1984 A Cyborg Manifesto [EN]

A Cyborg Manifesto

faculty georgetown edu irvinem theory Haraway CyborgManifesto html

Donna Haraway


Donna Haraway A Cyborg Manifesto Science Technology and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century in Simians Cyborgs and Women The Reinvention of Nature New York Routledge 1991 pp 49 181


This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism socialism and materialism

Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful than as reverent worship and identification

Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously

I know no better stance to adopt from within the secular religious evangelical traditions of United States politics including the politics of socialist feminism

Blasphemy protects one from the moral majority within while still insisting on the need for community

Blasphemy is not apostasy

Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes even dialectically about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true

Irony is about humour and serious play

It is also a rhetorical strategy and a political method one I would like to see more honoured within socialistfeminism

At the centre of my ironic faith my blasphemy is the image of the cyborg

A cyborg is a cybernetic organism a hybrid of machine and organism a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction

Social reality is lived social relations our most important political construction a world changing fiction

The international women s movements have constructed women s experience as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object

This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial political kind

Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness the imaginative apprehension of oppression and so of possibility

The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women s experience in the late twentieth century

This is a struggle over life and death but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion

Contemporary science fiction is full of cyborgs creatures simultaneously animal and machine who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted

Modern medicine is also full of cyborgs of couplings between organism and machine each conceived as coded devices in an intimacy and with a power that was not generated in the history of sexuality

Cyborg sex restores some of the lovely replicative baroque of ferns and invertebrates such nice organic prophylactics against heterosexism

Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction

Modern production seems like a dream of cyborg colonization work a dream that makes the nightmare of Taylorism seem idyllic

And modern war is a cyborg orgy coded by C3I command control communication intelligence an 84 billion item in 1984 sUS defence budget

I am making an argument for the cyborg as a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings

Michael Foucault s biopolitics is a flaccid premonition of cyborg politics a very open field

By the late twentieth century our time a mythic time we are all chimeras theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism in short we are cyborgs

Ths cyborg is our ontology it gives us our politics

The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation

In the traditions of Western science and politics the tradition of racist male dominant capitalism the tradition of progress the tradition of the appropriation of nature as resource for the productions of culture the tradition of reproduction of the self from the reflections of the other the relation between organism and machine has been a border war

The stakes in the border war have been the territories of production reproduction and imagination

This chapter is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction

It is also an effort to contribute to socialist feminist culture and theory in a postmodernist non naturalist mode and in the utopian tradition of imagining a world without gender which is perhaps a world without genesis but maybe also a world without end

The cyborg incarnation is outside salvation history

Nor does it mark time on an oedipal calendar attempting to heal the terrible cleavages of gender in an oral symbiotic utopia or post oedipal apocalypse

As Zoe Sofoulis argues in her unpublished manuscript on Jacques Lacan Melanie Klein and nuclear culture Lacklein the most terrible and perhaps the most promising monsters in cyborg worlds are embodied in non oedipal narratives with a different logic of repression which we need to understand for our survival

The cyborg is a creature in a post gender world it has no truck with bisexuality pre oedipal symbiosis unalienated labour or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity

In a sense the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense a final irony since the cyborg is also the awful apocalyptic telos of the West s escalating dominations of abstract individuation an ultimate self untied at last from all dependency a man in space

An origin story in the Western humanist sense depends on the myth of original unity fullness bliss and terror represented by the phallic mother from whom all humans must separate the task of individual development and of history the twin potent myths inscribed most powerfully for us in psychoanalysis and Marxism

Hilary Klein has argued that both Marxism and psychoanalysis in their concepts of labour and of individuation and gender formation depend on the plot of original unity out of which difference must be produced and enlisted in a drama of escalating domination of woman nature

The cyborg skips the step of original unity of identification with nature in the Western sense

This is its illegitimate promise that might lead to subversion of its teleology as star wars

The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality irony intimacy and perversity

It is oppositional utopian and completely without innocence

No longer structured by the polarity of public and private the cyborg defines a technological polls based partly on a revolution of social relations in the oikos the household

Nature and culture are reworked the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other

The relationships for forming wholes from parts including those of polarity and hierarchical domination are at issue in the cyborg world

Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein s monster the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through a restoration of the garden that is through the fabrication of a heterosexual mate through its completion in a finished whole a city and cosmos

The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family this time without the oedipal project

The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust

Perhaps that is why I want to see if cyborgs can subvert the apocalypse of returning to nuclear dust in the manic compulsion to name the Enemy

Cyborgs are not reverent they do not re member the cosmos

They are wary of holism but needy for connection they seem to have a natural feel for united front politics but without the vanguard party

The main trouble with cyborgs of course is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism not to mention state socialism

But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins

Their fathers after all are inessential

I will return to the science fiction of cyborgs at the end of this chapter but now I want to signal three crucial boundary breakdowns that make the following political fictional political scientific analysis possible

By the late twentieth century in United States scientific culture the boundary between human and animal is thoroughly breached

