Access Provided by Bristol University at 11/19/11 9:29AM GMT

Any science must then include “reporting home” (rather than “going native”). along with their scientists. are considerable. refer to each other.” I wished to uphold the singularity of their achievement and collective game (which Helen Verran characterizes as the “painstaking labor of solidifying comparison as a thoroughly reliable participant”) in order to call for a pluralization of sciences. I am not sure that all scientific achievements lend themselves to solidification. Beyond the case that each makes against unilaterally imposed relations. The importance I gave to the case of the experimental sciences was meant to renew their role as the starting point for thinking about science “in general. Ojo. For instance.Symposium: Comparative Relativism SCIENCES WERE NEVER “GOOD” Isabelle Stengers The contributions made to this discussion by Wistar rats. but the definition of what is to be reported has nothing general about it and depends on how the collective achievement is defined.1215/0961754X-2010-039 © 2011 by Duke University Press 82 . Common Knowledge 17:1 DOI 10. But this collective dimension should then be reduced to very generic terms: a science exists when its practitioners are interested in each other’s work. their presence is important. and Australian Aborigines. I proposed thinking about the sciences in terms of the contrasting demands bearing on such a “participant” (nonunilaterally imposed) comparison. while I would think that the collective dimension belongs to sciences as such. learn from each other. Mr. because they help in disentangling my proposition from what can be perceived as privileging the kind of achievement that is central to the experimental sciences.

as soon as they are in a scientific lab. of their map’s reconfigurations. As such.” I turned to a series of “unfair comparisons. there remains a kinship with experimental sciences. Given the opportunity. Correlatively. if. B. And the “them” itself may be problematic — what of past experience. But some scientists. The Pandora’s box is open. when they serve science. But so many powers depend and feed upon the knowledge/belief divide that the question of “human sciences” cannot be generically disentangled from the political question of empowerment. Humans. of the “personality” of each rat? Wherever relevance is a matter of crucial concern.Moreover. were not impressed by the “science” of those who claimed to characterize them. if the industry was busy with ergonomic unilateral measurements. which he takes as the felix culpa of the social sciences. Watson was not unhappy with his career in industry. This is also the lesson that Latour learned during the unhappy “science wars” episode. agree (I am sad to say) to answer questions or produce performances that reproduce lab dissymmetry: scientists are wondering. In contrast. they were the cause of some of those ethographers “going native.” and the source of the learning trajectory that leads to Viveiros de Castro.” or actually “being insulted” without even feeling it because they have already been deprived of the possibility of attributing value to what they know and feel. learning. when addressing scientists dealing with other “humans. hesitating about the relevant interpretation while the object performs without questions. Whatever the achievements in the human sciences. They not only felt insulted but publicized their outrage. in these cases. lack recalcitrance in contrast to some of those we have characterized in terms of beliefs (I refer to one side of what Bruno Latour calls the “Great Divide” between “we” who have science and all others who desperately mix up nature and culture ). I am not very surprised that J. as Steven Brown remarks. The recalcitrance they developed about the regime that colonizing powers imposed was able to inspire nagging doubt in many ethnographers. in speaking of an achievement as an event. What matters from their point of view? How do they map “us”? How do they relate to the situation? Learning relevance then entails learning what is relevant for them. I wished to emphasize the dissymmetry between “the rule of objective knowledge” and the adventure of relevant relations. while questions inspired by the “rule of objective knowledge” become more disgusting. rats have happily served as witnesses to their cognitive map. humans. But if rats possess a “cognitive map. they depend upon an increasing recalcitrance about accepting irrelevant or insulting questions. The question is now open: how to avoid people mutely “feeling insulted.” it is because “rat scientists” enjoy a privilege in comparison with those scientists. mainly physicists. and safety has flown St e n g e r s • F in a l C o m m e n t s 83 . I would propose. “progress” means that what is defined as the “object” becomes more interesting and more challenging.” the question of relevance is open. of trust. Social scientists had addressed the same kinds of question to scientists as they address to anybody else.

as an “academic” practice. recognizing defeat. I was amused by the contrast between my “pugnacious” style and the announcement that “we” were defeated. occasions a standpoint whose consequences need to be explored but that at least serves as a protection against cynicism. without rivalry. Yes. If what remains in the box is hope. usually political.away. but the production of recalcitrance is not in the power of scientists. And the same is true for many scientists of my generation. howling with the wolves. the capacity to say no — to resist a technology of objective evaluation that insults us all. the hope for a nonpredatory human science. when each of us may try to tell others. for “perfect” comparison as Charles Péguy defines it. or complaining about unfairness or misunderstanding. and as generally denouncing alliances with industry or even applied science. I turn now to a point common to the three commentaries on my article: their vivid reaction to my description of the knowledge economy and the predictable destruction of our academic world. And we may also feel a closeness with other (nonscientific) practices that have been destroyed. and a philosopher who considers that her practice is “just surviving” (and has already been killed off in many countries by the attempt to mimic the authority of the sciences) and that the implementation of the rule of objective evaluation will finish destroying it — at least. either I would never have got a university job or else. knowledge-producing connections. but I am defeated. Under this regime. I am ashamed to imagine what kind of philosopher I would have been. I was even taken as proof that science is still alive. or “normative” science. despite the plurality of our practices. I am convinced that in this case it demands that the event known as “achievement” be recognized in its political dimension. as Péguy’s example shows. In such a situation. About that last point. If I spoke about a “we. I am alive. Each contributor accepted the concern but endeavored to propose alternatives to the “death knell of science” that they heard. to produce them (see Dewey on the emergence of publics). our lack of recalcitrance — words that free us from nostalgia about our (academic) COmmOn KnOwleDge 84 . my article clearly failed. I was heard as foretelling the death of “good” science. This is what the ecology of practices is about: to give words to our defeat. Proclaiming defeat creates a time for togetherness. scientists must depend on an event.” it is in reference to an academic world that generally has lacked recalcitrance. let me briefly answer that I am not a scientist but a philosopher. what each special strength of our practice was and its own way of divergence. Recalcitrance is required for learning relevant. But who is the “we” that has been defeated? On one point. because I know that my students will soon realize they must turn their backs on what turned me into a philosopher but belongs now to a romantic past. Unable to “prepare” recalcitrant protagonists. if I had. what is in the process of being destroyed.

