Political Biology

Science and Social Values in Human Heredity from Eugenics to Epigenetics

Authors: Meloni, M.

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About this book

This book explores the socio-political implications of human heredity from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present postgenomic moment. It addresses three main phases in the politicization of heredity: the peak of radical eugenics (1900-1945), characterized by an aggressive ethos of supporting the transformation of human society via biological knowledge; the repositioning, after 1945, of biological thinking into a liberal-democratic, human rights framework; and the present postgenomic crisis in which the genome can no longer be understood as insulated from environmental signals.
In Political Biology, Maurizio Meloni argues that thanks to the ascendancy of epigenetics we may be witnessing a return to soft heredity - the idea that these signals can cause changes in biology that are themselves transferable to succeeding generations. This book will be of great interest to scholars across science and technology studies, the philosophy and history of science, and political and social theory.

About the authors

Maurizio Meloni is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, UK. He is a social theorist working on the historical, conceptual, and political implications of the life sciences. He is also an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter, UK, and has held two EU Marie Curie Fellowships, a Fulbright scholarship, and an Annual Membership (2014–2015) at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA.

Reviews

“The book offers not only an updated and complex synthesis of existing historiography on the whole range of topics it deals with, but also presents the reader with a future-oriented narrative framework that by its very argumentative structuring invites critical reflection on the synthesis it presents, as well as on the implications and consequences issuing from the present day entwinement of biology and politics. I recommend the book very highly … .” (Snait B. Gissis, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Vol. 62, April, 2017) 

“With Political Biology Maurizio Meloni has pulled together a strikingly wide range of scholarly sources from the history of the human sciences and heredity … . There is a great deal that historians of science will enjoy and admire about Meloni’s work, particularly the breadth of reading and commitment to delivering the value of historical research to contemporary social and policy predicaments … . Political Biology is engaging, clear and an excellent inclusion in HPS and STS syllabi.” (Dominic J. Berry, British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 50 (1), 2017)


Maurizio Meloni has written by far the most comprehensive and insightful analysis of the political implications of biology we have seen. He covers three important recent stages: the hard-hereditarianism from approximately 1900 to 1945; the predominantly liberal-democratic conception of biology from about 1945 to 1990; and the postgenomic framework of the last decades which has brought us a blurring of the boundary between nature and nurture. With the development of epigenetics, in particular, we now face totally new potentialities, including both benefits and dangers. Anyone wishing to understand the relationship of biology to society needs to read this important book.' - Loren Graham, Professor Emeritus of the History of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, USA

'In Political Biology Maurizio Meloni takes a fresh look at the relationship between politics and biology in the long twentieth century. The title is programmatic: For Meloni, biology is always a form of doing politics. This way of looking at biology opens up the field, and allows Meloni to explore surprising alliances between Lamarckism and totalitarian ideologies or between hard hereditarianism and liberal democracy after World War II. At the moment when biology changes its face once more, with the longstanding hegemony of hard hereditarianism waning, Meloni asks us to look back at political biology in the twentieth century and to realize that any naïve association of soft hereditarianism with liberalism may indeed itself be a politically dangerous idea.' - Staffan Müller-Wille, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology Exeter University, UK, and co-author of A Cultural History of Heredity 

'A rich account of the politics/biology of hard and soft inheritance  - one that clearly demonstrates the need for a fuller engagement between science studies and the history of science.' - Evelyn Fox Keller, Professor Emerita of the History and Philosophy of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

'The hereditarian paradigm of genetics has recently been challenged by the rise of epigenetics, with huge potential consequences for debates over the social implications of biology. Meloni's book is a timely warning that we should not jump to conclusions based on oversimplified myths about the links between science and politics. He uses the nuanced analyses developed by historians of science to show that parallels between current theories and those of previous generations offer no assurances that a decline in hereditarian thinking will lead to more liberal social attitudes.' - Peter Bowler, Professor Emeritus, School of History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast, UK

Table of contents (8 chapters)

  • Political Biology and the Politics of Epistemology

    Meloni, Maurizio

    Pages 1-31

  • Nineteenth Century: From Heredity to Hard Heredity

    Meloni, Maurizio

    Pages 32-63

  • Into the Wild: The Radical Ethos of Eugenics

    Meloni, Maurizio

    Pages 64-92

  • A Political Quadrant

    Meloni, Maurizio

    Pages 93-135

  • Time for a Repositioning: Political Biology after 1945

    Meloni, Maurizio

    Pages 136-158

Buy this book

eBook $79.99
price for Mexico (gross)
  • ISBN 978-1-137-37772-2
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $105.00
price for Mexico
  • ISBN 978-1-137-37771-5
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Political Biology
Book Subtitle
Science and Social Values in Human Heredity from Eugenics to Epigenetics
Authors
Copyright
2016
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan UK
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s)
eBook ISBN
978-1-137-37772-2
DOI
10.1057/9781137377722
Hardcover ISBN
978-1-137-37771-5
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XI, 284
Topics