"Bionomic Man (and Woman): Fantasies of Anthropological Revolution as the Symptom of Modernity’s Nomic Crisis"

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Roger Griffin

(Oxford Brookes University)

"Bionomic Man (and Woman): Fantasies of Anthropological Revolution as the Symptom of Modernity’s Nomic Crisis"


Paper presented to the conference:

"Crafting Humans:From Genesis to Eugenics and Beyond"

8-10 September 2011, Queens College, Oxford


Second Annual Conference of the Berendel Foundation, in association with the Centre for health Medicine and Society and History of Race and Eugenics Research Group at Oxford Brookes University, the University of Oxford, and the Wellcome Trust


Abstract: This paper will locate social, political and eugenic bids to generate new types human being as symptomatic of attempts to resolve the cultural malaise of modernity. From the 18th century the need to find a solution to the erosion of a collective nomos in the West under the impact of modernization underwent a shift from fundamentalist defences of the nomos in the form of sectarian forms of Christianity (often accompanied by millennarian and apocalyptic sentiments) to futural temporalized utopias centring on the human capacity for self-regeneration within historical time. Once palingenetic expectations move from past-oriented and conservative to futural and revolutionary they engender a variety of projects to craft new types of human beings, a concern already evident in the French revolution and a feature of all subsequent revolutionary undertakings. These, over time, become increasingly biologized and scientized. It is in the resulting ethos that negative eugenics becomes enacted in the Third Reich as the correlative of the Nazi New Man. But an older tradition of eliminating ‘old’ human beings as a corollary of the obsession with anthropological regeneration takes place in a revolutionary tradition that links the French Revolution with Bolshevism, Maoism, and the Khmer Rouge.


Short Bio: Roger Griffin is Professor in Modern History at Oxford Brookes University. His main publications include The Nature of Fascism (Pinter, 1991), Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler (Palgrave, 2007. He also edited the anthologies of primary and secondary sources relating to fascism: Fascism (OUP, 1995), International Fascism: Theories, Causes and the New Consensus (Arnold, 1998); and (with Matthew Feldman) the 5 volumes of Critical Concepts in Political Science: Fascism (Routledge, 2003). His next book will be the volume The Metapolitics of Terrorism: Historical Roots of Political Fanaticism (Palgrave, 2012).



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