The Will to Modernize: A Genealogy of Biomedical Research Ethics in Singapore

David Reubi, 2010, International Political Sociology, 4(2):142-158.

This article is a contribution to the sociological and anthropological literature on the recent globalization of Western biomedical research ethics and bioethics. Focusing on Singapore, the article identifies and traces the genealogy of the concepts, expertise, and techniques that made it possible to introduce and develop a bioethical assemblage in the Southeast Asian city-state at the turn of the twenty-first century. It argues that what made such a development possible was a particular style of reasoning, the ‘‘will to modernize,’’ which has characterized the thinking and acting of the Singaporean leadership ever since the country’s independence. After describing the elements that make up the will to modernize, most notably the concept of modernization-as-economic- development and the notion of infrastructure, the article shows how these elements have allowed for Singapore’s efforts to transform the island into a global hub for the life sciences from the mid-1980s onward. The article also shows how the development of a bioethical assemblage in the Republic was made possible by the fact that, for the governing elite, such an assemblage was conceived as a ‘‘(soft) infrastructure’’ that was necessary to transform Singapore into a global hub for biomedical research.