in contrast with the four other aspects described by Latour. And it is also the one that is under threat. it is not “good science” that will be destroyed but what differentiates the ongoing construction of experimental sciences from the general category of “social construction. each point being equally defined in terms of speculative that is being destroyed. What is being destroyed. carrying the trademark of progress and rationality. actively trying to interest industries and the state. I am not sure that researchers will be able to trace out. It is only an aspect of science. I must admit I was very surprised to have been heard foretelling the destruction of “good” science. the one that makes its practical specificity. as Brit Ross Winthereik proposes. The scientific “eggs” were laid in a very special environment. and presenting themselves through their respective particular divergence. and alliances with industry or the state. recalcitrant strengths. What we call science was always dependent on the allies it recruited. What is new is that this “alliance” has been broken. and knots between them all and that which they attempt to address. as if it existed as such. I am also very doubtful about the possibility that the relations St e n g e r s • F in a l C o m m e n t s 85 .3 names links and knots. while still benefiting from the eggs having been “scientifically laid” — that is. the “temporal disjunction” described by Verran also belongs to the past. As actor-network theory made clear.” there is no longer an end point. What would hatch out depended not on “links and knots” but on the market. but their value as “gold” depended on another kind of environment. Just try to enter into Monsanto files. Secrecy may well prevail now on many occasions. public representation. It contrasts the predatory nature of this world with the speculative possibility of practices disentangled from authority. the process of autonomization of the discipline. Ecology is about ways of life that are recalcitrant to unification. When there is no longer a place for the “painstaking labor of solidifying comparison as a thoroughly reliable participant. It is not “good” science. Correlatively. Allies have invaded the territory defined by concern for the crafting of links and knots. In other words. And the price they paid for their autonomy was to turn a blind eye on the complete nonautonomy of scientists working in and for industries. at least where biotechnology or nanotechnology are concerned. links between colleagues in the game. The “goose that laid the golden eggs” metaphor corresponds only to the unaccountability that academic scientists claimed for the use of the eggs. mobilization. making each connection between them an event adding new dimensions to the world.” or at least makes it a very specific kind of construction. at least when experimental sciences are concerned. from competition for power and legitimacy. with demanding collective constraints. as it was indeed the very point of the construct that is being destroyed. the path followed by research proposals and all that. as a matter of fact. academic scientists were always on the lookout for so-called applications. is what Latour in his Pandora’s Hope figure 3.

I would propose that the knowledge economy characterizes a process of destructive redefinition that concerns both academic sciences and industries. It is rather how to resist — not in the name of the past. COmmOn KnOwleDge 86 . it is because too many souls are despairing or dying today in the name of flexibility to add insult to what they already suffer: the loss of meaning. Working “for” an industry is quickly becoming a thing of the past. My hope is slim. pride. is called industry. the feeling of being part of an adventure. If ethnographers want to observe a process of decay. cynicism. let them go to France Telecom. sometimes a rather indifferent element when compared with shareholders’ satisfaction. What we are dealing with is not a “powerful monolith. For these workers also. but rather accountable interlocutors whom they can trust when trying to “make public. in the commentaries on my article. whether scientific or industrial. let them observe seminaries or self-help initiatives organized around harassment and burnout. If I am fiercely resisting the “transformationist” temptation. However. Which is to say they do not need academic geese claiming that their eggs are golden. for instance. the “temporal disjunction” that occurs any time that knowledge may have a bearing on the future composition of our worlds. just as working for reliable or interesting or relevant knowledge is. but in calling for a different future.” as Winthereik remarks. We never were. so slim that it seems to have escaped the attention of my commentators. where suicides multiply. and resentment are invading both scientists and industrial workers. The same despair. My question is not what each of us shall do in order to go on. It depends on what relation is created between scientists and those who struggle for a sustainable future and want relevant.” to turn into a public affair.between these researchers and scientists “partnering” in research on genetically modified organisms will resemble the relations between Verran’s Aborigines and their scientists. the possibility of giving some definition to an “end point” is disappearing as production has become an element in strategies. reliable knowledge to be produced. or strategic games. Also I would insist that the knowledge economy not be confused with what.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful