Biotechnology, Democracy, and Revolution




Biotechnology is a question of power. It is a question about the power to decide what kind of technologies a society will use and for what purpose. In this way, biotechnology is linked to the broader question of political power and democracy. It leads us to think about how we, as a society, make vital decisions about how to relate to each other and to the rest of the natural world. When we think about biotechnology in this way, we see that biotechnology is not just a technology per se. We see that it is also a way of making decisions about society and nature that has emerged at a particular point in history for particular reasons. If we see biotechnology as just a single issue of technology, then we miss the broader problem. We fail to talk about the broader system of power that brought biotechnology into being, a fundamental problem that we must face if we are to move toward creating a more democratic, creative, and humane world.

Biotechnology is a Society

Biotechnology is more than the technique of ‘recombinant DNA,’ the process through which biologists move strands of DNA from one cell to another. It is the society that produces biotechnology and that is, in turn, produced by it. Biotechnology is the networks of people, things, and institutions that bring it into being. It is the biotechnology industry, the corporations and government regulators that give corporations the carte blanche to produce their transgenic creations in their laboratories and to move them out into the world.

Biotechnology is the public research institutions, funded by taxpayers, who carry out the microbiology research; it is the food and pharmaceutical industries that commercialize the products of biotechnology. It is the ordinary citizens obliged to buy unlabelled genetically foods and medicines; it is the advertisers and marketing corporations that promote genetically modified products; it is the farmers who buy genetically modified seeds in the hopes of saving money on pesticides and other chemical imputs. In short, biotechnology is the wider network of all of the people, places, and things engaged in producing biotechnology. It is a distinctly undemocratic network in which particular people, in particular institutions, have the power to make decisions about the world, decisions that will affect us all for generations to come.

Why has this ‘biotechnology network’ emerged at this particular point in history? Why have corporations, government agents, industrial farmers, and public science — to name but a few — all decided to invest so much time and money into this new technology at this particular juncture? The answer to this question has a lot to do with the state of U.S. industrial capitalism at the end of world war II. It has a lot to do with the state of industrial capitalism during post-war period and the decision of particular nation-states and capitalists to find a new way of making money and galvanizing power.

Why Biotechnology Now?

Since its emergence more than five centuries ago, capitalism has morphed through several phases, relying on different technologies and social arrangements for centralizing wealth and productive power. In its mercantile phase, capitalists relied heavily on shipping technologies as they used early colonial trade routes as sites in which to gather precious goods in the colonies, transforming those goods into capital for future investment or trade. In its later industrial phase, capitalist relied heavily on extractive technologies such as mining and on the technology of the industrial factory. Rather than hoard precious goods such as silk, tea, or porcelain, capitalists began to extract raw materials from the colonies to use in the production of industrial commodities. Getting a major boost from the industrial revolution of the late 19th century, the industrial capitalist system gained strength for over a century, reaching its peak in the period following world war II.

Indeed, by the end of world war II, the U.S. emerged as a world industrial capitalist power, with its industrial infrastructure intact. For roughly thirty years, between1945 and 1975, the Detroit auto-factory was the hallmark of post-war industrial production. It was home to a unionized worker who had job security, producing a commodity that had a solid market behind it. However, by the mid-1970s, the U.S. industrial factory system began to face competition with Japanese and Western European producers. Over those same thirty years, these countries recovered their industrial infrastructure from the rubble of the war, reappearing on the scene as contending industrial super-powers. For the first time in thirty years, the U.S. confronted the fact that it could no longer guarantee its supremacy as a world economic power.

To survive as a capitalist power, U.S. government and capital did three things: They lowered the cost of industrial production, invested in new technologies, and they moved into realms of service production, heavily commodifying realms of everyday life that had been largely ignored by major industry.

