one possibility. Intense pleasure in skill, machine skill, ceases to be a sin, but an aspect of embodiment. The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped, and dominated. The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they. Up till now (once upon a time), female embodiment seemed to be given, organic, necessary; and female embodiment seemed to mean skill in mothering and its metaphoric extensions. Only by being out of place could we take intense pleasure in machines, and then with excuses that this was organic activity after all, appropriate to females. Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all. Joanna Russ played without mercy with this suggestion in Female Man; none of the J's was one, whole, a source of salvation for the fragments, an historical justification, past or future.
The ideologically charged question of what counts as daily activity, as experience, can be approached by exploiting the cyborg image. Feminists have recently claimed that women are given to dailiness, that women more than men somehow sustain daily life, and so have a privileged epistemological position potentially. There is a compelling aspect to this claim, one that makes visible unvalued female activity and names it as the ground of life. But the ground of life? What about all the ignorance of women, all the exclusions and failures of knowledge and skill? What about men's access to daily competence, to knowing how to build things, to take them apart, to play? What about other embodiments? Cyborg gender is a local possibility, a partial identity. There is no drive in cyborgs to produce total theory, but there is an intimate experience of boundaries, their construction and deconstruction. There is a myth system waiting to become a political language to ground one way of looking at science and technology and challenging the informatics of domination. Cyborg imagery can help express two crucial arguments in this essay: 1) The production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but certainly now. 2) Taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skillful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in ironic communication with all of our parts. It is not just that science and technology are possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations. Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our tools to ourselves. This is a different dream of a common language. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, spaces, stories. I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.