Abstract

Science Studies, as developed initially in France attempt to overcome the distinctions between science and society, and correspondingly between the philosophy of science and political and social theory. Science Studies considers the theories and beliefs of scientists political rather than direct reºections of an objective natural world. I consider here Science Studies as a political theory that emerged and has developed in reaction to a particular social and political context, a crisis of technocratic politics in France.

Some of the leading contemporary French exponents Science Studies, a group around the journal Cosmopolitiques that is loosely associated with the French Green party, including Bruno Latour and Michel Callon advocate the democratization of science. They have developed explicitly and at length the theoretical political aspects of science studies. I examine here critically this political theory against its social background. I argue that the social and political structure of French science explains the emergence of the descriptive and normative political theories associated with Science Studies. I doubt whether the normative prescriptions that Latour and Callon developed would be sufficient to solve the problems that follow from the monolithic and exclusionary structure of French governance and institutional science. Conversely, I doubt their solutions are useful for other democratic systems and scientific institutions that do not share the particular problems of France.

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Author notes

Aviezer Tucker teaches philosophy at Queens University, Belfast. The research leading to this article was conducted while he was an Australia Research Fellow at the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. Tucker's main areas of research are epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of history and political theory. He published two books Our Knowledge of the Past: A Philosophy of Historiography (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and The Philosophy and Politics of Czech Dissidence: From Patocka to Havel (Pittsburgh University Press 2000). Having worked in four of the continents, he aspires to work in the future in Africa or Antarctica.