The last beachheads of uniqueness have been polluted if not turned into amusement parks language tool use social behaviour mental events nothing really convincingly settles the separation of human and animal

And many people no longer feel the need for such a separation indeed many branches of feminist culture affirm the pleasure of connection of human and other living creatures

Movements for animal rights are not irrational denials of human uniqueness they are a clear sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture

Biology and evolutionary theory over the last two centuries have simultaneously produced modern organisms as objects of knowledge and reduced the line between humans and animals to a faint trace re etched in ideological struggle or professional disputes between life and social science

Within this framework teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as a form of child abuse

Biological determinist ideology is only one position opened up in scientific culture for arguing the meanings of human animality

There is much room for radical political people to contest the meanings of the breached boundary

The cyborg appears in myth precisely where the boundary between human and animal is transgressed

Far from signalling a walling off of people from other living beings cyborgs signal distrurbingly and pleasurably tight coupling

Bestiality has a new status in this cycle of marriage exchange

The second leaky distinction is between animal human organism and machine

Precybernetic machines could be haunted there was always the spectre of the ghost in the machine

This dualism structured the dialogue between materialism and idealism that was settled by a dialectical progeny called spirit or history according to taste

But basically machines were not self moving self designing autonomous

They could not achieve man s dream only mock it

They were not man an author to himself but only a caricature of that masculinist reproductive dream

To think they were otherwise was paranoid

Now we are not so sure

Late twentieth century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial mind and body self developing and externally designed and many other distinctions that used to apply to organisms and machines

Our machines are disturbingly lively and we ourselves frighteningly inert

Technological determination is only one ideological space opened up by the reconceptions of machine and organism as coded texts through which we engage in the play of writing and reading the world

Textualization of everything in poststructuralist postmodernist theory has been damned by Marxists and socialist feminists for its utopian disregard for the lived relations of domination that ground the play of arbitrary reading

It is certainly true that postmodernist strategies like my cyborg myth subvert myriad organic wholes for example the poem the primitive culture the biological organism

In short the certainty of what counts as nature a source of insight and promise of innocence is undermined probably fatally

The transcendent authorization of interpretation is lost and with it the ontology grounding Western epistemology

But the alternative is not cynicism or faithlessness that is some version of abstract existence like the accounts of technological determinism destroying man by the machine or meaningful political action by the text

Who cyborgs will be is a radical question the answers are a matter of survival

Both chimpanzees and artefacts have politics so why shouldn t we de Waal 1982 Winner 1980

The third distinction is a subset of the second the boundary between physical and nonphysical is very imprecise for us

Pop physics books on the consequences of quantum theory and the indeterminacy principle are a kind of popular scientific equivalent to Harlequin romances as a marker of radical change in American white heterosexuality they get it wrong but they are on the right subject

Modern machines are quintessentially microelectronic devices they are everywhere and they are invisible

Modern machinery is an irreverent upstart god mocking the Father s ubiquity and spirituality

The silicon chip is a surface for writing it is etched in molecular scales disturbed only by atomic noise the ultimate interference for nuclear scores

Writing power and technology are old partners in Western stories of the origin of civilization but miniaturization has changed our experience of mechanism

Miniaturization has turned out to be about power small is not so much beautiful as pre eminently dangerous as in cruise missiles

Contrast the TV sets of the 1950s or the news cameras of the 1970s with the TV wrist bands or hand sized video cameras now advertised

Our best machines are made of sunshine they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals electromagnetic waves a section of a spectrum and these machines are eminently portable mobile a matter of immense human pain in Detroit and Singapore

People are nowhere near so fluid being both material and opaque

Cyborgs are ether quintessence

The US equivalent of Mills Boon

The ubiquity and invisibility of cyborgs is precisely why these sunshine belt machines are so deadly

They are as hard to see politically as materially

They are about consciousness or its simulation

They are floating signifiers moving in pickup trucks across Europe blocked more effectively by the witch weavings of the displaced and so unnatural Greenham women who read the cyborg webs of power so very well than by the militant labour of older masculinist politics whose natural constituency needs defence jobs

Ultimately the hardest science is about the realm of greatest boundary confusion the realm of pure number pure spirit C3I cryptography and the preservation of potent secrets

The new machines are so clean and light

Their engineers are sun worshippers mediating a new scientific revolution associated with the night dream of post industrial society

The diseases evoked by these clean machines are no more than the minuscule coding changes of an antigen in the immune system no more than the experience of stress

The nimble fingers of Oriental women the old fascination of little Anglo Saxon Victorian girls with doll s houses women s enforced attention to the small take on quite new dimensions in this world

There might be a cyborg Alice taking account of these new dimensions

Ironically it might be the unnatural cyborg women making chips in Asia and spiral dancing in Santa Rita jail whose constructed unities will guide effective oppositional strategies

So my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries potent fusions and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work

One of my premises is that most American socialists and feminists see deepened dualisms of mind and body animal and machine idealism and materialism in the social practices symbolic formulations and physical artefacts associated with high technology and scientific culture