First, to make industrial production cheaper, capitalists moved their factories to parts of the world where production costs would be lower and they promoted ‘free trade’ agreements to remove ‘costly’ regulations related to trade, labor, and environment. Newly independent southern nations, often headed up by elitist regimes colluded with U.S. power, permitting U.S. corporations to set up shop, pay workers slave wages, and to be freed of labor and environmental ‘restrictions’ corporations had faced on U.S. soil.

Second, the State and capital invested in new biological and electronic technologies. When ‘recombinant DNA’ became a possibility in 1973, the U.S. government met in think-tanks with corporate heads to dream up ways to convert the technology into a profitable new industry. Investing heavily in ‘biotechnology,’ the U.S. government poured millions of dollars into molecular biology research at public universities across the country. By the early 1980s, independent start-up companies began to seek out venture capitalists to finance their own research, a process that culminated in multinationals such as Monsanto and Novartis finally buying up these small start ups in the mid-to-late 1980s, transforming themselves into ‘life science’ companies along the way. By the late 1990s, agricultural and medical biotechnology promised to be a huge financial coup, putting the U.S. at the center of the post-industrial map.

In addition to investing in biology, the U.S. invested heavily in electronic technologies, particularly in domains of computerization and telecommunications. As the 1970s wore on, software corporations invested in developing the technological infrastructure to circulate this ‘cultural product’ over the air-waves, telephone wires, cables, and computer screens of the world. Once again, the U.S. government played a central role in using free trade agreements as a way to remove regulatory obstacles, opening the way for the widest circulation of U.S. telecommunications products.

Third, to fill the gap left in the wake of the relocated industrial economy, capital invested in a new form of production. Having focused primarily on industrial production, corporations now targeted spheres of cultural reproduction as new sites for accumulation. Cultural reproduction is that sphere of society in which we do all the things we need to do to reproduce ourselves from one day to the next. Cultural reproduction consists of the stuff of everyday life itself, activities that range from eating, sleeping, and reproducing the species, to cleaning, repairing, and entertaining ourselves at the end of a day’s work.

Moving into the realm of cultural reproduction, capital extends the logic of the industrial factory, creating the ‘factoryette:’ the franchised chain-store that has been steadily eating up local towns, cities, and villages across the country since the 1970s. The chain-store factoryette is really the Detroit auto factory reborn in the form of the smaller factory-style chain-store. Instead of producing large commodities such as the automobile, the factoryette produces small cultural products ranging from hamburgers and cups of coffee to auto-repair and photo-processing services. As communities across the country (and increasingly, across the planet) get Starbucked and Jiffy-Lubed, local economies are replaced with the homogeneity and ‘recombineity’ of chain-store service culture: a culture in which cultural processes are reduced to homogenous and recombined bits of patented and copyrighted ‘information.’ The strangulation of local economies by multinational factoryette chain-stores constitutes a process of ‘enchainment.’

Informational Capitalism: The Colonization of Life, Culture, and Consciousness

As capital moves into domains of biotechnology, telecommunications, and cultural service, it is morphing into a more ‘organic’ form. Today, biotechnology, telecommunications, and enchainment swallow up biological and cultural reproduction, spitting the products of biology and culture back at us in commodified form. Through this transition, we see capital shift from a primary reliance on non-reusable resources used in the industrial factory to a resource base that is inexhaustible: biological and cultural processes themselves.

Today, instead of the metals, fossil fuels, and other expensive materials needed to feed the industrial factory, ‘informational capitalism’ uses the ever renewable resources of biology and culture. Increasingly, it is the gene and the silicon chip — as well as the endless ‘reproductive’ everyday things that human beings do — that provide the very material for commodity production. We are witnessing the emergence of a kind of capitalism that is encroaching upon spheres of life, culture, and consciousness. Increasingly, our bodies, cultural practices, and our minds are mimicked by such practices as biotechnology, chain-stores, and artificial intelligence. It is our genes, our ideas, our words, our music, our food, and our everyday life activities, that are the resource base for informational capitalism.

