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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Epigenetics in the neoliberal 'regime of truth'

by Charles Dupras and Vardit Ravitsky
Hastings Center Report - 2015

Here is an excerpt:

In this paper, we argue that the impetus to create new biomedical interventions to manipulate and reverse epigenetic variants is likely to garner more attention than effective social and public health interventions and therefore also to garner a greater share of limited public resources. This is likely to happen, we argue, because of the current biopolitical context in  which scientific findings are translated. This contemporary neoliberal “regime of truth,” to use a term from the historian and philosopher Michel Foucault, greatly influences the ways in which knowledge is being interpreted and implemented. Building on sociologist Thomas Lemke’s Foucauldian “analytics of biopolitics” and on literature from the field of science and technology studies,  we present two sociological trends that may impede the policy transla-tion of epigenetics: molecularization and biomedicalization. These trends,  we argue, are likely to favor the clini-cal translation of epigenetics—in other words, the development of new clinical tools fostering what has been called “personalized” or “precision” medicine.

In addition, we argue that an over-emphasized clinical translation of epigenetics may further reinforce this biopolitical landscape through four processes that are closely related to neoliberal pathways of thinking: the internalization and isolation (liberal individualism) of socioenvironmental determinants of health and increased opportunities for commodification and technologicalization  (economic liberalism) of health care interventions. Hence, epigenetics may end up promoting further the mobilization of resources toward technological innovation at the expense of public health and social strategies. Our analysis therefore first presents how the current biopolitical landscape may bias scientific knowledge translation and then circles around to explain how, in return, the outcome of a biased translation of epigenetics may strengthen our contemporary neoliberal “regime of truth.”

The paper is here.