From One DimensionalMan Marcuse 1964 to The Death of Nature Merchant 1980 the analytic resources developed by progressives have insisted on the necessary domination of technics and recalled us to an imagined organic body to integrate our resistance

Another of my premises is that the need for unity of people trying to resist world wide intensification of domination has never been more acute

But a slightly perverse shift of perspective might better enable us to contest for meanings as well as for other forms of power and pleasure in technologically mediated societies

From one perspective a cyborg world is about the final imposition of a grid of control on the planet about the final abstraction embodied in a Star Wars apocalypse waged in the name of defence about the final appropriation of women s bodies in a masculinist orgy of war Sofia 1984

From another perspective a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints

The political struggle is to see from both perspectives at once because each reveals both dominations and possibilities unimaginable from the other vantage point

Single vision produces worse illusions than double vision or many headed monsters

Cyborg unities are monstrous and illegitimate in our present political circumstances we could hardly hope for more potent myths for resistance and recoupling

I like to imagine LAG the Livermore Action Group as a kind of cyborg society dedicated to realistically converting the laboratories that most fiercely embody and spew out the tools of technological apocalypse and committed to building a political form that acutally manages to hold together witches engineers elders perverts Christians mothers and Leninists long enough to disarm the state

Fission Impossible is the name of the affinity group in my town

Affinity related not by blood but by choice the appeal of one chemical nuclear group for another avidiy

6 A practice at once both spiritual and political that linked guards and arrested anti nuclear demonstrators in the Alameda County jail in California in the early 1985

FRACTURED IDENTITIES It has become difficult to name one s feminism by a single adjective or even to insist in every circumstance upon the noun

Consciousness of exclusion through naming is acute

Identities seem contradictory partial and strategic

With the hard won recognition of their social and historical constitution gender race and class cannot provide the basis for belief in essential unity

There is nothing about teeing female that naturally binds women

There is not even such a state as being female itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices

Gender race or class consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historica experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy colonialism and capitalism

And who counts as us in my own rhetoric

Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth called us and what could motivate enlistment in this collectivity

Painful fragmentation among feminists not to mention among women along every possible fault line has made the concept of woman elusive an excuse for the matrix of women s dominations of each other

For me and for many who share a similar historical location in white professional middle class female radical North American mid adult bodies the sources of a crisis in political identity are legion

The recent history for much of the US left and US feminism has been a response to this kind of crisis by endless splitting and searches for a new essential unity

But there has also been a growing recognition of another response through coalition affinity not identity

Chela Sandoval n d 1984 from a consideration of specific historical moments in the formation of the new political voice called women of colour has theorized a hopeful model of political identity called oppositional consciousness born of the skills for reading webs of power by those refused stable membership in the social categories of race sex or class

Women of color a name contested at its origins by those whom it would incorporate as well as a historical consciousness marking systematic breakdown of all the signs of Man in Western traditions constructs a kind of postmodernist identity out of otherness difference and specificity

This postmodernist identity is fully political whatever might be said abut other possible postmodernisms

Sandoval s oppositional consciousness is about contradic156 tory locations and heterochronic calendars not about relativisms and pluralisms

Sandoval emphasizes the lack of any essential criterion for identifying who is a woman of colour

She notes that the definition of the group has been by conscious appropriation of negation

For example a Chicana or US black woman has not been able to speak as a woman or as a black person or as a Chicano

Thus she was at the bottom of a cascade of negative identities left out of even the privileged oppressed authorial categories called women and blacks who claimed to make the important revolutions

The category woman negated all non white women black negated all non black people as well as all black women

But there was also no she no singularity but a sea of differences among US women who have affirmed their historical identity as US women of colour

This identity marks out a self consciously constructed space that cannot affirm the capacity to act on the basis of natural identification but only on the basis of conscious coalition of affinity of political kinship

Unlike the woman of some streams of the white women s movement in the United States there is no naturalization of the matrix or at least this is what Sandoval argues is uniquely available through the power of oppositional consciousness

Sandoval s argument has to be seen as one potent formulation for feminists out of the world wide development of anti colonialist discourse that is to say discourse dissolving the West and its highest product the one who is not animal barbarian or woman man that is the author of a cosmos called history

As orientalism is deconstructed politically and semiotically the identities of the occident destabilize including those of feminists

Sandoval argues that women of colour have a chance to build an effective unity that does not replicate the imperializing totalizing revolutionary subjects of previous Marxisms and feminisms which had not faced the consequences of the disorderly polyphony emerging from decolonization

Katie King has emphasized the limits of identification and the political poetic mechanics of identification built into reading the poem that generative core of cultural feminism

King criticizes the persistent tendency among contemporary feminists from different moments or conversations in feminist practice to taxonomize the women s movement to make one s own political tendencies appear to be the telos of the whole

These taxonomies tend to remake feminist history so that it appears to be an ideological struggle among coherent types persisting over time especially those typical units called radical liberal and socialistfeminism

Literally all other feminisms are either incorporated or marginalized usually by building an explicit ontology and epistemology