Once we see biotechnology as more than a dangerous ‘technology,’ once we see it as constituting a key part of a broader shift to a new way of producing both nature and society, we see that we have a larger problem on our hands. We see that it is not sufficient to solely critique this particular technology, but that we must critique and remake the world that produced it.

A New Kind of Disenchantment

The shift from industrial to informational capitalism parallels a previous shift that began centuries ago: the transition from rural or agrarian societies to a world increasingly ordered around industrial production. This shift, which intensified during the 19th and 20th centuries (and continues today in many parts of the world), created an array of social disruptions as people throughout the newly industrialized West struggled to come to terms with capitalist values and an increasingly alienated industrialized, homogenized, and urbanized society. Today, this shift to informational capitalism is creating a similar climate of social disruption. As we move from industrial to informational capitalism, people across the planet are confronting a society in which their very bodies and cultures are absorbed into the logic of capitalist production in a very new way.

Max Weber wrote about a kind of modern alienation associated with the ‘first shift’ from agrarian society to industrial capitalism. He talked about a kind of disillusionment that surfaced as people watched their society be shaped by a logic of capitalist rationalization associated with the industrial factory, a logic of regularization, efficiency, and of the profit-motive as the ‘bottom line.’ During the middle of the 19th century, ‘ecology’ emerged as the way people talked about this disenchantment. Originally articulated in romantic terms, ‘ecology’ became a form of popular social critique that voiced a nostalgia for a less alienated kind of society, one that fostered greater integrity of social and biological life.

Today, ‘globalization’ may just be replacing ‘ecology’ as the primary way people are talking about this new brand of disenchantment associated with informational capitalism. In the anti-globalization movement, people are expressing alienation not only from industrial production, but from processes of biological and cultural reproduction associated with informational capitalism. The conversion of biological and cultural life processes into patented ‘intellectual property’ and the enchainment of local economies the world over, are producing a new kind of disenchantment, a growing popular disgust with the expanding logic of informational capitalism: a logic of homogeneity, recombinance, and privatization of life, culture, and consciousness itself.

The movement against globalization, a movement critical of ‘free trade,’ biotechnology, mass telecommunications, and the chain-store modality, is steadily becoming a key forum in which people are articulating this new kind of disenchantment. The recent popularity of French farmer José Bové, an international anti-globalization activist who shows the links between the WTO, GMOs, and McDonald’s, signals a new kind of consciousness that is surfacing among people seeking to make sense out of a new brand of informational capitalism that has been in the making during the latter half of the 20th century.

Discussions about ‘anti-globalization’ have the potential to be more radical than discussions about ‘ecology’ over the past several decades. ‘Ecology’ first emerged as a discourse through the writings of German theorist Ernst Haekel in the mid-1800s. As a form of social criticism, this original ‘Germanic ecology’ often romanticized particular places and peoples as more ‘natural,’ blaming society’s ecological and social problems on such unnatural ‘contaminants’ as Jews and other ‘foreign elements.’ Making a come-back years after the second world war, during the 1960s and 1970s, this ‘cold-war ecology’ often carried much of the romantic baggage of its Germanic predecessor.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, in particular, romantic ecology pervaded the U.S., often blaming euphemistic abstractions such as ‘civilization,’ ‘humanity,’ or ‘technology’ as the sources of social and ecological injustice — instead of looking at institutionalized forms of power such as the State, capitalism, or neo-colonialism. While social ecology (a left libertarian approach to ecology) attempted to stimulate dialogue regarding the relationship between nature and social hierarchy during these decades, cold-war forms of ecology such as deep ecology tended to more easily capture more popular attention, as deep ecology writers and organizations received more funding and publishing opportunities.

