[OPE-L:3275] the clone mode of production?

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Sat May 20 2000 - 07:45:38 EDT

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In [OPE-L:3273], Mike W wrote:

> An interesting theoretical question is as to whether capitalism
> would survive as a system once the production of people itself
> was commodified. This would take us back to the dynamics of neo-
> slavery.

Although it is not posed in quite the way you do above, the question
of cloning people is very much of a real concern and possibility
today. This is especially the case since some other species have
been successfully cloned and there seems to be corporate interest
in the prospects for cloning people. Thus, I want to discuss this
topic here both in real, practical terms and in terms of theoretical

Problems associated with the diffusion of human clones:

a) THe scientific, technical knowledge has not advanced at present
   to the point where the cloning of human beings is possible.
   This can likely be expected to change within the relatively
   short-term (5-10 years?). This change can be expected, in large
   part, because of the current funding by private firms (and
   perhaps governments?) on research and experimentation on
   clonning of other species.

b) AS in the case of other technologies, one might reasonably
   anticipate that firms (and/or governments) experience a
   "learning by doing" curve as they progress with the process
   of cloning. It might be reasonble to suppose that "first
   generation" cloning technologies might not be as efficient
   as later-generation technologies for cloning. Relatedly,
   we might anticipate that the cost for human clones would be
   relatively high at least initially in relation to the cost
   of employing wage-labor. However, for the above reason, we
   might expect the costs of cloning to diminish over time as
   the industry matures and as economies of scale are

c) Rather than being used initially as a alternative source of
   labor, it is more likely imo that human clones will be
   clones for medical purposes including laboratory research
   (replacing dogs, cats, mice, and monkeys, etc. in the
   laboratory?) and for "parts" in human transplants (for
   the wealthy). These possibilities are in fact already
   recognized and have led to the "widespread social
   resistence" that Mike W referred to.

d) Although there has been opposition to c) by, including
   others, religious institutions and governments, it is not
   clear to me that this resistance will prevail. Indeed, I
   would not at all be surprised if governments came to
   treat cloning as a legal, contractual process similar
   to an agreement that a sperm donor enters into when agreeing
   to exchange sperm for money. Moreover, even if there are
   governments which agree to ban human cloning, can't it
   be expected that there will be *some* governments who will
   not agree to such a ban -- especially if the international
   demand for clones increases?

This leads me to the inclusion that (even if there is a partial
             read: conclusion :above
international ban on human cloning):

i) it *will* happen barring mass social protests;
ii) the cost of human clones can be expected to decline over time;
iii) the uses of human clones can be expected to expand over time.

Another issue [which I should have listed as e) above] is the
juridical status of human clones. I.e. will they be treated as
human beings with the same rights as other human beings or will
they be legally treated as the private property of the corporation
them? For there to be a widespread diffusion of clones, this is
an obstacle that must be surmounted.

If the clones are to be used for the purposes of human labor rather
than for medical purposes, there is another question concerning
the process of rearing and educating the clones. E.g. for them to
be treated as slaves they must come to accept this as their
function in life. It is hard for me to see how this could be
done in practical terms and there is no guarantee that clones
will not demand equal rights and fight for social change.

On the other hand, if clones were indoctrinated that they were
part of a "superior" race or breed of human beings, then
perhaps they could be used in warfare against people in other
nations or even wage-earners. This also seems to me to be very
problematic. Indeed, if clones were convinced that they were
superior to wage-earners, what would stop them from thinking
that they were superior to the capitalists who created them?
And this gets to the real problem with the prospects for
using human clones as workers. I.e. why would corporations
(or the state) use human clones for laboring unless they
knew that they could be effectively *controlled*? And because
they are humans, they retain their capacity for revolt.

So, it seems to me, that for this theoretical possibility to
become a reality, there would have to be a different, more
direct, form of control over labourers than what we see under
capitalism. In particulart, the direct form of control that
existed under slavery would have to be re-instituted (perhaps
some form of inplant could be put into the clones that could
cause physical pain?).

While I think, therefore, that a "clone mode of production" is
a theretical possibility, there would have to be many obstacles
that would have to be overcome for this prospect to become
a reality. So I think that human clones for medical purposes are
highly likely, but a clone labor force is quite improbable.
Nonetheless, if there was a labor force made up of clones, it
would probably best be understood in terms of the "dynamics of
neo-slavery" as Mike W suggested rather than in terms of

In solidarity, Jerry

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