Taxonomies of feminism produce epistemologies to police deviation from official women s experience

And of course women s culture like women of colour is consciously created by mechanisms inducing affinity

The rituals of poetry music and certain forms of academic practice have been pre eminent

The politics of race and culture in the US women s movements are intimately interwoven

The common achievement of King and Sandoval is learning how to craft a poetic political unity without relying on a logic of appropriation incorporation and taxonomic identification

The theoretical and practical struggle against unity through domination or unity through in corporation ironically not only undermines the justifica tions for patriarchy colonialism humanism positivism essentialism scient ism and other unlamented isms but all claims for an organic or natural standpoint

I think that radical and socialist Marxist feminisms have also undermined their our own epistemological strategies and that this is a crucially valuable step in imagining possible unities

It remains to be seen whether all epistemologies as Western political people have known them fail us in the task to build effective affinities

It is important to note that the effort to construct revolutionary stand points epistemologies as achievements of people committed to changing the world has been part of the process showing the limits of identification

The acid tools of postmodernist theory and the constructive tools of ontological discourse about revolutionary subjects might be seen as ironic allies in dissolving Western selves in the interests of survival

We are excruciatingly conscious of what it means to have a historically constituted body

But with the loss of innocence in our origin there is no 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 ironically socialist feminist

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 gender sexuality and class

I also do not know of any other time when the kind of unity we might help build could have been possible

None of us have any longer the symbolic or material capability of dictating the shape of reality to any of them

Or at least we cannot claim innocence from practicing such dominations

White women including socialist feminists discovered that is were forced kicking and screaming to notice the non innocence of the category woman

That consciousness changes the geography of all previous categories it denatures them as heat denatures a fragile protein

Cyborg feminists have to argue that we do not want any more natural matrix of unity and that no construction is whole

Innocence and the corollary insistence on victimhood as the only ground for insight has done enough damage

But the constructed revolutionary subject must give late twentieth158 century people pause as well

In the fraying of identities and in the reflexive strategies for constructing them the possibility opens up for weaving something other than a shroud for the day after the apocalypse that so prophetically ends salvation history

Both Marxist socialist feminisms and radical feminisms have simul taneously naturalized and denatured the category woman and conscious ness of the social lives of women

Perhaps a schematic caricature can highlight both kinds of moves

Marxian socialism is rooted in an analysis of wage labour which reveals class structure

The consequence of the wage relationship is systematic alienation as the worker is dissociated from his sic product

Abstraction and illusion rule in knowledge domination rules in practice

Labour is the pre eminently privileged category enabling the Marxist to overcome illusion and find that point of view which is necessary for changing the world

Labour is the humanizing activity that makes man labour is an ontological category permitting the knowledge of a subject and so the knowledge of subjugation and alienation

In faithful filiation socialist feminism advanced by allying itself with the basic analytic strategies of Marxism

The main achievement of both Marxist feminists and socialist feminists was to expand the category of labour to accommodate what some women did even when the wage relation was subordinated to a more comprehensive view of labour under capitalist patriarchy

In particular women s labour in the household and women s activity as mothers generally that is reproduction in the socialist feminist sense entered theory on the authority of analogy to the Marxian concept of labour

The unity of women here rests on an epistemology based on the ontological structure of labour

Marxist socialist feminism does not natur alize unity it is a possible achievement based on a possible standpoint rooted in social relations

The essentializing move is in the ontological structure of labour or of its analogue women s activity

The inheritance of Marxian humanism with its pre eminently Western self is the difficulty for me

The contribution from these formulations has been the emphasis on the daily responsibility of real women to build unities rather than to naturalize them

Catherine MacKinnon s 198Z 1987 version of radical feminism is itself a caricature of the appropriating incorporating totalizing tendencies of Western theories of identity grounding action

It is factually and politically wrong to assimilate all of the diverse moments or conversations in recent women s politics named radical feminism to MacKinnon s version

But the teleological logic of her theory shows how an epistemology and ontology including their negations erase or police difference

Only one of the effects of MacKinnon s theory is the rewriting of the history of the polymorphous field called radical feminism

The major effect is the production of a theory of experience of women s identity that is a kind of apocalypse for all revolutionary standpoints

That is the totalization built into this tale of radical feminism achieves its end the unity of women by enforcing the experience of and testimony to radical non being

As for the Marxist socialist feminist consciousness is an achievement not a natural fact

And MacKinnon s theory eliminates some of the difficulties built into humanist revolutionary subjects but at the cost of radical reductionism

MacKinnon argues that feminism necessarily adopted a different analyt ical strategy from Marxism looking first not at the structure of class but at the structure of sex gender and its generative relationship men s constitu tion and appropriation of women sexually

Ironically MacKinnon s ontology constructs a non subject a non being

Another s desire not the self s labour is the origin of woman

She therefore develops a theory of consciousness that enforces what can count as women s experience anything that names sexual violation indeed sex itself as far as women can be concerned

Feminist practice is the construction of this form of consciousness that is the self knowledge of a self who is not