Rather than identify the specific sectors of ‘humanity’ that either victimize or are victimized by systems of power, many deep ecologists during those years cited ‘anthropocentrism’ or a ‘human-centered world’ as the primary problem. Cold war ecologies generally focused primarily on issues of ‘technology’ (such as nuclear technologies or computerization) and wilderness protection, often blaming ways of thinking about nature and society, such as the ‘nature/culture’ dualism (traced back to the ancient Greeks), as the source of the world’s problems, rather than examine forms of institutionalized power as well.

In the mid-1990s, we see the emergence of a new kind of ‘post-Rio ecology,’ a more political-ecological sensibility associated with international environmental discussions of sustainability, development, and free trade which pervaded the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Moving away from cold-war ecology’s focus on the ‘nature/culture dualism,’ a post-Rio ecology focuses on a ‘North/South dichotomy’ expressed through systems of global capital. Informed more by a post-Rio than a cold-war ecology, the anti-globalization movement tends to point concretely to systems of power, identifying capitalism, the State, and social oppression as the key causes of social and ecological crises. Focusing on institutionalized forms of power such as trade apparatuses, multinational corporations, or prisons, people today are understanding global social and ecological crises as two parts of a seamless whole.

Drawing from a post-Rio ecology, the anti-globalization movement has the potential to bring back discussions of power linked to global systems of hierarchy; discussions that have been absent for decades, since the cold-war tried, and largely succeeded in, purging revolutionary ideas from the imaginations of young activists throughout the country.

A New Kind of Uprising?

Today’s anti-globalization movement harkens back to a form of resistance that accompanied the last shift: the peasant uprisings of the 16th and 17th centuries. This still-ongoing shift from agriculture to industrial capitalism has always been met with resistance. Although this history is largely ignored or suppressed, the first moments of this transition, that occurred during the shift from the agrarian feudal order to the modern capitalist nation-state, was met by numerous peasant uprisings that spread throughout Europe. Freed from the feudal order, with its oppressive monarchy and religious hierarchy, there were groups of peasants who rose up, seeking a better future than the one being offered by the nation-state and capitalist economy that were replacing the old system.

While not all peasants took this stance (indeed, many peasant groups looked to authoritarian and parochial forms of religion for guidance), there were many groups who sought to move beyond parochial forms of power, moving toward a more humanist and pre-libertarian sensibility as they fought against the enclosure of common lands by the State and against the general culture of private property that was spreading around them. The people who participated in these movements imagined a world built up out of another logic, a logic of sociality that could rebuild society along the lines of non-hierarchy and cooperation.

Today, we are witnessing a new kind of popular resistance that is emerging as we move toward a re-ordering of systems of power. As discussed above, capitalism and the modern nation-state are undergoing a period of intense reorganization. While the infrastructure of industrial production is being relocated largely to the southern hemisphere, international trade bodies such as the WTO are modifying the role and function of the modern State, increasingly consolidating their power to shape the economic policy of nations across the planet. New forms of governance are emerging that are neither strictly corporations nor States. Rather, they are institutional hybrids derived from both capitalist and State power that pave the way for the smooth circulation of industrial and informational capitalism throughout the world.

Today’s anti-globalization activists might constitute an echo of the spirit of the old peasant uprisings of centuries ago. Emerging during the transition from one world order to the next, there are people across the planet today who are rising up, demanding a new kind of society. While there are many ‘radical reformists’ and ‘charismatic critics’ who call merely for a pragmatic mending of the old system, there are indeed many who are envisioning a world built up out of a different logic.

Direct-Democracy: A Logic of Sociality

For most of human history, human societies lived in small-scale communities organized around a logic of sociality: a logic of social cooperation, interdependence, and decentralization. Without romanticizing small-scale non-State societies, it is fair to say that most of these societies ordered themselves around principles of sociality that are very different from those of capitalist societies in the modern period.

