Genetics and culture: The geneticization thesis

  • Henk A. M. J. ten Have

DOI: 10.1023/A:1012090810798

Cite this article as:
ten Have, H.A.M.J. Med Health Care Philos (2001) 4: 295. doi:10.1023/A:1012090810798


The concept of ‘geneticization’ has been introduced in the scholarly literature to describe the various interlocking and imperceptible mechanisms of interaction between medicine, genetics, society and culture. It is argued that Western culture currently is deeply involved in a process of geneticization. This process implies a redefinition of individuals in terms of DNA codes, a new language to describe and interpret human life and behavior in a genomic vocabulary of codes, blueprints, traits, dispositions, genetic mapping, and a gentechnological approach to disease, health and the body. This article analyses the thesis of ‘geneticization’. Explaining the implications of the thesis, and discussing the critical refutations, it is argued that ‘geneticization’ primarily is a heuristic tool that can help to re-focus the moral debate on the implications of new genetic knowledge towards interpersonal relations, the power of medicine, the cultural context and social constraints, rather than emphasizing issues as personal autonomy and individual rights.

bioethics culture Foucault genetics geneticization Human Genome Project medicalization non-directiveness responsibility 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henk A. M. J. ten Have
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ethics, Philosophy and History of Medicine, Faculty of Medical SciencesUniversity of NijmegenThe Netherlands

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