A Typology of Posthumanism: A Framework for Differentiating Analytic, Synthetic, Theoretical, and Practical Posthumanisms
Gladden, Matthew E.
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The term ‘posthumanism’ has been employed to describe a diverse array of phenomena ranging from academic disciplines and artistic movements to political advocacy campaigns and the development of commercial technologies. Such phenomena differ widely in their subject matter, purpose, and methodology, raising the question of whether it is possible to fashion a coherent definition of posthumanism that encompasses all phenomena thus labelled. In this text, we seek to bring greater clarity to this discussion by formulating a novel conceptual framework for classifying existing and potential forms of posthumanism. The framework asserts that a given form of posthumanism can be classified: 1) either as an analytic posthumanism that understands ‘posthumanity’ as a sociotechnological reality that already exists in the contemporary world or as a synthetic posthumanism that understands ‘posthumanity’ as a collection of hypothetical future entities whose development can be intentionally realized or prevented; and 2) either as a theoretical posthumanism that primarily seeks to develop new knowledge or as a practical posthumanism that seeks to bring about some social, political, economic, or technological change. By arranging these two characteristics as orthogonal axes, we obtain a matrix that categorizes a form of posthumanism into one of four quadrants or as a hybrid posthumanism spanning all quadrants. It is suggested that the five resulting types can be understood roughly as posthumanisms of critique, imagination, conversion, control, and production. We then employ this framework to classify a wide variety of posthumanisms, such as critical, cultural, philosophical, sociopolitical, and popular (or ‘commercial’) posthumanism; science fiction; techno-idealism; metahumanism; neohumanism; antihumanism; prehumanism; feminist new materialism; the posthumanities; biopolitical posthumanism, including bioconservatism and transhumanism (with specialized objective and instrumental typologies offered for classifying forms of transhumanism); and organizational posthumanism. Of particular interest for our research is the classification of organizational posthumanism as a hybrid posthumanism combining analytic, synthetic, theoretical, and practical aspects. We argue that the framework proposed in this text generates a typology that is flexible enough to encompass the full range of posthumanisms while being discriminating enough to order posthumanisms into types that reveal new insights about their nature and dynamics.
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