Perversely sexual appropriation in this feminism still has the epistemolo gical status of labour that is to say the point from which an analysis able to contribute to changing the world must flow

But sexual object fication not alienation is the consequence of the structure of sex gender

In the realm of knowledge the result of sexual objectification is illusion and abstraction

However a woman is not simply alienated from her product but in a deep sense does not exist as a subject or even potential subject since she owes her existence as a woman to sexual appropriation

To be constituted by another s desire is not the same thing as to be alienated in the violent separation of the labourer from his product

MacKinnon s radical theory of experience is totalizing in the extreme it does not so much marginalize as obliterate the authority of any other women s political speech and action

It is a totalization producing what Western patriarchy itself never succeeded in doing feminists consciousness of the non existence of women except as products of men s desire

I think MacKinnon correctly argues that no Marxian version of identity can firmly ground women s unity

But in solving the problem of the contradictions of any Western revolutionary subject for feminist purposes she develops an even more authoritarian doctrine of experience

If my complaint about socialist Marxian standpoints is their unintended erasure of polyvocal unassimilable radical difference made visible in anti colonial discourse and practice MacKinnon s intentional erasure of all difference through the device of the essential nonexistence of women is not reassuring

In my taxonomy which like any other taxonomy is a re inscription of history radical feminism can accommodate all the activities of women named by socialist feminists as forms of labour only if the activity can somehow be sexualized

Reproduction had different tones of meanings for the two tendencies one rooted in labour one in sex both calling the consequences of domination and ignorance of social and personal reality false consciousness

Beyond either the diff culties or the contributions in the argument of any one author neither Marxist nor radical feminist points of view have tended to embrace the status of a partial explanation both were regularly constituted as totalities

Western explanation has demanded as much how else could the Western author incorporate its others

Each tried to annex other forms of domination by expanding its basic categories through analogy simple listing or addition

Embarrassed silence about race among white radical and socialist feminists was one major devastating political consequence

History and polyvocality disappear into political taxonomies that try to establish genealogies

There was no structural room for race or for much else in theory claiming to reveal the construction of the category woman and social group women as a unified or totalizable whole

The structure of my caricature looks like this socialist feminism structure of class wage labour alienation labour by analogy reproduction by extension sex by addition race radical feminism structure of gender sexual appropriation objectification sex by analogy labour by extension reproduction by addition race In another context the French theorist Julia Kristeva claimed women appeared as a historical group after the Second World War along with groups like youth

Her dates are doubtful but we are now accustomed to remembering that as objects of knowledge and as historical actors race did not always exist class has a historical genesis and homosexuals are quite junior

It is no accident that the symbolic system of the family of man and so the essence of woman breaks up at the same moment that networks of connection among people on the planet are unprecedentedly multiple pregnant and complex

Advanced capitalism is inadequate to convey the structure of this historical moment

In the Western sense the end of man is at stake

It is no accident that woman disintegrates into women in our time

Perhaps socialist feminists were not substantially guilty of producing essentialist theory that suppressed women s particularity and contradictory interests

I think we have been at least through unreflective participation in the logics languages and practices of white humanism and through searching for a single ground of domination to secure our revolutionary voice

Now we have less excuse

But in the consciousness of our failures we risk lapsing into boundless difference and giving up on the confusing task of making partial real connection

Some differences are playful some are poles of world historical systems of domination

Epistemology is about knowing the difference

THE INFORMATICS OF DOMINATION In this attempt at an epistemological and political position I would like to sketch a picture of possible unity a picture indebted to socialist and feminist principles of design

The frame for my sketch is set by the extent and importance of rearrangements in world wide social relations tied to science and technology

I 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 scope to that created by industrial capitalism we are living through a movement from an organic industrial society to a polymorphous information system from all work to all play a deadly game

Simultaneously material and ideological the dichotomies may be expressed in the following chart of transitions from the comfortable old hierarchical dominations to the scary new networks I have called the informatics of domination Representation


Bourgeois novel realism

Science fiction postmodernism


Biotic Component

Depth integrity

Surface boundary



Biology as clinical practice

Biology as inscription


Communications engineering

Small group





Population Control

Decadence Magic Mountain

Obsolescence Future Shock


Stress Management

Microbiology tuberculosis

Immunology AIDS

Organic division of labour

Ergonomics cybernetics of labour

Functional specialization

Modular construction



Organic sex role specialization

Optimal genetic strategies

Bioogical determinism

Evolutionary inertia constraints

Community ecology


Racial chain of being

Neo imperialism United Nations humanism

Scientific management in home factory

Global factory Electronid cottage

Family Market Factory

Women in the Integrated Circuit

Family wage

Comparable worth

Public Private

Cyborg citizenship

Nature Culture

fields of difference

Co operation

Communicatins enhancemenet




Genetic engineering




Artificial Intelligence

Second World War

Star Wars

White Capitalist Patriarchy

Informatics of Domination This list suggests several interesting things

First the objects on the right hand side cannot be coded as natural a realization that subverts naturalistic coding for the left hand side as well

We cannot go back ideologically or materially

It s not just that igod is dead so is the goddess

Or both are revivified in the worlds charged with microelectronic and biotechnological politics

In relation to objects like biotic components one must not think in terms of essential properties but in terms of design boundary constraints rates of flows systems logics costs of lowering constraints

Sexual reproduction is one kind of reproductive strategy among many with costs and benefits as a function of the system environment

Ideologies of sexual reproduction can no longer reasonably call on notions of sex and sex role as organic aspects in natural objects like organisms and families

Such reasoning will be unmasked as irrational and ironically corporate executives reading Playboy and anti porn radical feminists will make strange bedfellows in jointly unmasking the irrationalism

Likewise for race ideologies about human diversity have to be formulated in terms of frequencies of parameters like blood groups or intelligence scores

It is irrational to invoke concepts like primitive and civilized

For liberals and radicals the search for integrated social systems gives way to a new practice called experimental ethnography in which an organic object dissipates in attention to the play of writing

At the level of ideology we see translations of racism and colonialism into languages of development and underdevelopment rates and constraints of modernization

Any objects or persons can be reasonably thought of in terms of disassembly and reassembly no natural architectures constrain system design

The financial districts in all the world s cities as well as the exportprocessing and free trade zones proclaim this elementary fact of late capitalism

The entire universe of objects that can be known scientifically must be formulated as problems in communications engineering for the managers or theories of the text for those who would resist

Both are cyborg semiologies

One should expect control strategies to concentrate on boundary conditions and interfaces on rates of flow across boundaries and not on the integrity of natural objects

Integrity or sincerity of the Western self gives way to decision procedures and expert systems

For example control strategies applied to women s capacities to give birth to new human beings will be developed in the languages of population control and maximization of goal achievement for individual decision makers

Control strategies will be formulated in terms of rates costs of constraints degrees of freedom

Human beings like any other component or subsystem must be localized in a system architecture whose basic modes of operation are probabilistic statistical

No objects spaces or bodies are sacred in themselves any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard the proper code can be constructed for processing signals in a common language

Exchange in this world transcends the universal translation effected by capitalist markets that Marx analysed so well

The privileged pathology affecting all kinds of components in this universe is stress communications breakdown Hogness 1983

The cyborg is not subject to Foucault s biopolitics the cyborg simulates politics a much more potent field of operations

This kind of analysis of scientific and cultural objects of knowledge which have appeared historically since the Second World War prepares us to notice some important inadequacies in feminist analysis which has proceeded as if the organic hierarchical dualisms ordering discourse in the West since Aristotle still ruled

They have been cannibalized or as Zoe Sofia Sofoulis might put it they have been techno digested

The dichotomies between mind and body animal and human organism and machine public and private nature and culture men and women primitive and civilized are all in question ideologically

The actual situation of women is their integration exploitation into a world system of production reproduction and com munication called the informatics of domination

The home workplace market public arena the body itself all can be dispersed and interfaced in nearly infinite polymorphous ways with large consequences for women and others consequences that themselves are very different for different people and which make potent oppositional international movements difficult to imagine and essential for survival

One important route for reconstructing socialist feminist politics is through theory and practice addressed to the social relations of science and technology including crucially the systems of myth and meanings structuring our imaginations

The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled postmodern collective and personal self

This is the self feminists must code

Communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies

These tools embody and enforce new social relations for women world wide

Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formalizations i e as frozen moments of the fluid social interactions constituting them but they should also be viewed as instruments for enforcing meanings

The boundary is 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 which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly reassembly investment and exchange

In communications sciences the translation of the world into a problem in coding can be illustrated by looking at cybernetic feedback controlled systems theories applied to telephone technology computer design weapons deployment or data base construction and maintenance

In each case solution to the key questions rests on a theory of language and control the key operation is determining the rates directions and probabilities of flow of a quantity called information

The world is subdivided by boundaries differentially permeable to information

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

Any system breakdown is a function of stress

The fundamentals of this technology can be condensed into the metaphor C31 command controlcommunicationintelligence the military s symbol for its operations theory

In modern biologies the translation of the world into a problem in coding can be illustrated by molecular genetics ecology sociobiological evolutionary theory and immunobiology

The organism has been translated into prob lems of genetic coding and read out

Biotechnology a writing technology informs research broadly

In a sense organisms have ceased to exist as objects of knowledge giving way to biotic components i e 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 associated medical practices are rich exemplars of the privilege of coding and recognition systems as objects of knowledge as constructions of bodily reality for us

Biology here is a kind of 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

Human babies with baboon hearts evoke national ethical perplexity for animal rights activists at least as much as for the guardians of human purity

In the US gay men and intravenous drug users are the privileged victims of an awful immune system disease that marks inscribes on the body confusion of boundaries and moral pollution Treichler 1987

But these excursions into communications sciences and biology have been at a rarefied level there is a mundane largely economic reality to support my claim that these sciences and technologies indicate fundamental transforma tions in the structure of the world for us