While many of these societies were less than utopian, often marked by inter-tribal warfare and sexual hierarchy, they were often organized around the idea that human survival and flourishing depended upon the ability of human beings to cooperate to provide for the common good. Goods produced or gathered by community members were distributed according to a morality of reciprocity that ensured the survival of each member of a community. When individuals, for instance, hoarded resources, communities often regarded such individuals as being possessed by demonic forces. In such cases, societies had a variety of creative ways of discouraging such behavior ranging from peer-pressure to outright exclusion, or even physical punishment.

In contrast, capitalist societies are organized primarily around principles of anti-sociality such as greed and competition. Instead of stigmatizing individuals who hoard, such as Bill Gates or Donald Trump, capitalist societies worship their most anti-social members by rewarding them with social status, praise, and attention. Recent television shows such as Survivor or The Weakest Link, celebrate the ongoing and pervasive capitalist philosophy of social Darwinism that tells us that the ‘strongest’ i.e., the most greedy and competitive, survive. We live in an era in which social hierarchy is perceived as ‘natural’ and inevitable, while the ideal of non-hierarchy is met with suspicion, cynicism, and even outright contempt.

The movement against biotechnology and the wider anti-globalization movement is potentially a parallel moment to the uprisings of pre-libertarian peasants centuries ago. Those active in the movement today may become the very people who are not only willing to see beyond the limits of the past and current social orders, but willing to build a new one out of a different logic. While this ‘Survivor-Society’ would like us to think otherwise, we do have the potential to build upon the cooperative dimensions of earlier societies. Biologically speaking, we are the same species, the same homo sapiens sapiens that lived according to a logic of sociality for most of the human record. Capitalism and the nation-state are recent blips on the screen of human evolution. Despite the pervasive social hierarchies of today, we still have the same potentiality latent within us, the potential to recapture that logic of sociality and to transform it into the basis for a new society.

Culturally speaking, we are not that far from our ancestors as well. Latent within our current societies are still vestiges of sociality, principles of cooperation, interdependency, and freedom upon which we may draw for inspiration and insight. The idea of direct democracy is one of those vestiges of sociality dwelling among the many hidden histories of the West. In ancient Greece, the Athenians came up with the notion of direct-democracy, the idea that human beings could govern themselves directly, free from religious or monarchic hierarchy or rule. While they were unable to transcend the idea of slavery and patriarchy, excluding the oppressed from this new vision, they did come up with a new notion of the free ‘citizen’: a member of a community capable of rational and ethical self-governance.

This notion of self-governance and decentralized power were clearly not ‘invented’ solely by the Athenians. Again, throughout human history, particularly in small-scale non-State societies, indigenous communities often organized themselves along egalitarian lines, creating cooperative decision-making structures. What was unique about the Athenians contribution, however, was the idea of direct-democracy within a civil society, rather than within a society based on kinship. In kinship based societies, social bonds are built on notions of blood ties and marital affiliation. In the civil society introduced by ancient Athenians, social bonds are based on the notion of civic ties: the humanistic notion that any member of a community, related or not, is responsible and bound socially to all other members of the community. Today, we can enlarge the Athenian notion of humanism beyond what they could achieve, transcending slavery and patriarchy, and all forms of social hierarchy, to include all members of a community into the community of citizens.

Direct democracy is the logic of sociality carried out to its political conclusions: it is the spirit of cooperation translated into political terms as citizens work together to create the public policy that gives shape to their everyday lives. The original, most radical meaning of politics means simply the management by citizens of the polis, or of the city, town, or village. It is time to finally grasp and develop that simple yet profound notion, the idea that ordinary people, bound together in a humanist vision, could directly voice their own dreams, desires, and decisions among other members of a community.

Ethical Reasoning: What Ought to Be

Feminist poet and theorist Audre Lorde once said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Lorde’s words could not be more crucial today as we think critically about how to build a new movement out of a different logic. For the logic of anti-sociality, the logic of capitalism, the State, racism, and sexism — the logic of hierarchy itself — is indeed one of the master’s most powerful tools. The logic of hierarchy is a tool that the master has used for centuries as the mortar, brick, and spade from which he has built his many houses of domination. Today, if we are to rebuild anew, we need to find a different set of tools, a new way of thinking that will allow us not only to dismantle the master’s house, but to build a new one out of our own courage and reason.

