In the past twenty years, the field of science and technology studies (S&TS) has made considerable progress toward illuminating the relationship between scientific knowledge and political power. These insights have not yet been synthesized or presented in a form that systematically highlights the connections between S&TS and other social sciences. This timely collection of essays by some of the leading scholars in the field attempts to fill that gap. The book develops the theme of "co-production", showing how scientific knowledge both (...) embeds and is embedded in social identities, institutions, representations and discourses. Accordingly, the authors argue, ways of knowing the world are inseparably linked to the ways in which people seek to organize and control it. Through studies of emerging knowledges, research practices and political institutions, the authors demonstrate that the idiom of co-production importantly extends the vocabulary of the traditional social sciences, offering fresh analytic perspectiveson the nexus of science, power and culture. (shrink)
STS research has devoted relatively little attention to the promotion and reception of science and technology by non-scientific actors and institutions. One consequence is that the relationship of science and technology to political power has tended to remain undertheorized. This article aims to fill that gap by introducing the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries. Through a comparative examination of the development and regulation of nuclear power in the US and South Korea, the article demonstrates the analytic potential of the imaginaries concept. (...) Although nuclear power and nationhood have long been imagined together in both countries, the nature of those imaginations has remained strikingly different. In the US, the state’s central move was to present itself as a responsible regulator of a potentially runaway technology that demands effective containment. In South Korea, the dominant imaginary was of atoms for development which the state not only imported but incorporated into its scientific, technological and political practices. In turn, these disparate imaginaries have underwritten very different responses to a variety of nuclear shocks and challenges, such as Three Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl, and the spread of the anti-nuclear movement. (shrink)
This collection of essays by Sheila Jasanoff explores how democratic governments construct public reason, that is, the forms of evidence and argument used in making state decisions accountable to citizens.
Scholars in science and technology studies have recently been called upon to advise governments on the design of procedures for public engagement. Any such instrumental function should be carried out consistently with STS’s interpretive and normative obligations as a social science discipline. This article illustrates how such threefold integration can be achieved by reviewing current US participatory politics against a 70-year backdrop of tacit constitutional developments in governing science and technology. Two broad cycles of constitutional adjustment are discerned: the first (...) enlarging the scope of state action as well as public participation, with liberalized rules of access and sympathetic judicial review; the second cutting back on the role of the state, fostering the rise of an academic-industrial complex for technology transfer, and privatizing value debates through increasing delegation to professional ethicists. New rules for public engagement in the United Sates should take account of these historical developments and seek to counteract some of the anti-democratic tendencies observable in recent decades. (shrink)
This article argues that climate change produces discordances in established ways of understanding the human place in nature, and so offers unique challenges and opportunities for the interpretive social sciences. Scientific assessments such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change helped establish climate change as a global phenomenon, but in the process they detached knowledge from meaning. Climate facts arise from impersonal observation whereas meanings emerge from embedded experience. Climate science thus cuts against the grain of common sense (...) and undermines existing social institutions and ethical commitments at four levels: communal, political, spatial and temporal. The article explores the tensions that arise when the impersonal, apolitical and universal imaginary of climate change projected by science comes into conflict with the subjective, situated and normative imaginations of human actors engaging with nature. It points to current environmental debates in which a reintegration of scientific representations of the climate with social responses to those representations is taking place. It suggests how the interpretive social sciences can foster a more complex understanding of humanity’s climate predicament. An important aim of this analysis is to offer a framework in which to think about the human and the social in a climate that seems to render obsolete important prior categories of solidarity and experience. (shrink)
Human embryos produced in labs since the 1970s have generated layers of uncertainty for law and policy: ontological, moral, and administrative. Ontologically, these lab-made entities fall into a gray zone between life and not-yet-life. Should in vitro embryos be treated as inanimate matter, like abandoned postsurgical tissue, or as private property? Morally, should they exist largely outside of state control in the zone of free reproductive choice or should they be regarded as autonomous human lives and thus entitled to constitutional (...) protection like full-fledged citizens? Administratively, if they deserve protection, what institutional and policy mechanisms are best suited to carrying out the necessary oversight? Using a method termed comparative problematization, this article traces divergent answers to these questions produced in three countries—the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany—across the last twenty-five years. Comparison reveals distinct bioconstitutional foundations that give rise to systematically different understandings of each state’s responsibilities toward human life and hence its particular treatment of claims on behalf of embryonic lives. (shrink)
