And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Multitude; for we are many."

Science Was Born Cyborg II -The Production of Scientists

«a technology that creates a standard and regulates the bodies in function of it – it matters little if this is a standard of physical execution, of intellectual performance, if we are talking about moral standards or measuring ones. Between Henry Maudslay’s screw-cutting lathe and Johann Friedrich Herbart’s pedagogy there isn’t much of a difference.»

This text is divided in four parts: -I. Foucault’s Path to Discipline (on which I had already written when discussing interdisciplinarity), II. The Production of Scientists, III. Scientists as Instruments and IV. The Values of Cyborg Instruments.

I usually post stuff about what I have been thinking about, so it’s likely that you find some ideas here that I had already posted.

the production of scientists

Prevalent across hospitals, schools and prisons, embedded in the transformation of the social tissue and its organization, inseparable from the rise of bourgeois power and its representative models – discipline did not leave the sciences untouched;[1] in fact, it made them. The turn of the century marked the birth of social sciences, whose object was Man Himself; not only as organism and as machine, but also as society, as education, as economy, as civil life – biopolitics begin.

The transformations in the scientific realm were all-embracing. «From the 19th century on, every scholar becomes a professor or director of a laboratory. That means that the power of the “free-floating” scholar ..  disappears in favour of the person whose knowledge is at the same time authenticated through the power which he exercises.»[2] This resulted in such profound transformations that some have ventured to call it a Revolution[3]  – whether because everything was different by its end, or because it all returned to its point of departure, will depend on one’s will to give science a history of its own.[4]

What is a fact is that at the same time workers were entering the factories, becoming part of a machine that produced material goods, scientists were entering the laboratories and academies, becoming pieces of a machinery that produced scientific knowledge and its authority, immaterial goods. And neither one nor the other could have done so if they hadn’t themselves been built so as to fit as pieces of the new machineries. For that is the role of discipline: «it ‘makes’ individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise.»[5]

the secondary sector of the economy of bodies

The legitimate knowers of Nature were no longer simply embodied inquisitive souls, ‘free-floating scholars,’ former apprentices of an elitist craft. Their validity was now more dependent on diffused forms of control than on nameable authorities, the validity of their results more dependent upon proof of their universality than on a recognizable seal of approval.



Scientists were now being produced in factories; and the central stage of their fabrication – as of the fabrication of any rightful citizen – was called education.[6] Education took place not only in schools, but also in the sector of activity which was concerned with the reproduction and collection of raw materials – the nuclear family was born.[7] But it was in schools, above all, that bodies were being worked and manufactured so as to produce quality-qualified workers, and disciplinary education could achieve its full potential: «the meticulous control of the operations of the body, [assuring] the constant subjection of its forces and [imposing] upon them a relation of docility-utility.»[8]

quality control

The aim of schools was that of the secondary sector of the economy of bodies: to create homogenized subjects, productive citizens, docile individuals, qualified workers. To guarantee the functionality and the quality of the goods produced a number of techniques had to be put in place.

First, the development of each body’s abilities had to be rendered visible and quantifiable. Thus the necessity of overcoming the old and ritualistic oral tradition by one of systematic written production, to substitute a system of ranking and emulation by one of competition against a transcendent and numerical grading system, and to make examination the core of education.[9]

The evaluation process gives place to a second technique that is even more explicit in its quality-control aim: the class. Bodies are now distributed throughout several levels of progression, once again quantified, and subjected to strict selection.

Moreover, it was for the same purpose that establishing surveillance as both omnipresent and multileveled became vital. It is thus in the process of quality control that hierarchical supervision meets, without friction, panoptical vigilance – ‘the eye of God.’[10]


To make the bodies comparable, to make them relatable and positionable with respect to each other, was to allow their uniformization, their regulation. Foucault called this process normalization, «one of the great instruments of power at the end of the classical age.. [it] imposes homogeneity; but it individualizes by making it possible to measure gaps, to determine levels, to fix specialities and to render the differences useful by fitting them one to another.»[11]


The similarity between the production of human commodities and of non-human ones, is rendered obvious if normalisation is contrasted with industrial functions. Discipline is a form of social control that functions by entangling improvement with impotence, i.e. by developing bodies’ skills while coercing their uses. This does not mean reducing their force, for the sake of their passivity; rather, agency can be strengthened as long as it works within certain relationships, as long as it translates into productivity. The process of normalization that was taking form in the material and social factories was prone to nurture very specific qualities: docility, utility and domesticability – as Foucault pointed out – but also repeatability, accountability, compatibility, interoperability.

Inside and tangled up with foucauldian normalization we can just as well recognize a technology that creates a standard and regulates the bodies in function of it – it matters little if this is a standard of physical execution, of intellectual performance, if we are talking about moral standards or measuring ones. Between Henry Maudslay’s screw-cutting lathe and Johann Friedrich Herbart’s pedagogy there isn’t much of a difference.



To maximize the functionality of all the productive and producing bodies, they should be made automatic, requiring the least possible external intervention. They should be given autonomy: be self/reparable, be self/controlled, be self/managed. At the level of institutions – schools, prisons, laboratories and other factories – this was to be accomplished by the multi-layered system of vigilance already mentioned.

At the individual scale, education had to device self-regulatory apparatuses that guaranteed the automaticity-autonomy of subjects. This is what Foucault will later call self-governing techniques: the incorporation of mechanisms of regulation of the self, the interiorization of repression and control regarding behaviour and morality, the creation of an internal police.

It was widely imagined that the production of scientists would gradually accomplish ever more disciplined, productive and efficient men of knowledge, organic automata for the natural inquiry.

[1] J. Rouse, 1993.

[2] PNN,p.64.

[3] T, 1977,pp.147- 220. Hahn, 1971,pp.275-276

[4] Serres, 1995,pp.432-438.

[5] DP,p.170.

[6]Hoskin, 1990,pp 29-53. Warwick and Kaiser, 2005. Shapin and Barnes, 1976.

[7] Parsons, 1956

[8]  DP,p.137.

[9] Hoskin, 1993. DP,pp.184-192

[10] DP,pp.170-177

[11] DP,p.184


4 comments on “Science Was Born Cyborg II -The Production of Scientists

  1. Pingback: Science Was Born Cyborg I – Foucault’s Path to Discipline | MODO DE VOLAR

  2. Pingback: Science Was Born Cyborg III – Scientists as Instruments | MODO DE VOLAR

  3. Pingback: Science Was Born Cyborg IV -The Values of Cyborg Instruments | MODO DE VOLAR

  4. Debra

    Nydelig vintervær i Alta :-)og for en flott hund!Heldige deg som har hund. Det stÃ¥r øverst pÃ¥ min ø.ilekssten.. men eldstemann er allergisk – sÃ¥ han mÃ¥ flytte ut før det blir hund 🙂


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This entry was posted on 05/02/2016 by in ENG, Sem categoria and tagged , , , , , , , .
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