There are two ways of thinking, one instrumental and one ethical. When we use instrumental reason, we ask ourselves, “what is the most practical means by which to achieve a particular end?” In contrast, when we use ethical reason, we ask ourselves, “what ought to be the means through which we achieve a society that ought to be?” Whereas instrumental reason is concerned with that which is probable, realistic, and efficient, ethical reason is concerned with what ought to be. It is concerned with that which a thing ought to become if it were to fulfill its unique potential to make the world into a more humane, rational, and just place.

Instrumental reason emerges out of a capitalist rationality that values efficiency above ethics. Too often in our movement, we use the master’s tool when we borrow the capitalist logic of instrumental reason to think about how to achieve our goals. For instance, in the movement against biotechnology, we often fall into the habit of instrumental reason when we choose to use ‘effective strategies’ and ‘media-ready sound-bites’ to abolish the technology, rather than thinking through what the movement against biotechnology ought to become.

We live in an instrumental society which teaches us to think like advertising agents, military strategists, or professional politicians. Appealing to instrumental reason, activists focus on the risks associated with biotechnology, believing this to be the most effective means of getting attention from the press and public. Using the same logic, they call for the labeling of GM foods, seeing this goal as more ‘achievable’ or ‘realistic’ or ‘sound-bite-able’ than an all-out ban on the technology. Yet when I recently asked a group of activists whether risk and labeling were really their primary concerns, they responded, “of course not… it’s just the most effective way to work on the issue, it makes a better soundbite.” In addition to being concerned with the risks associated with biotechnology, they were concerned that the corporate monopoly of agriculture and medicine that would lead to a more authoritarian and homogenized world. When asked what they really wanted, they answered, “a world where people are free from corporate monopolies period. A world where people are free.”

Every time we adopt a ‘lesser of two evils’ kind of thinking, every time we say to ourselves, “well, labeled GM foods would at least be better, than having no labels at all,” we take yet another step away from building the kind of society we really desire. Each time we think instrumentally about our activism, we stride that much deeper into the very world we are trying to transcend. We stride that much deeper into the world that brought us a biotechnology industry that promises to solve the world’s problems through instrumental technocratic means. Instrumental thinking will never allow us to create the good society. At best, it can give us a reformed, slightly improved version of the world in which we now live and struggle. Worse, it can allow us to create yet another world built up out of the same instrumental logic.

Seeing the Forest through the Trees — and the Horizon through the Forest

Ethical reason means seeing the society we are striving for through the same lens we use to examine a particular problem at hand. It means seeing the world that ought to be at the same time that we see the world that is, the world that we are trying to remake. The particular struggle against biotechnology must reflect the wider vision of the world we so desperately seek to rebuild. It is not enough to see the ‘big picture,’ to see the forest through the trees, so to speak, by seeing interconnecting broader systems of power. In addition, we must see the horizon through the forest, seeing the utopian horizon of freedom through the ‘big picture’ of the many problems we face.

This means moving from negative freedom, the idea of freedom from, to a substantive understanding of freedom: an idea of freedom to fulfill our potentiality in a variety of creative and humane ways. Again, it is insufficient to see the many problems before us and to seek freedom from their tyranny. In addition, we must become visionaries, freeing ourselves by bringing our own vision into being. Ethical reason means committing to becoming a revolutionary: a person wholly committed to envisioning and working toward creating a directly democratic, decentralized, and cooperative society.

When we use ethical reason, we see that the movement against biotechnology ought to become more than a movement against a particular technology. It ought to be part of a wider movement to abolish the networks of power that brought it into being and that are simultaneously enchaining our bodies and cultures in a myriad of other ways. But more than that, the movement against biotechnology ought to become a visionary movement, built up out of ethical reasoning, out of a logic of sociality; it ought to become a movement through which we reclaim our real political power as citizens to create a truly democratic society.