Communications technologies depend on electronics

Modern states multinational corporations military power welfare state apparatuses satellite systems political processes fabrication of our imaginations labour control systems medical construc tions of our bodies commercial pornography the international division of labour and religious evangelism depend intimately upon electronics

Micro electronics is the technical basis of simulacra that is of copies without originals

Microelectronics mediates the translations of labour into robotics and word processing sex into genetic engineering and reproductive technologies and mind into artificial intelligence and decision procedures

The new biotechnologies concern more than human reproducdon

Biology as a powerful engineering science for redesigning materials and processes has revolutionary implications for industry perhaps most obvious today in areas of fermentadon agriculture and energy

Communicadons sciences and biology are construcdons 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 multinational 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 boundary maintaining images of base and superstructure public and private or material and ideal never seemed more feeble

I have used Rachel Grossman s 1980 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 used the odd circumlocution the social relations of science and technology to indicate that we are not dealing with a technological determinism but with a historical system depending upon 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 Latour 1984

Some of the rearrangements of race sex and class rooted in high tech facilitated social relations can make socialist feminism more relevant to effective progressive politics

THE HOMEWORK ECONOMY OUTSIDE THE HOME The New Industrial Revolution is producing a new world wide working class as well as new sexualities and ethnicities

The extreme mobility of capital and the emerging international division of labour are intertwined with the emergence of new collecdvities and the weakening of familiar groupings

These developments are neither gender nor raceneutral

White men in advanced industrial societies have become newly vulnerable to permanent job loss and women are not disappearing from the job rolls at the same rates as men

It is not simply that women in Third World countries are the preferred labour force for the science based multinationals in the export processing sectors particularly in electronics

The picture is more systematic and involves reproduction sexuality culture consumphon and producdon

In the prototypical Silicon Valley many women s lives have been structured around employment in electronics dependent jobs and their intimate realities include serial heterosexual monogamy negotiating childcare distance from extended kin or most other forms of traditional community a high likelihood of loneliness and extreme economic vulnerability as they age

The ethnic and racial diversity of women in Silicon Valley structures a microcosm of conflicting differences in culture family religion education and language

Richard Gordon has called this new situation the homework economy

Although he includes the phenomenon of literal homework emerging in connecdon with electronics assembly Gordon intends homework economy to name a restructuring of work that broadly has the characteristics formerly ascribed to female jobs jobs literally done only by women

Work is being redefined as both literally female and feminized whether performed by men or women

To be feminized means to be made extremely vulnerable able to be disassembled reassembled exploited as a reserve labour force seen less as workers than as servers subjected to dme arrangements on and off the paid job that make a mockery of a limited work day leading an existence that always borders on being obscene out of place and reducible to sex

Deskilling is an old strategy newly applicable to formerly privileged workers

However the homework economy does not refer only to large scale deskilling nor does it deny that new areas of high skill are emerging even for women and men previously excluded from skilled employment

Rather the concept indicates that factory home and market are integrated on a new scale and that the places of women are crucial and need to be analysed for differences among women and for meanings for relations between men and women in various situations

The homework economy as a world capitalist organizational structure is made possible by not caused by the new technologies

The success of the attack on relatively privileged mostly white men s unionized jobs is deaf to the power of the new communications technologies to integrate and control labour despite extensive dispersion and decentralization

The consequences of the new technologies are felt by women both in the loss of the family male wage if they ever had access to this white privilege and in the character of their own jobs which are becoming capitalintensive for example office work and nursing

The new economic and technological arrangements are also related to the collapsing welfare state and the ensuing intensification of demands on women to sustain daily life for themselves as well as for men children and old people

The feminization of poverty generated by dismantling the welfare state by the homework economy where stable jobs become the exception and sustained by the expectation that women s wages will not be matched by a male income for the support of children has become an urgent focus

The causes of various women headed households are a function of race class or sexuality but their increasing generality is a ground for coalitions of women on many issues

That women regularly sustain daily life partly as a funcdon of their enforced status as mothers is hardly new the kind of integration with the overall capitalist and progressively war based economy is new

The particular pressure for example on US black women who have achieved an escape from barely paid domeshc service and who now hold clerical and similar jobs in large numbers has large implicadons for condnued enforced black poverty with employment

Teenage women in industrializing areas of the Third World increasingly find themselves the sole or major source of a cash wage for their families while access to land is ever more problemadc

These developments must have major consequences in the psychodynamics and politics of gender and race

Within the framework of three major stages of capitalism commercial early industrial monopoly multinational tied to nationalism imperialism and multinationalism and related to Jameson s three dominant aesthetic periods of realism modernism and postmodernism I would argue that specific forms of families dialectically relate to forms of capital and to its political and cultural concomitants

Although lived problematically and unequally ideal forms of these families might be schematized as 1 the patriarchal nuclear family structured by the dichotomy between public and private and accompanied by the white bourgeois ideology of separate spheres and nineteenth century Anglo American bourgeois feminism 2 the modern family mediated or enforced by the welfare state and institutions like the family wage with a flowering of a feminist heterosexual ideologies including their radical versions represented in Greenwich Village around the First World War and 3 the family of the homework economy with its oxymoronic structure of womenheaded households and its explosion of feminisms and the paradoxical intensification and erosion of gender itself