This essay introduces a collection of articles gathered under the theme of “law, science, and constitutions of life.” Together, they explore how revolutions in notions of what biological life is are eliciting correspondingly revolutionary imaginations of how life should be governed. The central theoretical contribution of the collection is to further elaborate the concept of bioconstitutionalism, which draws attention to especially consequential forms of coproduction at the law–life nexus. This introduction offers a theoretical discussion of bioconstitutionalism. It explores the constitutional (...) significance of interplay between scientific and technological power over life and a given political community’s shared imaginary of what modes of reasoning, judgment, and rule are proper and legitimate in a well-ordered state. It argues that knowing what life is for purposes of governance does not follow from scientific knowledge alone. Rather, such knowledge is refracted through culturally distinctive imaginaries that commit societies to particular understandings of what life means and what should be done to encourage its flourishing. (shrink)
This paper explores the politics of representing events in the world in the form of data points, data sets, or data associations. Data collection involves an act of seeing and recording something that was previously hidden and possibly unnamed. The incidences included in a data set are not random or unrelated but stand for coherent, classifiable phenomena in the world. Moreover, for data to have an impact on law and policy, such information must be seen as actionable, that is, the (...) aggregated data must show people both something they can perceive and something that demands interrogation, explanation, or resolution. Actionable data problematize the taken-for-granted order of society by pointing to questions or imbalances that can be corrected or rectified, or simply better understood, through systematic compilations of occurrences, frequencies, distributions, or correlations. The paper describes and analyzes three different modes of authorized seeing that render data on global environmental phenomena such as climate change both visible and actionable. It argues that the political force of environmental data compilations derives from the divergent epistemological standpoints and expert practices associated with producing views from nowhere, everywhere, and somewhere. (shrink)
Genetic testing has become a vehicle through which basic constitutional relationships between citizens and the state are revisited, reaffirmed, or rearticulated. The interplay between the is of genetic knowledge and the ought of government unfolds in the context of diverse imaginaries of the forms of human well-being, freedom, and flourishing that states have a duty to support. This article examines how the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States governed testing for Alzheimer’s disease, and how they diverged in defining potential (...) harms, benefits, and objects of regulation. Comparison before and after the arrival of direct-to-consumer genetic tests reveals differences in national understandings of what it means to protect life and citizenship: in the United Kingdom, ensuring physical wellness through clinical utility; in the United States, protecting both citizens’ physical well-being and freedom to choose through a framework of consumer protection; and in Germany, emphasizing individual flourishing and an unburdened sense of human development that is expressed in genetic testing law and policy as a commitment to the stewardship of personhood. Operating with their own visions of what it means to protect life and citizenship, these three states arrived at settlements that coproduced substantially different bioconstitutional regimes around Alzheimer’s testing. (shrink)
Both opponents and proponents of the death penalty express faith in science and in DNA evidence to justify their positions. This article examines the production of forensic evidence as a social activity and suggests that tendencies toward bias and error may not apply symmetrically in inculpation and exoneration contexts.
This paper addresses, and seeks to correct, some frequent misunderstandings concerning the claim that science is socially constructed. It describes several features of scientific inquiry that have been usefully illuminated by constructivist studies of science, including the mundane or tacit skills involved in research, the social relationships in scientific laboratories, the causes of scientific controversy, and the interconnection of science and culture. Social construction, the paper argues, should be seen not as an alternative to but an enhancement of scientists’ own (...) professional understanding of how science is done. The richer, more finely textured accounts of scientific practice that the constructivist approach provides are potentially of great relevance to public policy. (shrink)
History at one time drew unproblematically on records produced by human societies about themselves and their doings. Advances in biology and the earth sciences introduced new narrative resources that repositioned the human story in relation to the evolution of all else on the planet, thereby decentering earlier conceptions of time, life, and human agency. This essay reflects on what it means for our understanding of the human that the history of our species has become so intimately entangled with the material (...) processes that make up the biosphere, while concurrently the temporal horizon of our imagination has been stretched forward and back, underscoring the brevity of human existence in relation to earthly time. I suggest that, despite significant changes in the resources with which we can rethink the human condition, drawing upon the sciences, history’s fundamental purposes have not been rendered irrelevant. These center, as before, on the normative project of connecting past and future in ways that make sense of human experience and give meaning to it. In particular, the question of how humans should imagine the stewardship of the Earth in the Anthropocene remains an ethical project for history and not primarily the domain of the natural sciences. (shrink)
“Relying on Science, Romney Files Death Penalty Bill.” With that headline, a press release on April 28, 2005 announced that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was seeking to reintroduce by legislation the death penalty that the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled unconstitutional in 1984. The remainder of the text left little doubt that science was a major basis for the governor's action. The press release quoted Romney as saying that the bill provided a “gold standard for the death penalty in the (...) modern scientific age.” Positing a symmetry that will be questioned below, Romney also declared, “Just as science can free the innocent, it can also identify the guilty.” The bill itself deferred to science by calling for corroborating scientific evidence, multiple layers of review, and a novel “no doubt” standard of proof. By raising the required standard of evidence and by restricting the class of capital crimes, the proposed law hoped to correct the defects of other death penalty statutes. (shrink)