The dream of a directly democratic society will be one many years in the making. For we must become the very society we wish to build, preparing and educating ourselves to become the very citizens ready to participate in political life. Direct-democracy, without such preparation, is a meaningless and even potentially dangerous notion. If we were to suddenly wave a magic wand and suddenly replace the State with a string of directly democratic communities, the result could ultimately be terrifying. For without the evolution of a principled and holistic movement for social and political change, we would merely have a direct-democracy that reflected the current anti-social logic that pervades most of society. We would merely have a direct-democracy constituted by the many capitalists, racists, and sexists joined together to create racist and sexist public policy.

Instead, we need a gradual revolutionary process through which the notion of direct-democracy may be ‘filled out’ by other key ethical principles such as social justice, cooperative economics, and ecology. When these four key principles are integrated together, they round each other out, creating a fuller understanding and promise of freedom. These four principles — direct-democracy, social justice, cooperative economics, and ecology — emerge out of a logic of sociality. They are the basis upon which to build a truly holistic and revolutionary movement against biotechnology.

Toward a Revolutionary Vision: Libertarian Municipalism

To create this movement, we need to move beyond a stance of protest, reform, and alternatives-making — a stance we’ve been locked into for decades. It is time for the movement against biotechnology, and the wider anti-globalization movement, to inspire activists to rediscover their political power in the broadest and most radical sense. It is time to build a movement that explicitly demands not only freedom from social and ecological injustices, but the political freedom to create a new world based on a new vision.

Libertarian municipalism is a revolutionary vision developed by social ecologist Murray Bookchin which thinks through how to move from a representative statist ‘democracy’ toward a confederation of directly democratic communities. According to Bookchin, the vestiges of direct democracy still lie just beneath the surface of the nation-state. Though largely disavowed of their power, local political forums such as city planning boards, ward assemblies, and neighborhood councils constitute remnants of the real promise of direct democracy. In many parts of the country, citizens still meet face to face with other members of their community to discuss and inform local policy making. For Bookchin, the ‘municipality’ — the local city, town, or village — represents the cellular structure of the larger organism of the confederation, a cooperative alliance between local communities that would be united together under the same charter or constitution.

Bookchin advocates transforming the local municipal election into a viable forum in which to popularize the demand for direct democracy. By running candidates for municipal office, libertarian municipalists promote a program along with a candidate, a program for direct democracy, social justice, cooperative economics and ecology. Once this program is voted in, it would lay the ground work for transforming that municipality into a direct democracy in which citizens, rather than representatives, formed the very public policy that would shape the everyday life of the community. Rather than electing representatives, citizens would ultimately ‘elect’ a new way of organizing society around a new set of democratic values.

The movement against biotechnology, one that is currently based on protest, reform, and alternatives-making, must broaden to become a revolutionary movement. We will never move beyond the world that constitutes biotechnology, nor beyond the world that is in turn, constituted by it, until we begin to take our dreams seriously. In the spirit of the peasant uprisings, centuries ago, we too, must demand a new kind of world built up out of a different logic: a logic based on human decency, creativity, and cooperation. Through a logic of sociality, we may begin to move beyond our current state of disenchantment, seeing ourselves and our struggle in revolutionary terms.

Moving beyond an instrumental approach to movement organizing, we must begin to see our work in ethical terms, thinking through what ought to be, rather than through what is most practical or efficient. Thinking through what ought to be brings us to understand the movement against biotechnology as more than a movement to eliminate or curb particular technology. We don’t just want a world that is GMO free. We want a world in which we are free from the society that created them — and free to create another world that is democratic, socially just, cooperative, and ecological. Let the movement against biotechnology be a crucial point of departure, a movement toward creating a world in which we not only control technology, we take control over our very own lives.