Printed: 2020-10-21

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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TechnoProgressive Biopolitics and Human Enhancement

J. Hughes

Progress in Bioethics, ed. Jonathan Moreno and Sam Berger, 2010, MIT Press, pp. 163-188

December 10, 2009

A principal challenge facing the progressive bioethics project is the crafting of a consistent message on biopolitical issues that divide progressives.

The regulation of enhancement technologies is one of the issues central to this emerging biopolitics, pitting progressive defenders of enhancement, “technoprogressives,” against progressive critics. This essay [PDF] will argue that technoprogressive biopolitics express the consistent application of the core progressive values of the Enlightenment: the right of individuals to control their own bodies, brains and reproduction according to their own conscience, under democratic states that work for the public good.

Insofar as left bioconservatives want to ensure the safety of therapies and their equitable distribution, these concerns can be addressed by thorough and independent regulation and a universal health care system, and a progressive bioethics of enhancement can unite both enthusiasts and skeptics. Insofar as bioconservative concerns are motivated by deeper hostility to the Enlightenment project however, by assertion of pre-modern reverence for human uniqueness for instance, then a common program is unlikely.

imageAfter briefly reviewing the political history and contemporary landscape of biopolitical debates about enhancement, the essay outlines three meta-policy contexts that will impact future biopolicy: the pressure to establish a universal, cost-effective health insurance system, the aging of industrial societies, and globalization.  Technoprogressive appeals are outlined that can appeal to key constituencies, and build a majority coalition in support of progressive change. Finally, some guiding principles for a technoprogressive approach to biopolicy are offered.

Download a PDF of an early version of the chapter

Also download and read the introductory essay from this volume: “Bioethics Progressing” by Sam Berger and Jonathan D. Moreno

Buy the book here


  • Can There Be a Progressive Bioethics? - Richard Lempert
  • Politics, Progressivism, and Bioethics - R. Alta Charo
  • Bioethics: The New Conservative Crusade - Kathryn Hinsch
  • A Progressive American Bioethics - Laurie Zoloth
  • Biomedicalization and the Rise of Bioethics - Paul Root Wolpe
  • The Tension between Progressive Bioethics and Religion - John H. Evans
  • Can National Bioethics Commissions Be Progressive? Should They? - Eric M. Meslin
  • Technoprogressive Biopolitics and Human Enhancement - James J. Hughes
  • Biopolitics, Mythic Science, and Progressive Values - Marcy Darnovsky
  • Can Bioethics Transcend Ideology? (And Should It?) - Arthur L. Caplan
  • A Catholic Progressive on Care and Conscience - Michael Rugnetta
  • Reforming Health Care: Ends and Means - -Daniel Callahan
  • Finding Common Ground in Bioethics? - William F. May

James Hughes Ph.D., the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, is a bioethicist and sociologist who serves as the Associate Provost for Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning for the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is author of Citizen Cyborg and is working on a second book tentatively titled Cyborg Buddha. From 1999-2011 he produced the syndicated weekly radio program, Changesurfer Radio. (Subscribe to the J. Hughes RSS feed)


Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
IEET, 35 Harbor Point Blvd, #404, Boston, MA 02125-3242 USA
phone: 860-428-1837