Keywords: biological knowledge, social norms and regulations, routines, genetic revolution history
Mastering biological industrialisation: a social challenge
Built largely upon age-old practices and social customs, biological knowledge mobilised both in agriculture and the field of health escaped, for a long time, uniformisation, and thus privatisation. Until recently, in effect, the heterogeneity of practices and social organisations favoured a wide dispersion of production techniques. Price systems and modes of appropriation further strengthened this diversity. In a word, the specificity of individual histories as well as those of cultural references joined forces with the will of governments to constitute serious obstacles to the privatisation of life forms. Nonetheless, the 1990s marked, with a homogenisation of research practices, the recomposition of productive systems and the will of certain players to privatise life forms, a considerable acceleration in the change in biological techniques. Thus, this change did not occur only because of a deepening of scientific knowledge, but certainly because of the commitment occurrence of economic, social and political developments carried on the tide of globalisation. These developments, which encourage the industrialisation of biological knowledge do not, however, lead to a uniform expression of what some people have called the "Genetic Revolution". Therefore, the five articles in this dossier are not limited to listing one by one the convergent factors which are currently presiding over the adoption on a large scale of a new paradigm. They also attempt to demonstrate how the conditions of the transformation of empirical practices and scientific knowledge into commercial objects bear the particular mark of their appropriation. They underline the industrial, institutional or citizens' reactions induced, in particular, by this trend towards privatising life forms. The historical dimensions of this particular change in technique lend coherence to this file. For the reader, they constitute a thread to follow in reading these articles.