This is the context in which the projections for world wide structural unemployment stemming from the new technologies are part of the picture of the homework economy

As robodcs and related technologies put men out of work in developed countries and exacerbate failure to generate male jobs in Third World development and as the automated of fice becomes the rule even in labour surplus countries the feminization of work intensifies

Black women in the United States have long known what it looks like to face the structural underemployment feminization of black men as well as their own highly vulnerable position in the wage economy

It is no longer a secret that sexuality reproduction family and community life are interwoven with this economic structure in myriad ways which have also differentiated the situations of white and black women

Many more women and men will contend with similar situations which will make cross gender and race alliances on issues of basic life support with or without jobs necessary not just mice

The new technologies also have a profound effect on hunger and on food production for subsistence world wide

Rae Lessor Blumberg 1983 estimates that women produce about 50 per cent of the world s subsistence food

Women are excluded generally from benefiting from the increased high tech commodification of food and energy crops their days are made more arduous because their responsibilides to provide food do not diminish and their reproductive situations are made more complex

Green Revolution technologies interact with other high tech industrial production to alter gender divisions of labour and differential gender migration patterns

The new technologies seem deeply involved in the forms of privatization that Ros Petchesky 1981 has analysed in which militarization right wing family ideologies and policies and intensified definitions of corporate and state property as private synergistically interact

The new communications technologies are fundamental to the eradication of public life for everyone

This facilitates the mushrooming of a permanent high tech military establishment at the cultural and economic expense of most people but especially of women

Technologies like video games and highly miniaturized televi sions seem crucial to production of modern forms of private life

The culture of video games is heavily orientated to individual compedtion and extraterrestrial warfare

High tech gendered imaginations are produced here imaginations that can contemplate destruction of the planet and a sci fi escape from its consequences

More than our imaginations is militarized and the other realities of electronic and nuclear warfare are inescapable

These are the technologies that promise ultimate mobility and perfect exchange and incidentally enable tourism that perfect practice of mobility and exchange to emerge as one of the world s largest single industries

The new technologies affect the social relations of both sexuality and of reproduction and not always in the same ways

The close ties of sexuality and instrumentality of views of the body as a kind of private satisfaction and utility maximizing machine are described nicely in sociobiological origin stories that stress a genetic calculus and explain the inevitable dialectic of domination of male and female gender roles

These sociobiological stories depend on a high tech view of the body as a biotic component or cybernetic communications system

Among the many transformations of reproductive situations is the medical one where women s bodies have boundaries newly permeable to both visualization and intervention

Of course who controls the interpretation of bodily boundaries in medical hermeneubcs is a major feminist issue

The speculum served as an icon of women s claiming their bodies in the 1970S that handcraft tool is inadequate to express our needed body politics in the negotiation of reality in the practices of cyborg reproduction

Self help is not enough

The technologies of visualization recall the important cultural practice of hundng with the camera and the deeply predatory nature of a photographic consciousness

Sex sexuality and reproduction are central actors in hightech myth systems structuring our imaginations of personal and social possibility

Another critical aspect of the social relations of the new technologies is the reformulation of expectations culture work and reproduction for the large scientific and technical workforce

A major social and political danger is the formation of a strongly bimodal social structure with the masses of women and men of all ethnic groups but especially people of colour confined to a homework economy illiteracy of several varieties and general redundancy and impotence controlled by high tech repressive apparatuses ranging from entertainment to surveillance and disappearance

An adequate socialist feminist politics should address women in the privileged occupational categories and particularly in the production of science and technology that constructs scientific technical discourses processes and objects

This issue is only one aspect of enquiry into the possibility of a feminist science but it is important

What kind of constitutive role in the production of knowledge imagination and practice can new groups doing science have

How can these groups be allied with progressive social and political movements

What kind of political accountability can be constructed to the women together across the scientific technical hierarchies separating us

Might there be ways of developing feminist science technology politics in alliance with and military science facility conversion action groups

Many sciendfic and technical workers in Silicon Valley the high tech cowboys included do not want to work on military science

Can these personal preferences and cultural tendencies be welded into progressive politics among this professional middle class in which women including women of colour are coming to be fairly numerous

WOMEN IN THE INTEGRATED CIRCUIT Let me summarize the picture of women s historical locations in advanced industrial societies as these positions have been restructured partly through the social relations of science and technology

If it was ever possible ideologically to characterize women s lives by the disdnction of public and private domains suggested by images of the division of working class life into factory and home of bourgeois life into market and home and of gender existence into personal and political realms it is now a totally misleading ideology even to show how both terms of these dichotomies 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 personal body and in the body politic

Networking is both a feminist practice and a multinational corporate strategy weaving is for oppositional cyborgs

So let me return to the earlier image of the informatics of domination and trace one vision of women s place in the integrated circuit touching