Species of Biocapital, 2008, and Speciating Biocapital, 2017

  • Stefan Helmreich
  • Nicole Labruto


Many scholars in science studies have sought to theorize the conjunction of capitalism and biotechnology. A variety of terms have been forwarded to name how ‘life’ in the age of genomics, stem cell research, and reproductive technology has become enmeshed in market dynamics, and no term has become so prominent as biocapital. In this chapter, we classify articulations of this concept, arguing that definitions center on two transformations: in biotic substance and in economic speculation and sentiment. In experimenting with ways of representing diverse species of biocapital, we offer a timeline of intellectual history and a genealogy of scholarship. We conclude with an update on where biocapital conversations have headed since 2008, when the body of this chapter was originally composed.



Thanks to Samer Alatout, Kean Birch, Joseph Dumit, Sarah Franklin, Hannah Landecker, Vincent Lépinay, Bill Maurer, Heather Paxson, Ramya Rajagopalan, Sophia Roosth, and Michael Rossi for comments. Nicole Labruto and Stefan Helmreich thank Maurizio Meloni for soliciting this revision of the original ‘Species of Biocapital.’


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Helmreich
    • 1
  • Nicole Labruto
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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