To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
The close of ‘the short twentieth century’ in 1991 (Hobsbawm 1994) was followed by a deluge of proclaimed endings – of history, of nature, of politics – and even, some argued, of endings themselves. Later on in the same decade Bruno Latour (1999) caught the spirit of the moment when he proclaimed that society had moved beyond the age of revolutions, and that modes of succession have become replaced by modes of coexistence. In this chapter we take one emblematic technology of that period – the genetically modified organism (GMO) as deployed in agricultural biotechnology – and use it to explore this complex moment at the end of the twentieth century. The emergence of a neoliberal global order in the 1990s had substituted technological progress for the agonistic struggles of history. However, in the story of GM crops and the ‘biotech revolution’, we find that this neutralised technological agenda became challenged and obstructed. In this situation, those attempting to govern the GM controversy in the European Union of the early twenty-first century resorted to rhetorics and regimes of ‘coexistence’ between parallel agro-food socio-technical systems. Here, instead of the triumphant succession of one technological and social system over another, it was suggested that three separate agro-food systems – GM agriculture, ‘conventional’ industrial agriculture, and organic alternatives – could and should ‘coexist’ in the same time-space. Tropes of progress in time became eclipsed by ones of coexistence in space, as capitalism tried to establish a new spatio-temporal fix (Jessop 2006). For the public controversy around GM food, the enabling of consumer choice through labelling represented the dissolution of political antagonisms over ‘the environment’ into apparently mutually compatible and individualised market choices. At the same time, a new machinery of public participation attempted to incorporate opposition within consensual regimes, through government-sponsored events like ‘GM Nation?’ (Reynolds and Szerszynski 2007). In the architecture of this ‘deliberative’ process the opinions of ‘engaged publics’ who attended events were ‘balanced’ by neutralised samplings of a ‘general public’ constructed as dispassionate and uncommitted – and therefore somehow more legitimate (Reynolds 2013). Regimes of choice, consensus and coexistence were thus deployed to defuse the strange and complex political charge that was building up around GM crops and foods.
There are few scientific texts that have rivalled Charles Darwin's On the origin of species (1859) for the impact they have had on the way that people understand nature and their place in it. In the context of an enduring belief in the biblical account of the ‘special creation’ of species by God, Darwin's claim that all species were related through common descent was heterodox enough, yet not entirely novel. Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus, had been an early proponent of evolutionary thought, and the anonymous publication of the Vestiges of the natural history of creation (1844) by the journalist and publisher Robert Chambers had caused much controversy with its speculative history of cosmological ‘transmutation’, in which all living things had developed from earlier, simpler forms. But what was new and arguably more significant in Darwin's work was the idea that the emergence of new and often more complex species could be explained by ‘natural selection’: by the way that environmental pressure will favour the reproduction of those individuals that possess certain characteristics, a process that over a long period of time can radically alter the characteristics of an interbreeding population. The influence of Darwin's book was clearly also enhanced by his accessible and engaging prose, and the way that it combined detailed evidence from an extraordinary range of domains with an inductive style of scientific reasoning that went well beyond a strict Baconian method; instead he deployed metaphor to grasp the similarities between the dissimilar and then sought to persuade the reader of the reality of that metaphor.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.